Tag Archives: trends

The Future of Vending Machines

There is a digital revolution coming to the world of vending machines, with the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence and customer engagement at the forefront.

The first vending machines were rolled out in London back in 1883, where customers could slot in their coins to receive a postcard. In the many, many years that followed not much has changed…until now.

Today’s world has customers connected like never before, with powerful processors in their mobile phones, their tablet computers and even their wrist watches.

Cash is no longer king—technology is everything. So how are vending machines moving with the times to not only remain viable, but create a better way to connect and engage companies with potential clients in the future?

Vending machine apps powered by artificial intelligence

The latest Coca-Cola Amatil vending machines to be rolled out in Australia, New Zealand and the United States want to get to know their customers.

And through innovative, artificial intelligence-driven programs, these machines will break new ground by establishing a link with the average consumer’s smartphone, and getting to know their spending habits.

Through an innovative new app, users will now be able to order up to two drinks (one for them, one for their mate) remotely and then collect them from the vending machine at a later time.

This paves the way for two-way communication, with the machines able to collect information about behaviours and personalities—and use that to deliver marketing promotions at a later date.

It will also provide unique experiences depending on where the machine is located. Machines on university grounds may employ colourful, attractive music and video displays, for example, where machines on hospital grounds are likely to be kept more sedate.

It is AI in an embryonic format, but one Coca-Cola hopes to expand on to “create intelligence experiences”, global director of digital innovation Greg Chambers said.

“My goal is to push boundaries and push the brand forward,” he said. “AI is the foundation for everything we do.”

Personalised in-store advertising

The rise of technology means vending machines now include touch screens, which can display promotions, videos, games and TV commercials. This allows for greater connectivity and engagement with the consumer.

Now, Coca-Cola Amatil is aiming for the next evolution of advertising on the retail floor, through a partnership with Google that will deliver content that is custom made for each consumer.

Trials have already begun in an American shopping centre where in-store advertising screens connect to the smartphone of people walking by, and then screens targeted ads based on spending habits and preferences.

The system works as a fusion of DoubleClick’s preference and tracking data combined with Google’s Beacon Platform, and the early trials have been encouraging.

Should these trials continue to track along positively, it is expected they could be rolled out in other outlets like movie theatres and various retail venues.

Self-filling vending machines

Soft drink companies possess some of the largest truck fleets in the world to maintain stock levels, but still, vending machines can run out of product when consumers want them most.

This is not an issue in the modern world.

The new wave of vending machines are connected to the internet, allowing owners to communicate directly with Coca-Cola Amatil. Sales are automatically recorded as a product’s count gets low, with all data streamed dynamically.

This technology is not limited to just filling the fridge, either. Service issues can be automatically reported and technicians ordered, saving time and money.

Combating the death of cash

The decline of physical cash is no longer theoretical. Citibank has recently ceased cash-handling services at six branches in Australia. ANZ has opened a cashless sales-only branch in Bondi, and even their own CEO Fred Ohlsson has admitted to going cashless. Bad news for buskers and vending machines, right? Wrong.

The decline of cash has come largely due to the rise of ‘tap-and-go’ technology installed in bank cards, allowing consumers to tap for even the smallest of purchases.

And vending machines, using technology like Coca-Cola Swipe—which allows for cashless transactions—are able to distribute products quickly and safely without the need for loose change.

Globally, vending machines are taking this a step further by accommodating mobile wallet technologies. For example, Apple Pay for iPhone and Google Wallet for Android are becoming more and more mainstream, with already more than 100,000 vending machines in the US accepting iPhone-driven payments.

“Younger generations don’t carry cash, so we’re employing ways to meet their needs,” said Derek Myers, Coca-Cola Refreshments director of vending strategy. “By 2020, mobile is going to be a mainstream way of making payment transactions.”

These are just some of the innovations moving forward, but with the faster 5G mobile network coming soon to Australia, the increased development of AI and the spread of The Internet of Things, Coca-Cola Amatil will continue to work on new solutions for vending machines across the board.

 

Five Lessons I Learned Going From Franchisee to Restaurateur

By Wally Mostafa

As part-owner of middle eastern-fusion restaurant BEKYA, my prior experience of owning four Subway franchises has been enormously helpful towards the early years of setting up a restaurant of my own.

So, here are my top tips for others looking to make the big move…

  1. Franchising teaches you how to divide up your budget

With Subway, it’s all there in the manuals and the training provided—what percentage of operating costs should go on staffing, rent, produce and other costs, and even how to turn over a reasonable profit. Having worked in the hospitality field through Subway for so long, it’s taught me what proportion of my costs should go into each area of the budget to maximise profit.

That said, with a popular franchise like Subway, location is key, as people come to you because you’re located in a convenient spot. With a restaurant, you become the destination, so the rent represents a lower percentage of total costs, wages, and training; the things that make for a great customer experience from the food to the treatment they receive, are of a higher percentage.

  1. Staffing your restaurant at the optimal level is a big part of your success

Staffing is a huge element of getting a restaurant right.  You need enough employees back-of-house creating wonderful food, and you need the right number front-of-house ensuring a great customer experience. Getting it wrong means blowing out costs, and damaging your reputation. My years with Subway have taught me how to get that balance right.

  1. Customer experience is key to fine dining—they aren’t just looking for a well-priced sandwich close to work.

In a Subway store, people come in for a quick and easy sandwich. One bad experience won’t necessarily cause a great deal of damage to your profit, but it always pays to strive for excellence. You also have some leeway when you get started, as people are ‘kinder’ to mistakes at that end of the hospitality industry. But with a restaurant, it can be one strike and you’re out. With social media, all it takes is one bad review and your restaurant sees a dip in sales. This means you need to hit it right out of the park to start with and maintain a high level of customer satisfaction. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself in damage control, trying to earn back a good reputation.

Wally_Mostafa_Bekya_Sydney_Restaurants_Cafes

 

  1. As a franchisee, a lot of the operation is made easy for you, and when you go out on your own, you need to learn new skills

With a franchise, you’ve got pre-existing supply chains and buying power when it comes to ingredients and other materials—from uniforms to cutlery and packaging. You’ve also got support on tap if anything goes wrong. If, for example, a machine breaks down, you simply call head office and it’s dealt with quickly from there. Since opening BEKYA, I’ve had to build my own network of suppliers, negotiate the best price for the best produce, and stay up to speed with pricing. Likewise, if machinery breaks down, I have contracts with the equipment suppliers, but it’s not quite as seamlessly sorted out, and definitely not as quick

5: Being a franchisee gave me the flexibility to open on my own

Owning a franchise like Subway usually provides a stable income, and that’s the appeal for a lot of owners. A Franchise system gave me the flexibility in my personal life to get set up and ready to go out on my own. It’s also taught me many of the skills I use now and it’s provided something of a blueprint to what I need to be doing to turn a profit.

Obviously, there are differences between a restaurant like BEKYA and a chain sandwich bar like Subway, but there are also many basics that stay the same, and without my experiences there, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

Related Article:

From Subway to Bekya

 

High Expectations and Hospitality Aggregators: How to Manage Reputation

Online Digital Hospitality experience

The digital economy has opened up ways for people to interact with hospitality businesses. What began with booking a hotel room or ordering pizza online has continued to evolve at a rapid pace, and it’s not likely to slow down anytime soon.

App-based aggregator sites that leverage information (rather than actual goods or services) have become a familiar and trusted presence, mostly because they offer customers improved choices, convenience and value.

The question for hotels and restaurants is: how do you leverage aggregators without diminishing your own influence online?

Online spend will continue to increase, especially on mobile devices

The first thing to recognise is that it’s impossible to be in the hotel or food service business without a digital strategy. Online shopping is now a pervasive part of the decision-making and purchasing process for customers across all industries.

Market research company Reportbuyer analysed the global online takeaway food delivery market and estimated it would increase significantly in the years to 2020. This is due to continued increases in urban populations, spending by the global middle class, and increased smartphone usage.

Additionally, a report from Deloitte on the outlook for travel and hospitality in 2017 forecasts that people will continue to turn to online booking sites to compare options and find deals.

It advises the battle between online sites and hotels chasing direct bookings will be influenced by those who can provide “best-in-class shopping and booking experiences (particularly on the mobile front)…”

Challenges of aggregator sites for hospitality businesses

Aggregator sites offer customers greater choice and transparency, but the downside for hospitality businesses is that they commodify your offering, create distance and remove control.

They limit the way a business is presented and rely on their own data to match people with options or provide recommendations. If the aggregator also manages the logistics of food delivery, it exposes a business to customer service problems they cannot directly remedy.

This makes it more difficult for hotels and restaurants to differentiate themselves, deliver integrated cross-channel marketing, or provide a joined-up customer experience.

Aggregators have been successful in building brand recognition, and research by McKinsey shows that platforms are sticky—that is, once customers sign up they are unlikely to switch.

That poses an additional problem of how to choose between the growing number of popular aggregators, and maintaining an accurate presence on multiple sites.

Food Apps Foodora UberEats Deliveroo Menulog

Understand and leverage the appeal

Despite the potential negatives, aggregators offer enormous potential to reach customers and increase sales, and businesses can’t escape the fact that customers enjoy being empowered.

Hotels and restaurants can find ways to benefit from aggregators, and maintain a strong influence over customer experience and online reputation.

Firstly, even if customers ultimately purchase via an aggregator, it doesn’t mean they aren’t using their smartphones to research buying decisions. A stand-alone business website is still a powerful marketing tool.

Content on aggregator and stand-alone sites should always be up-to-date, but your business website should be the definitive and best source of information. Ultimately, it should drive home your points of difference. Use the control you do have to give customers a richer experience.

In the same way that customers in-store rely on menu boards to make decisions, online customers want to carefully consider your menu before they buy. They seek beautiful photos of the meals, descriptions and increasingly, specific information about ingredients and advice about nutrition.

Nielsen research on Australian consumers found an increasing trend of online customers researching grocery purchases online by visiting a manufacturer’s site or app directly, rather than relying solely on the retail site.

Ensure the design, speed and user experience of your own booking and ordering interfaces match that of the best mobile apps, and invest in online advertising and content marketing that boosts your visibility in online searches.

Cultivate your community and contacts to manage experiences

Customers trust aggregators because they offer transparency and make purchasing decisions simpler. But your business’s perceived value within an aggregator platform starts with building a connection with your customers outside of it.

Find ways to market your hotel or restaurant that focuses on fostering relationships at every stage of the customer journey.

For example, social media communities where people are encouraged to engage, share their experiences, and generate their own content will allow to forge an emotional connection to your brand.

Email marketing is incredibly valuable, if used well, to maintain contact with previous customers, provide tailored deals and continue a conversation that enhances brand loyalty.

Meet your customers where they are, and build your own brand

Online booking and food delivery aggregators make life easier for customers but necessitate that hospitality businesses put more energy into strategies that build relationships with customers before and after a transaction.

By doing so, hotels and restaurants can maintain a strong online presence that minimises the disruption caused by third-party sites, all the while continuing to meet customers’ high expectations for accessibility.

About the Author

Lana de Kort is a published author and business writer with over 20 years experience working with industry, commerce and community.  In 2014 she co-founded a network of over 21 writers across Australia.

Simple Ways to Improve Management in Hospitality

One of a manager’s greatest frustrations in hospitality can be grooming team members to be highly skilled, only to see them walk out the door to use those skills for a competitor.

There are a number of things you can do to prevent these poaching raids, which this article will outline.

Create a culture and involve team members

There is no official blueprint for a successful culture that fits all businesses, but it is important you develop one to foster team harmony.

The biggest players in the hospitality industry have rituals that can help create this culture, including team line-ups, activities and unique tasks like community gardens to work on.

Team is the operative word in creating this culture. Staff members can feel disenfranchised if referred to as “workers” or “employees”. Simple tricks like calling them “team members” and “leaders” can boost morale to no end, and aid in creating a strong team dynamic.

Awards and goals are always handy motivators for team members but aren’t a necessity. Just ensure that achievements and goals are celebrated and incentivized to guarantee there is a positive culture where everyone feels valued for their hard work.

How to ward off poaching raids by your competitors

Retaining staff can be a delicate task for management in hospitality, and it can be easy to become frustrated when employees jump ship to another company.

It is important to recognize that there are several reasons why they may be leaving, and most centre around job satisfaction.

One of the most critical roles of a manager is to recognize the signs of a team member becoming disenfranchised and to act. This is vital because if a team member is unhappy, they are targets for poaching.

Keep promises to a bare minimum, because if something goes wrong and they don’t transpire, this can trigger staff restlessness as well.

It is also worth noting that sometimes you do have to let staff go because trying to entice them to stay with rewards can be detrimental to the morale of other staff members; it’s a real juggling act.

Right off the bat, look for signs of job hoppers in the recruitment process. If they don’t stay in a job for longer than 12 months to 2 years, there is every chance they’ll depart early when working for you as well.

Simple ways to improve hospitality

 

Embrace the future and be flexible

There can be a misconception that the hospitality industry cannot accommodate flexibility, like working from home, part-time arrangements or job sharing.

This mindset has to be pushed aside because the modern world is embracing this flexibility more and more.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics data shows that one in three Australians are regularly working from home, and 32 per cent of Aussie workers are employed part-time.

This is important to recognize, especially as 55 per cent of people polled in a recent survey listed workplace flexibility as one of the most important factors when looking for a job.

By being flexible, and open to non-traditional rostering, you can help meet the changing needs of the modern workforce. Exploring opportunities for people on the administration side being able to do some of their work from home can also open up benefits.

There are key attractions for millennials, who now make up half of the workforce and will make up 75 per cent by 2030.

By opening the door to non-traditional rostering, you can help capture the best talent from this generation.

Related Article:

What Customer Experience do you Want to Deliver?

About the Author

Josh Alston

A former news hound, editor and roaming reporter for News Corp Australia for 12 years, Josh is now a freelance copywriter covering politics, innovation, technology, health, science and financial services, among other topics.

 

Marketing Your Business in the Digital Age

Successful hospitality restaurants driving online presence

Marketing your business in the digital age has its advantages and challenges. By understanding the tools available and how they can work best for your business, you can increase your reach and improve your bottom line.

To help you achieve this, we have put together a comprehensive guide on the main aspects of digital marketing and how they can help you leverage the success of your business.

Social media

Social media gives you access to a marketplace that is both global and local. These platforms give you the opportunity to build brand awareness and strengthen customer loyalty. But there are important points to keep in mind for a successful social media strategy:

  • Differentiate: What works for Facebook may not work for Twitter, and so on and so forth. When considering your social media plan, make sure you tailor your content for each platform.
  • Localise: While social media gives you a global reach, don’t forget it is the local touch that often has the greatest impact. Use geolocation tools, hashtags and mentions to establish yourself within your community. This is also a good way of building community ties.
  • Personalise: Quick response times and personalised responses are highly valued by social media users. If a follower asks you a question on social media, make sure you have the tools and resources to answer promptly. It is also a good idea to plan how you will manage customer complaints, and whether a social media policy is actively in place for your business.
  • Watch out for trends: Be it the mannequin or ice bucket challenge, staying ahead of trends on social media can help you position your brand and stay relevant. While it may not be appropriate for your business to jump on “trend bandwagons”, it pays to understand what is influencing public thought.

Melbourne-based mezcal bar Mamasita is one business that has built a strong social media presence across multiple platforms. From short Facebook videos to recipes and memes, Mamasita provides an engaging mix of content that speaks to the interests of their customers. What’s more, there is an overarching social media plan to integrate all platforms. Twitter posts link to Facebook events, Facebook to TripAdvisor and Instagram to the website. This strategy helps define the brand’s image, increase website traffic and user engagement.

Marketing presence in the digital space for hospitality industry

 

Peer review sites

Platforms like these can have a dramatic impact on your business. Like word-of-mouth marketing, these sites help spread awareness and strengthen your brand credentials––especially in the food and hospitality industry.

Today, an increasing number of sites like Urbanspoon, TripAdvisor or LocalEats are informing consumer decisions. A 2014 study by Google Consumer Surveys found that 67 per cent are influenced by online reviews. So, what does this mean for your business? To make the most of this growing form of customer engagement, follow these considerations:

  • Promotion: If your business has a good rating, advertise it. Many websites will provide you with marketing collateral to showcase your score. This is one easy way to connect your online performance to your real-world business.
  • Think in categories: Another point to keep in mind is how to ensure your listing appears in search results. It is one thing to have a good rating but if your business doesn’t appear in search results returned to users, it will be of limited use. Incorporate typical search filters like “date night”, “family friendly” and “budget” into your business profile to help with optimisation.   

The cafe 2 Fat Ladies in New South Wales, for instance, is number one of its category on TripAdvisor and also has a strong Zomato presence. By actively responding to reviews—both negative and positive—the management show that they care about customer feedback. Importantly too, there is personality to their comments. Be it “Thank you for calling in for a visit. The quiche is pretty awesome” or “Can’t go past the good ole ham, cheese & tomato sandwich”, the cafe has a warm and personal tone that helps differentiate them from their competitors.

Digital content

Another way to market your business in the digital age is through content. Providing value-adding content that enriches your reader’s experience is a powerful way to build customer loyalty and strengthen yourself as a thought leader.

This can be achieved regardless of the size of your business. A small business, for instance, might focus on creating a monthly email newsletter while a larger company may consider creating a specialised blog or digital magazine. Think about what will work best for your scale and resources. Here are some other considerations:

  • Plan ahead: Be it a monthly newsletter or a daily blog, it is crucial to organise your content ahead of time. A blog that begins weekly but drops off to every now and again will do little to promote your business. Creating an editorial calendar is a useful way to bank up ideas and structure future posts or news items.
  • Don’t overdo it: It is important to be realistic about your capabilities and priorities. Setting up a high-tech food magazine may not be within your reach but perhaps it is possible to send out a personalised recipe once a month. What’s important is that you provide high-quality content that speaks to your customer’s needs and interests.
  • Integrate with social media: If you do decide to use digital content to promote your business, make sure that it is shared across all your social media platforms.

Abbey Beach Resort has been able to build customer loyalty via its newsletter, blog and integrated social media strategy. The resort shares regularly updates to its followers on upcoming deals and also invites them to share their own content. This commitment to digital content has allowed the business to define its brand voice and strengthen customer relationships.

Digital media has made marketing more accessible, scalable and personalised than ever before. Be it social media, digital content or peer review sites, there is a wide range of platforms that can help improve your business—now is your chance to use them.

 

About the Author

Melissa Kitson is a bilingual journalist who has worked for the Buenos Aires Review, Fodor’s Travel Guides and Oxford University Press.

 

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