Food and beverage (F&B) businesses that used to resist moving online have had to change their mindset in the past year.
When dine-in restrictions impacted their revenues, partnering with food delivery platforms or last-mile delivery providers opened up new opportunities for them to recover - and beyond that - opened their eyes to what digital tools can do for them.
While it is good news that more people are getting used to ordering their meals online, this has levelled the playing field and intensified the competition for F&B players. Restaurants and eateries can no longer rely just on ambience and dine-in service to compete against their peers on food delivery platforms.
With extensive experience gleaned from the widespread adoption of its services, Alibaba Cloud - the leading public cloud service provider in Asia Pacific - shares their expert opinion on how F&B operators can find ways to boost cost and time efficiencies, as well as grow their digital presence.
Streamline food ordering process with aggregator
To improve customer service, a popular local coffee shop chain leveraged Alibaba Cloud's food order aggregator which was co-developed with a local partner. The cloud-based software is able to combine online and offline orders on a single platform.
With this aggregator, coffee shop hawkers can view all their orders in real time on a single device - whether they come from direct orders, scan-to-order or self-service kiosks.
But beyond the immediate need to manage waiting patrons, the aggregator eliminates the need for staff to manage multiple devices provided by food delivery partners, on top of their point-of-sale and other digital payment terminals.
Each time a new device or software upgrade is rolled out by a delivery or payment platform, F&B operators do not have to worry about training staff on how to use each device. Instead, they can focus on upskilling the staff on other aspects of the F&B business such as customer service or culinary skills.
Now that the customer experience goes beyond the dine-in experience at the restaurant, it is increasingly critical that F&B operators fulfil their delivery orders on time, too.
With the help of Alibaba Cloud solutions, F&B operators have been able to automate the assignment of multiple food orders from the same outlet to one driver delivering to a particular neighbourhood. That way, meals remain warm by the time they reach the customer, and the effective route optimisation will also save fuel, reducing carbon emissions and leaving a positive impact on the environment.
F&B operators can also leverage data insights to better manage multiple food orders, whether they are made through delivery platforms or in-person, by consolidating variables of transport time and cooking time to locate the nearest rider, even down to informing the customer or the rider when they should arrive at the restaurant to pick up the order.
Boost efficiencies in the kitchen with real-time analytics
In order for a restaurant to perform at its peak, its processes have to run like clockwork with little room for error. From food preparation to exemplary customer service, all processes have to be precise and completed on time.
Tensions in the kitchen can run high during peak periods when kitchen staff need to juggle dine-in orders, as well as spikes in orders from food delivery platforms.
Real-time intelligence can help kitchens improve their production efficiencies to fulfil food orders on the dot.
For example, F&B operators can analyse information on the time spent on food preparation through various IoT devices in the restaurant, such as self-service kiosks, so they can gain insights on how to improve their food preparation process.
These insights can also be used to improve standard operating procedures in the kitchen and boost overall service levels.
Prevent food spoilage with inventory and supply chain management
Unlike retail businesses, much of F&B inventory is perishable and has to be used in a matter of days. Ensuring ingredients are fresh and fit for consumption is absolutely essential.
Restaurants need to be on top of their inventory at all times. The disposal of unused ingredients does not just add to food waste. It also eats into profit margins.
One way that Alibaba Cloud is helping F&B operators manage this is through an inventory and supply chain management dashboard that allows them to organise their food inventories according to recipes, rate of use, as well as location of storage, be it at the central kitchen or at various dine-in premises.
It analyses intelligence collected over an extended period to predict inventory usage patterns, so F&B operators can use the data to know which ingredients to order.
For example, as Christmas approaches, a restaurant may require more sugar, milk, chocolate and other baking goods to meet the higher demand for cakes and other desserts. The dashboard will prompt kitchen managers or head chefs to order more of these ingredients in preparation for the festive season.
As these desserts are probably produced in large batches at the central kitchen, the ingredients can be redirected to the central kitchen instead of the outlets. This frees up space at the outlets, which cater to dine-in customers.
With Alibaba Cloud's inventory and supply chain management dashboard, F&B operators are able to reduce costs from excess inventory and food wastage, while also optimising their storage space.
The F&B space is getting extremely competitive. Operators not only have to digitalise fast, but also harness technology to improve operational efficiencies, boosting their chances at long-term sustainability in the new normal.
Find out how these cloud-based tools can help you stand out from competition and boost your customer experience here.