Published 4 February 2021
Sponsored content in collaboration with SevenRooms
This week we hear from SevenRooms’ Europe general manager Danilo Mangano, who shares advice for operators offering online ordering, discusses how technology can be used to improve the customer journey and explains how SevenRooms technology helps operators.
SevenRooms is a fully integrated, data-driven guest experience platform for the hospitality sector that helps operators connect data across the guest journey. The end-to-end platform enables operators to automatically drive revenue and profitability by leveraging data to build direct relationships, deliver exceptional experiences, and increase repeat business.
With SevenRooms, hospitality operators gain a deeper understanding of each guest’s wants and needs, designing and delivering exceptional experiences based on individual guest expectations. Having a full 360-degree view of each guest across reservations, waitlist, table management, online ordering, review aggregation and marketing automation gives operators the opportunity to personalise each diner’s experience and increase the profitability of each interaction. Great experiences will keep customers coming back to you time and again – whether that’s through booking an in-person dinner or ordering online to enjoy at home. The increase in repeat visits and orders equals greater profitability for operators.
Knowing what guests want and how to deliver on that experience is a necessity for the modern hospitality operator. With SevenRooms, operators are building a guest’s profile at each on- and off-premise touchpoint. The insights collected across these interactions help operators make more data-driven decisions, ultimately leading to increased business and revenue.
In the short-term, as venues remain shuttered through lockdown, online ordering is the only reliable source of revenue for the majority of hospitality venues. Pre-COVID, around 10% of a restaurant’s business came from delivery, but at the height of lockdown, that number spiked to between 80-90%. With the current lockdown in place, that same surge is happening. Diners like the comfort of being able to continue enjoying their favourite dishes despite ongoing restrictions, and many will value the flexibility of being able to order and eat at home long after the pandemic is over.
More people ordered delivery last year than ever before and having a sustainable long-term takeaway strategy for 2021 is a must for operators who want to protect this valuable revenue stream. Online ordering is also a chance to retain the business of loyal customers and remain at the front of their minds when venues are able to reopen. Operators know that their loyal and local customers have always been critical to success, and they will continue to be just as important in future.
Where possible, venues must look to implement and facilitate their own direct online ordering, collection and delivery services, rather than relying extensively – or even exclusively – on third parties. In the rush to get online, operators must not forget to carefully consider the service offering of any third-party platform. This includes assessing not only what they will be receiving but also what they may be giving up in return. Working with third parties can be very costly in the long run for restauranteurs as it often means giving up control of their guest data, one of the most valuable assets for any venue when it comes to driving long-term profitability.
Third parties are certainly great for convenience and exposure, but they should not form 100% of a venue’s strategy as it’s unsustainable to pay hefty commission fees each time a customer wants a collection or delivery order. Whether app-based, ‘click & collect’ or otherwise, direct online ordering capabilities ensure that venues are maintaining guest relationships and will continue to do so even with those guests who are not comfortable returning to in-venue dining, or who may simply prefer to dine at home.
The downtime of lockdown has offered many operators the chance to review tech stacks and identify other solutions that will allow them to build better relationships with guests, drive greater loyalty and ensure future profitability. As we look ahead to reopening, operators who have invested in technology like SevenRooms will be in a stronger position to make the most of the latent demand for dining experiences – similar to how we’ve seen those operators who quickly pivoted towards online ordering faring best through lockdown.
Success in a post-pandemic environment will still rely on the ability to deliver exceptional guest experiences, but often without the same resources or budgets that were previously available. Understanding how and where technology can support is critical for operators to navigate an environment in which they will have to do more with less. Being able to leverage technology will offer operators greater bandwidth to be able to focus on delivering the kind of creative and exciting offerings that drive more meaningful guest experiences in 2021 and beyond.
With on-premise dining closed, we’re currently seeing many venues using guest data insights to elevate off-premise dining experiences by creating personalised promotions and offers for their customers. If a customer always orders their favourite appetiser for delivery, for example, sending them a unique promotional code for a free item the next time they order can really help drive longer-term customer loyalty, even during these challenging times. Even a simple ‘thank you for ordering’ or ‘thank you for supporting us directly’ email can go a long way in building loyalty with diners — who appreciate the recognition and are more likely to remember your brand as a result. By understanding who a diner is, and their motivations for ordering, you’re more likely to convert them into a regular customer and deliver greater long-term profitability for your business.
Regardless of when venues reopen or for how long COVID restrictions remain, the watchword for the hospitality sector in a post-pandemic world will be flexibility. This flexibility will be increasingly powered by technology as we move through 2021 and beyond. The best restaurants have always been nimble in terms of their food and drink offerings, and now operators need to be able to leverage technology to enhance their existing experiences to offer an even greater amount of flexibility to guests.
Online ordering is a good example of this. It has fulfilled a critical need for operators through the pandemic by protecting revenue, but it should also be on the minds of all operators as a long-term priority this year. Customers have become increasingly comfortable with online ordering and will continue to value the flexibility of being able to choose whether they dine in-venue or at home when the option is available to them again.
Technology already impacts the guest journey across multiple touchpoints, and in the future, this will increasingly be the case for venues both large and small. Everything from reservations and waitlists, to table management and online ordering, to automated post-visit marketing communications can be enhanced through technology.
Using technology to engage with guests and gain insights across multiple touchpoints — whether on-premise or at home — will continue to be crucial as consumers get used to brands ‘meeting’ them wherever they are, whenever is best for them. In the increasingly competitive market of tomorrow, operators need to have the capabilities to reach their guests in the right way at the right time. This is what the right technology, like SevenRooms, can enable. Taking a tech-enabled flexible approach, the ability for operators to boost customer spend and make the most out of every dining experience will be critical to success.
After almost a year of lockdowns and restrictions, many consumers are craving authentic in-person experiences more than ever. There is definitely a real desire among the public to ‘make up for lost time’ when it comes to engaging and exciting special occasions post-pandemic – a desire which higher-end restaurants in particular have a huge opportunity to capitalise on. That being said, there will remain a sizeable proportion of people who will, for a variety of reasons, prefer to stick with off-premise experiences at least throughout the end of the year. Some may not immediately regain the confidence to dine out, while others will have grown used to the experience of eating their favourite dishes in the comfort of their own home.
Moreover, it’s likely that some capacity controls and social-distancing measures could remain in place even when venues can reopen. Smaller independents and higher-end restaurants, often already operating on tighter margins, will face additional pressures in terms of turning a profit solely from in-venue patrons. Being able to supplement on-premise dining by serving off-premise demand through online ordering could provide a crucial boost to the bottom line for these restaurants in what will remain a challenging business environment post-COVID.