Duncan Fraser-Smith. Duncan Fraser-Smith.

Recently, I  have been fortunate to engage in several high-level discussions on and around the topic of technology and its relevance in the F&B scene today. What became abundantly apparent was the fact that many of us have ignored the developments in technology over the years and as such are only now starting to play catch up.

Now to be perfectly frank, I am not talking about those early adopters who loaded their entire menus and wine lists onto an iPad or tablet, because in my humble opinion, I cannot stand that medium for presenting one’s offerings to the guest. No, I am talking about the following key technology advancements that include a restaurant’s digital presence in the market, its ability to capture and nurture guest information, and finally its ability to craft the guest experience and journey from first point of contact to last impression.

These were only ideas a few years ago, and now they are reality, allowing us to dive deeper into the ways and means of creating a better customer experience. 

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Let’s start then with digital presence in the market. I was stunned to learn from Georgie Woollams, the managing director of Katch International, that we can now ’geo fence’ targeted digital marketing strategies to our potential customers. The details and specifics are still new to me but in a nutshell, a business can send targeting initiatives to people’s mobile devices within a specific area. A great example of this would be if you wanted to run a special for lunch and target your local community, this is now possible through geo fencing. Gone are the days when you receive a text message about a one hour business lunch that takes you one hour to get to. I think this is cutting edge and definitely a step into the future of controlling more surgically, our approach to digital marketing.

Secondly, and this one is something I am actively utilising right now, is the growth and development what used to be called reservation and table management systems. Sarah Hawilo, the CEO of servMe shared with me how much this sector of the industry has pushed the boundaries of what technology can offer. For instance, integration, not just with point of sale system, but with banking services and property management systems can now provide a seamless connection across all these platforms. In addition, and this is what truly got me across the line, we can now integrate with the landline phone of the outlet. As an example, the landline rings, the number is recognised and before you pick up the receiver to take the call, all of the guest history is visually in front of you on the screen. When it comes to exceeding guest expectations surely, we cannot do better than this.

I will always say that the human element is critical in creating an emotionally engaged experience with our guests, however, technology is now supporting us to evolve and be better in the ways we deliver great hospitality.

Duncan Fraser-Smith is the director – global food & beverage for The First Group who is developing, creating and executing over 30 new and exciting concepts to site within the company’ hotel portfolio. Email him at duncan.fraser-smith@thefirstgroup.com