UK Food Outlets and the Changing Dynamics They Face


Transforming your customer experience means getting to grips with the people you serve

In recent years, the British dining industry has become a highly complex, challenging and competitive space. Despite the last two years witnessing a number of high-profile operator closures, there is optimism in the sector with our recent research revealing that 64% perceived their company’s future to be very optimistic; 62% of which currently use or plan to install self-serve technology and 62% of those that have plans for their outlets to become cashless.


A Split Dining Market


The consumer market is very split and where you decide to strategically place yourself is critical. There are those customers who love the experience of a novel or upmarket ambiance, fine and creative dishes and who are happy to pay extraordinary prices; to those on the polar end of the spectrum, who are highly cost sensitive and expect a high level of value in what they purchase.


And within both extreme markets, more and more different customer experiences are preferred from self-serve tech, high speed service, menu customisation, nutritional and ethical product information through to the level of personalisation and familiarity a customer now expects.


Whether you run a busy fast food or QSR outlet, cafe, casual diner or upmarket restaurant, knowing not only how develop and price a menu isn’t the only critical ingredient now a days. Establishing what tech foundation, you need is essential from the PoS, CRM, self-serve software, payment options through to predictive analytics, AI and personalisation tools. There is certainly no one fit for all.


In our recent operator survey, it was revealed that in the next three years, personalisation was cited as the most promising technology (54%), with predictive analytics cited as the second most promising (50%) and AI the third most promising (45%).


One of the major reasons why QSRs, especially the large operators or franchise owned ones are successful, is because they ensure the quality of the food and at the same time they focus on the quantity, pricing and customer experience with the same consistency all across – and apply the right technology investment to make it happen.


Changing Trends in the British Dining Market


The changing and more digital customer demands new technologies which they have become familiar with in other areas of their life. Our sector has been behind in undertaking digitalisation transformation, compared to other areas of hospitality and retail. Disruptive third-party Apps have forced change upon UK restaurants who are now picking up pace to combat these threatening forces with new self-serve tech in the form of mobile Apps, online ordering and self-serve kiosks.

  1. Over a third of operators currently use self-serve technology for food ordering (36%), with a further 6% indicating that this is currently being installed. Use of self-serve technology was greater for larger operators – 25% of those with 1-3 outlets currently use self-serve compared to 55% of those with 4-10 outlets and 39% of those with over 21 outlets.
    Kiosks are the most frequent type of self-serve technology used (50%), with equivalent proportions using tablets and mobile ordering (45%). Other forms include hand-held point of sale systems, Forth, Mobile apps and websites to place collection and delivery orders, and Vending machines – multi brand operators.
    Not only do these self-order technology facilities enable convenience, speed, customisation and product/nutritional information, importantly they are pivotal in the quest for customer data collection.
  2. Today’s take away customers are more than familiar with ordering from multiple outlets in one single App and they love the ease and familiarity of these their party Apps. But as an industry, we do not love the high commission charges they incur and the resulting profit shrinkage. We are seeing more QSRs and fast food outlets invest in the advanced CRM apps such as Como, with a high level of food ordering and click and collect functionality in order to win back customers to order direct a claw back the revenue lost to these third party companies.
  3. With an increase of more working couples and nuclear families and millennials, people tend to experiment more so than before. Restaurants need to offer the products which are time saving and have a uniqueness of the product; as well as introducing novel new products to keep customers enticed.
  4. Despite some scepticism within our industry, British people have warmed to self-serve tech, particularly kiosks. In fact, 59% have used a kiosk for food and drink orders and 66% of are more than willing to use a kiosk.
  5. Social media also plays a major factor which attracts the millennials. And with the launch of Google food orders last year, enabling you to now order, those who do not consider and continually adapt their business models and strategies to attract the younger audience, are at risk of losing market share and profit.

Innovative Thinking, Flexible Menus and Ethical Choices

The millennial trends continually change at a very rapid pace – and with a constant need for higher expectations, quality and quantity. The increased competition in the restaurant business has made consumers expect more which has now become complex and has turned into a multifaceted process.


Across all demographics, consumers spend more and more time on their beloved phones. Many forward-thinking operators are focusing on innovative ideas over the food concept. They are changing their food concept using different menu ideas and customising food preparation. To meet the new, younger customer trends, we are seeing more fresh, ethical and healthy products on our menu to satisfy their quench for good and moral eating.


And the only way to achieve all of this, is strategically planning technology to enable the new customer experience required and manage this need for instant gratification, speed, customisation and instantaneous product information.


The best thing about our industry is, no one can truly predict what’s coming next. Much of the tech talk about what is predicted can sound daunting for many. And it is wise to be cautious when looking to make big changes with high investments – unless of course it is 100% centric to your individual customers.


One thing though is for sure, restaurant technology is being driven by consumer trends and the growing operator pressure to reduce operational costs and serve the customer better.


Why not download the latest research report for free? “Self-serve Kiosks in UK Hospitality. State of the Market 2020”

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