It is no secret that the catering sector has been deeply affected by the Covid-19 pandemic. The entire hospitality industry suffered a detrimental blow; restaurants and venues had to close their doors to customers and accept strict government rules aimed at protecting people and the NHS.
However, despite the pandemic’s negative effects on the industry, it acted as a catalyst for change which in many cases led to positive outcomes that have futureproofed businesses. Safety measures introduced by the government drove the industry towards adopting modern ways of operating. The need for safer food, beverage ordering, delivery transactions, and more efficient catering operations, led hospitality businesses to digitise and adopt contactless order and payment solutions at breakneck speed in order to stay operational.
One of the leaders in the field of digitising the catering industry, Dynamify, has been part of this transformation, helping the catering industry, operating ‘off-the-high-street restaurants’, to digitise overnight.
Created by an innovative thinker Maxwell Harding, CEO and Founder of Dynamify, has been able to successfully help several global clients in 18 months implement his software into hundreds of catering operations. As a result, not only has Dynamify helped businesses to thrive in a challenging climate, the software company has seen its gross transaction value processed through the platform grow twentyfold, and is on-track to surpass a £100m run-rate this year.
Founded in 2015, Dynamify’s AI-led modular technology allows customers to skip queues by pre-ordering their food or using self-checkout.
Maxwell explains how such technology enabled the catering industry to remain as operational as possible during the pandemic: “Historically, the contract catering industry has been slow to embrace new technology due to the misconception that it’s costly and tricky to implement. It is also thought by some that consumer expectations for digital purchasing solutions aren’t relevant in ‘off-the-high-street’ catering outlets and should be left to the likes of Deliveroo. But the global pandemic flicked a switch overnight, it became a sink or swim scenario for businesses, adapt or close. Digital ordering platforms, which allow for fully contactless transactions have removed shared touchpoints, crowding and queues have disappeared – it kept operations running, while meeting government guidelines and keeping people safe. In just one year, we’ve witnessed an uptake and implementation of digital ordering technology that we previously projected to take five years.”
While the hospitality and catering industry is now experiencing some level of pre-pandemic norm, the digital solutions which helped them run efficiently, safely and survive during the pandemic are here to stay. Customers are looking for more convenient and easy ways of getting their food, whether it is from their workplace catering provider or their nearest fast-food restaurant.
According to GlobalData’s latest 2021 Q1 survey 50% of global consumers ordered food deliveries more than once a week (source). As restrictions eased in the UK, online food deliveries were expected to decline with an anticipated drop of 7.6% in 2021, to a value of £10.5bn. However, it is still 37% higher than the delivery market’s 2019 market value (source). These findings highlight how consumer expectation and demand have shifted and for the foreseeable.
Maxwell predicts the digitising of food services within the contract catering industry will continue to roll out, despite Covid-19 restrictions easing, and this is largely due customer demand. He explains: “While the pandemic may have been the impetus to digitise, there has been a growing trend towards contactless payments, driven by millennials and Gen Z for some time – self checkouts at supermarkets, and on-screen ordering at fast food chains being prime examples. It’s therefore vital businesses, who are yet to digitise, see it still as a viable futureproofing business model, despite the pandemic no longer applying the pressure for changes. It’s imperative the industry recognises that consumers now expect automated, contactless technology and that venues who aren’t able to adapt will struggle to stay relevant and in-demand.”
It’s this consumer demographic businesses must continue to cater their services to, customers who are tech savvy, time poor and prefer direct seamless transactions; this is evident from the findings of an OpenTable UK survey, to which 83% of respondents claimed they’re much more likely to make a reservation online to any other medium (source).
Users of software such as Dynamify choose benefit from a personalised experience, which focuses on a customer’s journey, making ordering, paying and earning rewards simple. Through the analysis of data, the software recognises and remembers each users’ purchase history, so the app can then prioritise preferred food choices, filter out or warn of any allergens.
Julie Ennis, CEO Corporate Services, Sodexo UK & Ireland, one of Dynamify’s clients who has rolled out the software in catering outlets in locations across the world, testifies to the benefits of the platform: “Across all of Sodexo’s core markets, COVID-19 has brought disruption in the short-term, but it has also accelerated wider trends we were seeing, particularly in F&B retail, hospitality, workplace and digital. We’re adapting and enhancing what we do at pace, to ensure we offer the best consumer experiences and the right solutions for our clients. Strategic deployment of digital technology is crucial to that and Dynamify is a great partner. The combination of our food offers with Dynamify’s market-leading technology platform makes a compelling proposition to both clients and consumers. It’s right at the heart of our strategy for growth.”
The pandemic has irreversibly transitioned consumers to digital ordering. Some contract caterers have been quick to adapt to this new norm and are therefore well-positioned to capitalise and grow. However, those that have kept their heads in the sand are now trying to tackle digitising while juggling new business models, allergen and calorie labelling legislation, food supply challenges and staff shortages. As the Chinese proverb goes, the best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago; the second-best time is now. Caterers would do well to heed this advice when it comes to digitalisation.