Key Takeaways for stress-free reopening in the Hospitality Sector

Andrew Phillips

Wanstor’s POS Implementation Manager, Andrew Phillips, shares his experiences on what the hospitality sector needs to prioritise from an IT perspective to make sure it’s firing on all cylinders when they push the ‘open’ button again.

Restaurant scene with empty chairs in foreground and customers ordering in the distance

The hospitality industry has perhaps been the most innovative sector during this whole lockdown crisis. We are now nearly a year into closures, part closures, distancing rules and curfews, and throughout, many well-known chains and smaller independents have embraced new ways of working, new technologies and welcomed new partnerships they had perhaps never foreseen they’d be dealing - and often thriving - with. We’ve watched as businesses, including many of our customers, have totally reshaped their model to offer slick and safe takeaway solutions and even some that are offering ‘cook at home bundles’.

Through an innovative use of social media and the right technology, many hospitality brands have been able to deliver on their new promises to allow safe and secure ‘order, payment and delivery’ (or collection) solutions via digital channels. It also looks like the delivery trend is here to stay. Deliveroo recently reported that 85% of customers stated they will be ordering delivery more often or the same amount as they did before the pandemic. Deliveroo recently reported that 85% of customers stated they will be ordering delivery more often or the same amount as they did before the pandemic.

Despite all the sector’s efforts, between July and September 2020, there was a 20% drop in sales for restaurants according to Statista. Since then, there have been two further lockdowns so that percentage is now likely to be far higher. There are many challenges for the hospitality sector as it emerges from what will hopefully be the final lockdown, such as:

  • Operational changes
  • Additional government regulations
  • Food supply
  • Retaining staff
  • Re-negotiations of contracts with suppliers
  • Drink supply
  • Re-training staff

It’s a demanding list and will involve a considerable amount of effort both pre- and post-reopening. Therefore, we recommend restaurants get ready for what is reported as being ‘peak trade’. Propel News claims almost half of Brits plan to dine out more in 2021 than they did last year.

One big job for everyone in the sector to address is to audit and check their IT in advance of re-opening. IT shouldn’t be something that lets you down, it should be an enabler for front of house teams to provide a smoother guest experience, while reducing friction between the restaurant floor and kitchen.

Face-to-face human engagement has been sorely missed so restaurant teams will need to spend their time reconnecting with customers rather than trying to find devices that work.

At Wanstor, we complete regular health checks and updates for our hospitality customers, and we recommend that businesses large and small follow these guidelines to ensure any issues are flushed out prior to go-live, reducing pressure on the operations team during the crucial re-opening weeks.

Keep Connected

The first priority and the backbone of any business is to make sure you’ve got a fast, reliable, and a redundantly configured internet connection. This will help to ensure that the customer and staff experience is stable through the transaction journey with reduced downtime or delays on tills, payment devices or orders. If you still have restaurants with a single internet connection now is the time to add some redundant connectivity that will ensure your operations run smoothy.The ROI is always there with connectivity.

Stay Secure

Check your network to make sure you’re not open to cyberattack. Your network has not been fully operational for weeks or months, therefore we recommend ensuring all network devices and wireless services are inspected. This includes ports, switches, firewalls and WiFi access points. Keeping unwanted cyber criminals out of your network and away from corporate data is really important to keep your business and customers safe.

Make sure all of your software upgrades and patching is up to date. Bad patch management is responsible for the biggest percentage of cybercrime.

Help the Customer

With mobile technology such as order and pay at table coming to the forefront, this has put a larger reliance on wireless access and coverage.

To provide trouble-free Wi-Fi you will need to assess your restaurant environment and consider external factors that may impact your service. Wi-Fi interference will negatively impact signal strength - common causes are kitchen equipment, or your neighbours’ access points. Carrying out Wi-Fi surveys will highlight areas for concern and provide you with the data to ensure correct placement of access points and configuration settings.

Outside areas are often overlooked in terms of coverage. With outdoor dining re-opening on the 12th April, outdoor areas will be key for businesses to kick-start their recovery. Proactive measures such as Wi-Fi surveys will address these areas giving your staff peace of mind that no matter where a guest sits, they all receive the same experience.

Get Menu Prepped

No doubt you’ll want to change your menu to offer new spring and summer dishes, introduce a new menu or make enticing changes on your offerings to attract customers back in. Carrying out a thorough review and test of your menus on all POS devices is key, this will make sure there are no legacy items, discounts or incorrect prices hanging around.

Key things to note over the coming months in that the current VAT rate of 5% has been extended until the end of September, when a reduced rate of 12.5% will come into play for six months before returning to the full 20% in April of 2022. POS devices will need to be updated for the correct tax calculation for guest receipts and more importantly HMRC.

Make it Easy for your Teams

Check all your POS equipment is working and secure. This includes self-order kiosks, POS tills, kitchen displays, hand-held terminals, printers and any other POS-connected devices.

Testing every devices’ basic functionality of hardware and software in advance will highlight areas that may need addressing by either remote support or on-site hardware engineers.

Other quick-win areas to think about are:

  • Replacing new batteries on site for the hand-held devices or PED (Pin Entry Device) will provide longevity during busy shifts.
  • Re-training your staff on the equipment, teaching best practice and reiterating support process will set them up for success when inevitable issues do occur.

Have the Right IT for your Relationships

Is your integration with your delivery partners optimised and working smoothly? Slick delivery will continue to be a major priority for many businesses. The reliance on aggregators like Deliveroo and Uber Eats is always growing. Doing it properly decreases delays or possible inaccuracies in orders, encouraging a seamless experience for customers to order again.

Wanstor have a lot of experience in assisting with the integration of third-party aggregator solutions into the POS. This means the transaction is automatically sent to the POS and the kitchen, improving speed, accuracy and ultimately customer satisfaction.

If you need any more help or tips, we’d be delighted to help get you ready for re-opening. Get in touch to find out how we can support your Hospitality business.