With the food and hospitality industry facing all sorts of challenges in terms of costs, profit margins and increased competition, we analyse how technology is all too often seen as another threat when it can in fact create huge opportunities

Organisations across many industries, from finance to retail and education to entertainment, are using technology to respond to threats, improve operations and create access into new markets. The food industry is no different.

Restaurants face huge pressure. Back against the wall by rising costs, increased competition and a slowdown in consumer spending the number of eateries in the UK shutting their doors every 12 months has doubled in the past eight years. According to accountancy firm Moore Stephens the 2017/18 financial year saw 1219 insolvencies, 24 per cent more than the preceding year, and double the figure from 2010/11.

Though independent establishments bore the brunt, big names and chains were by no means immune. Jamie’s Italian, Prezzo and Gourmet Burger Kitchen have all been forced to close branches, and even Pizza Express has been the subject of speculation since the turn of the year.

But even the companies that are financially stable can’t escape the other problems prevailing across the industry. Restaurants are finding it harder than ever to attract, and retain, top talent.

Add to all this the challenges surrounding the demand from consumers for ever more diverse diet, as well as the abundance of allergies, the perils of food waste and so much more, you might be forgiven for thinking that everything was all doom and gloom in the world of food right now.

But it is not. It’s an incredibly exhilarating time – people continue to get excited by food so combine this love of food with the right tech and just see what happens. New breakthroughs will be a positive thing for the industry, not a hurdle to overcome.

In such a crowded marketplace, catering to an ever more demanding clientele, data is king. The eateries that have more information about demand, preferences and timings will have a head start over those stuck in the past.

The data and insight they have allows them to tailor the experience of their customers, providing a personalised experience for every single individual. Vita Mojo is a fantastic example – it was founded just three years ago, but is already making waves in London’s dining scene. The company offers an online menu which allows customers to view their food options and put together a meal which suits their needs and tastes. They can then collect the food at a time which works for them.

If you’re not convinced that there is a demand for this sort of service then consider that 92 per cent of the meals Vita Mojo provide are now personalised and that 45 per cent of them are pre-ordered online.

Useful data
The Vita Mojo team has also just launched the Vita Mojo Operating System for other restaurants to use and it’s already been rolled out across an additional 40 sites. The technology has provided businesses with numerous benefits including better workforce planning, improved throughput and customer experience, a reduction in food waste, more accurate forecasting 10and an improved ability to personalise its marketing.

As is so often the case a relatively simple idea has provided businesses with a mountain of useful data which has allowed them to make their offering not just more efficient, but more effective. The more data you have, the better decisions you are able to make and this leads to reduced costs and increased impact. Vita Mojo is able to make a meal in 45 seconds on average which allows for throughput of 360 meals an hour.

It isn’t just restaurants that will benefit from improved technology however. Other methods of getting food into customer’s hands will as well, none more so than vending. The very nature of vending is now changing before our eyes. Reverse vending machines (devices that accept empty containers and packaging and return money to the user) are already making headway and more traditional machines are becoming ever more sophisticated.

Again, the importance of data cannot be understated. Modern vending machines, such as those provided by MOTHER, another innovative company based in the capital, are revolutionising the vending industry. MOTHER has developed the tech to be able to stock fresh, quality, ingredients, remote vend, have the intelligence to know when to restock, report on what sells and provide feedback on overall service.

Tap into technology
Where vending used to be simply transactional, MOTHER is making it a much more interactive process. Customers want, and are getting, pictures of fresh food, access to full nutritional information before they buy and a whole new level of transparency at their fingertips. When people are more concerned than ever about what they are putting into their bodies, MOTHER is making the process as simple and complete as possible.

Companies such as Vita Mojo and MOTHER are helping lead the food industry into the future with their innovative tech, and that is why the more innovative and intuitive catering companies are now making sure to work with them.

Lexington Catering is one of the leading contract caters in London, providing everything from small café style to restaurants, fine dining and events. Unlike many in the sector Lexington Catering recognises the importance of embracing new technology, not shying away from it. The team is working closely with organisations like MOTHER and Vita Mojo to tap into the latest tech to improve operations and customer experience.

In fact, the team has incorporated the Vita Mojo Operating System and MOTHER’s vending machines into its offer and the tech is working across a number of its client sites, including Virgin Active and a couple of leading law firms. Whilst Lexington offers the traditional catering solution the team recognises the need to integrate tech solutions – vending still has a place and it works with MOTHER to make it an extension of the Lexington offer, sometimes incorporating its own products – it is there 24/7.

Julia Edmonds, Managing Director at Lexington says: “As a business we pride ourselves on providing fabulous food and service. We know millennials see technology as part of the dining experience and therefore our focus has been to blend great hospitality with technology – this means partnering with the very best tech-based companies.”

It is through attitudes and relationships like this that the restaurant and catering industry of the future will emerge. The reality in today’s marketplace is that data is king and those organisations that are tapping into technology and software to provide a personalised service/experience are the ones that are set to thrive.

Vita Mojo OS
Vita Mojo OS is a software company revolutionising the hospitality industry. Its cloud-based operating system helps restaurant owners, operators and managers transform their customer experience, operations and data.

Lexington Catering
Lexington work with organisations to support them in providing 5* food and service to people at work. It is passionate about creating the best hospitality and guest experience for customers and clients.

Launched in 2014, Mother builds ground-breaking vending machines to make it easy for clients and customers. Mother uses bespoke technology to produce a streamlined and interactive experience for customers.