This year has been incredibly challenging for all, but especially for those in the hospitality industry.
As the year comes to a close, it’s time to reflect on the challenges, the lessons we’ve learned and celebrate just how strong and resilient we’ve been to overcome this insane year. 2021 will be different, and we’ll need to be different too. Let’s take some of these key lessons, get ready for new challenges and continue to rebuild our iconic industry
COVID-19 forced a transformative shift in tech adoption, almost overnight. In a matter of months, we were scanning temperatures, doing mandatory QR check-ins and ordering digitally from the table. Contactless experiences became the norm and operators and customers were forced to adapt.
As people warmed up to using tech in venues, we saw a massive increase in demand for me&u. Operators rushed to implement a contactless way to order and pay, firstly to stay open and secondly, to maintain the safety of staff and guests. The me&u platform was the perfect solution as it allows guests to order from their table, limiting contact with waiters, people in queues and removing the need to touch paper menus.
Along the journey, we started to see an interesting trend. Customers not only embraced the new at-table technology, they actually spent more.
When you remove the friction of ordering and payments, and showcase items on a visual menu, customers spend an average of 27.5% more on every transaction. An enhanced customer experience meant people were staying longer, enjoying themselves more, and that meant a boost in the bottom line for operators doing it tough.
This year, we had to adapt. As an industry we learned that embracing technology is not only a must, but the right platforms can actually help businesses thrive more than ever
Now that guests are embracing at-table technology, operators are faced with a unique challenge. How do venues find the balance between embracing tech, and maintaining the human experience we all love about hospitality? This year we learned that tech isn’t the enemy for the customer experience, it’s an enhancer.
One of our me&u venues based in Victoria, ‘Mr West’, got this balance right.
The bar and bottleshop used me&u for their lockdown relaunch, and are utilising the time they get back from the efficiencies of the platform, to deliver a superior experience for guests.
Bar Manager, Kenny D’Souza, gave us some insights about implementing me&u in his venue:
“There’s always been this fear amongst people I work within hospitality that we’ll be replaced by technology. As a bartender I don’t think that will ever be possible.
“A bartender is meant to be your friend, he’s meant to be your budget psychiatrist to some degree, and when you are able to provide people with a service like this, you have more time to spend with guests.”
“You can never take out that human element, but what me&u does is it gives us more of an opportunity to show that human element.”
With me&u, staff have more time to host guests and chat to them, while the administration side of things is covered. This is a lesson very close to our hearts. We truly believe that if the right technology is implemented, it makes the experience even more magical and personal than before.
This year, we learned just how important the hospitality industry is in the lives of everyday Australians. Even in the midst of a global pandemic, people prioritised returning to their local to reconnect with friends and family.
The most striking example of this is in Victoria. After a gruelling 112-day lockdown, people were more eager than ever to return to their favourite venues. So much so that the Twitter hashtag #GetOnTheBeers was trending for 4-weeks straight and blasted over social media, becoming the motto of celebration for people heading back to pubs and bars. After the isolation of lockdown, people were craving social connection. There’s something so comforting and familiar about catching up with friends and family around a table at your local. When times are tough, Aussies revert to our staples and the first steak and pint back tastes that much sweeter.
At me&u, it was amazing to see how many people rushed back to venues post-lockdown, tapping on for their first beer in months, contact-free. Incredibly, the number of venues using me&u in Victoria grew 9-fold post lockdown. The incredible growth this year is a testament to how important technology has become. me&u has become not just a nice-to-have for venues, but an essential tool to relaunch and thrive.
On their return, guests have been loving me&u at their favourite venues. Here’s what some of guests across Australia have been saying:
“Sick technology guys - how good! Thanks for making stuff COVID-19 safe!” - Mr West , VIC.
“Damn. This is the future!” The Bavarian Macarthur, NSW.
Great app, easy to use - perfect for this strange new world.” - Mr Percivals, QLD.
When lockdowns started across the country, it left the industry no choice but to rethink the entire business model. It was incredibly tough to see businesses closing for good, but for those who survived, pivoting was essential.
Some bars and distilleries like South Australia’s Prohibition Liquor Co, used their excess spirits to create sought-after hand sanitisers. Other venues, like Fratelli Fresh, launched pop-up gourmet grocers, selling their famous pasta sauces, pizza bases and soups at the store-front.
For many operators, these creative side-hustles became full hustles, and we learned just how creative the industry can be. We even saw a range of COVID-safe events popping up around the country, like The Beresford’s ‘Live At The Table’, which involved a socially-distanced seated dinner and concert.
As Australia started to reopen, most side-hustles were packed-up in favour of heading back to a bit of normalcy. However, for some, they proved so successful that they remained a regular part of operations. This experience taught the industry that sometimes mixing things up is what is needed and creativity will always have a place in hospitality.
When COVID-19 first hit, a lot of us didn’t expect it to last as long. In venues, behaviours that started as necessities have over time become entrenched habits and, as a result, operators will need to adapt to and embrace a new type of customer.
Before 2020, health and safety was never a huge factor in choosing a restaurant. Yes, venues would proudly display their star rating poster on the wall, but did it actually sway the decisions of customers? These days, consumers demand higher hygiene standards in venues, and the ways of working for operators will change forever.
In a survey of Aussie consumers back in April, we found that 74% of people were ‘much more likely’ to go to a venue that took safety precautions seriously and 95% of respondents said would prefer to use card over handling cash in a bar or restaurant.
People are becoming increasingly accustomed to contactless experiences and need the peace of mind that they can enjoy their time with friends and family, safely.
When you think of Australian icons, the Aussie pub has got to be pretty high on the list. Hospitality is so ingrained in our cultural identity and history, and the way we all rallied behind the industry this year really highlighted that.
Over the months, a bunch of benefit corporations were built to help those who were struggling. One initiative was ‘Save Hospitality’; a platform that allowed customers to purchase gift-vouchers for their favourite venues, giving operators much-needed cash flow to continue operations and keep staff employed between lockdowns.
With the power of social media, the hashtag #savehospo went viral and dozens of pages popped up as a platform for small hospitality businesses to sell produce, merchandise or promote pick-up meal services. Even governments recognised how important hospitality is for our country. In January, the NSW Government will hand out restaurant vouchers to all residents, giving the industry a much-needed boost for what will hopefully be a strong year.
We’re incredibly proud to see how far the industry has come this year. There have been immense struggles, pivots and set-backs but it never stopped the industry from hustling and leaning on each other for help. There’s a hunger, drive and heart in hospitality like no other.
We are proud to be a part of this great industry, and are thankful to all of the amazing venues that make the hospitality industry such an integral part of our identity. As the year comes to a close, It’s time to reflect, celebrate how far we’ve come, and begin to rebuild.
There are a lot of important lessons we’ve learnt this year, but most of all it’s that we need to keep fighting. We have no doubt that 2021 will be the year that hospitality comes back even stronger.