Food Security, Sustainability, Digital Transformation, Space Optimisation, Green Initiatives, Customer Experience — It comes as a complete package.
When you see each of the above individually, you will see that many initiatives are embarking by different government and commercial entities. However, I feel that we are not having a synergistic approach to solving these joint problems but a fragmented effort that might not achieve the most significant potential.
I am not an expert in all of these areas, but I see that there is more that we can do across different aspects to solve these problems. Each is an input and output to the other building blocks across the entire food supply chain, from farm to table. There will be a limit on how much we can do in each block if we are not approaching from a holistic angle, overarching every one of them.
However, this takes a proactive approach from the different players and the drive to believe that we could do something constructive together. For those expecting a quick win within months, the pace of working all these out will disappoint you. It takes time, but I feel that this will create synergy among the entire system, and this will be sustainable.
Visiting a Restaurant
I like to use this as an example as this is a good case study that could amplify what I am suggesting. This context is where the entire farm to the table supply chain could work together to achieve something sustainable in a long term manner. Other segments can also adopt a similar approach to achieve long-term sustainability and transformation in their areas.
As a customer, I like to make a reservation to ensure that I do not get disappointed when reaching the place. So, I placed a reservation for a table of three on Friday at 6pm using the Mobile App. The App comes with an option that allows me to state the intended duration of my visit, and if I keep to that timing, I get to enjoy a 2% off my bill. Thus, I stated that we would finish our dinner by 8pm.
The restaurant makes available their menu on that day and allows advance ordering. However, I need to place a non-refundable deposit of 30% of the price of the food that I am ordering, and I get to enjoy 5% off the menu price. I will be there, and the food will undoubtedly be available. Therefore, I proceed with this arrangement.
When we reached the restaurant, I showed the reservation code to the frontline team and automatically proceeded to the table assigned to me. I can find the table number on the Mobile App. I placed my phone on the designated pad on the table, which authenticated my arrival in the kitchen. Within 5mins, we enjoy the starter, which is a Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken. The steak I ordered came next after we finished the startup, and the rest of the food flowed through until dessert and, finally, a cup of latte.
It was 7:45pm, and we were ready to depart. One of the things that I hated most was queuing up at the counter to make payment for the meal. Here, it eases the hassle by allowing me to make the payment on the Mobile App. After checking through my bills and ensuring that the discount was given, I made the payment via Apple Pay. Once the payment is made, we leave the restaurant and continue with our next program. Finally, my expenses allow me to accumulate loyalty points which I can use to offset my future spending here.
Staffing, Ingredients, and Rental make up most of the operating cost for a typical F&B setup. How might the ability to determine the customer’s food decision, date, and visit time help mitigate these costs?
When the customer makes the table reservation indicating the date, time, and the number of guests in advance, it helps the restaurant in their table setup and configuration. For example, if the restaurant knows that the table can be vacant by 8pm, they can accept a second sitting at that table. In addition, the ability to optimise the table arrangement might help optimise the shop space, which might lead to lower rental costs and other utilities.
When the restaurant can anticipate the food that the customers will order, they do not need to assume and stock up on other ingredients. This helps keep the food fresh, lowering the inventory cost and improving cash flow. Such savings can also be passed back to the customer when they pay the money upfront to indicate their orders.
When the kitchen does not need to stock up and anticipate the purchase volume, it helps lower the overall quantity and probably focuses on getting higher quality food. In addition, when they do not overorder, this helps to reduce food waste actively, which adds to the overall sustainability effort.
Such an approach in using a digitally integrated system on all aspects of customer touchpoint helps to optimise the staff deployment. Customers get to have more autonomy and privacy in their “space” while staff focus on delivering that experience by engaging with customers to provide the human touch. In addition, the team can now delegate those activities that can perform on the mobile app back to the customer.
Can you allow the customer to make a reservation using the same mobile app in restaurants under your brand in Singapore or overseas? You can further enhance the experience and invite customers to revisit you by enabling a loyalty program.
Food Supplier’s Perspective
Can such initiatives be vertically integrated to suppliers, enabling streamlining in the logistic flow and having more certainty in the orders?
By stating a minimum holding inventory, and a control limit, the restaurant can trigger an order automatically by consolidating the order across different days and delivering them. Reducing wasteful trips might enable “Just in Time” delivery for optimum freshness and target minimum storage.
Food Producer’s Perspective
Suppose the customer downstream decided to order lesser as they can better focus on the specific type and quantity. In that case, the demand for larger volumes might drop. Price demand might be on the quality that one can produce instead of the sheer amount. This could impact the food security and green initiatives that are taking place around the world.
Increasing the quality helps people consume healthier food where they will be full in nutrition instead of full by volume, which the latter doesn't constitute healthier eating.
A critical aspect that you are seeing is the frictionless flow that the customer and businesses are experiencing by using digital technology. The flow starts from the farm and to the table of the customers. Then, at the end of the table, customers’ experience is amplified by surrounding them with a suite of integrated services that allows them flexibility and certainty throughout their visit.
Again, I am not an expert in these fields, but I see that if we can synergise the various sector to have a holistic solution, we can deliver a more significant impact than working on these individually.