On the floor or in the cloud? How hospitality businesses are transforming their IT infrastructure

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In the pub and restaurant industry, trends don’t just affect what’s on your customers’ plates. They can affect every aspect of the business, often in very positive ways.

One of the most significant and important such trends is the move to cloud-based solutions, which are delivering measurable benefits to many restaurants.

From good to great

If your business is already superb at what it does, cloud technology can make a good thing even better. By moving some of your infrastructure to the cloud you can reduce hardware and software costs, cut maintenance and training costs and introduce the ability to scale your solution up or down according to demand.

Not only that, up-front costs are usually minimal, ongoing costs are predictable and the right solution enables you to take full advantage of available technologies.

Reasons to head for the cloud

For example, you might want to move at least some of your EPoS system to mobile devices such as tablets, or to integrate different data sources to provide detailed analysis of occupancy, yield, customer behaviour, inventory management and marketing effectiveness. Life in the cloud can also help you to make it easier for your employees to schedule shifts by checking rotas electronically.

Making the switch

For many restaurants, the first step is to migrate reservations and waiting lists to the cloud. Such a move can enable customers to check availability and book online or via their mobile, and it can be used to offer last-minute availability in the event of cancellations or unexpected lulls. It can also send automated reminders to help prevent the dreaded no-shows that blight many businesses’ balance sheets.

In many cases, the IT manager can then make a strong case for moving more operations online, especially when it comes to data integration. That can deliver incredibly detailed insights into occupancy and even individual customers’ behaviour, can identify more efficient use of resources and can even lead to more aggressive booking windows by identifying just how long a table of X people will be occupied.

Pause for thought

There are negatives too, of course. Some cloud-based systems are cookie cutter, one-size-fits-all operations. Many use their own branding rather than yours. Some contracts don’t fix costs in a way you’ll find acceptable, or charge a commission that can easily spiral out of control. And some vendors operate on a model where they own the data, so if you decide to cut loose and go elsewhere you can’t take your valuable data with you.

The biggest potential problem, though, is that your provider’s interests might not align with your own.

For example, if a platform is building its own brand in the consumer space, there’s a risk of your business becoming a cog in somebody else’s machine – something we’ve already seen in online retail and online ticketing, where the platform providers ended up dominating entire markets.

Making the switch

The right solution doesn’t do that. The right solution keeps you in control: control of your costs, control of your brand and, most importantly of all, control of your data.

Key points to remember:

  • Cloud-based solutions require minimal disruption and little initial investment
  • Make sure your provider’s interests are aligned with your own
  • Ownership is crucial, especially of the data your business generates
  • Data analysis can cut costs, improve efficiency and boost occupancy
  • The right solution gives you control of your costs, your brand and your data

Find out more about Zonal’s range of cloud-based solutions including reservation systems, loyalty programmes and marketing campaign tools.

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