7 takeaways from our Plan to Plate research

The customer journey in hospitality has been transformed by technology, the adoption of which has been accelerated by the pandemic. To gain a deeper understanding of what was happening in the market, Zonal partnered with hospitality research firm KAM Media to take a deep dive into the customer journey from “plan to plate.”

KAM Media conducted an in-depth research study with 1,004 UK adults – a nationally representative sample of British pub, bar and restaurant-goers. The full report is available here.

Below are 7 valuable takeaways for operators:

1) 1 in 3 people now look at photos and menus online before visiting

This rises to 1 in 2 for younger people and demonstrates the increasingly digital nature of the typical hospitality customer journey. The research showed that most people start their journey online, doing either a “general internet search” (38%) or using Google’s “near me” search tool (25%).

2) 1 in 6 customers are more likely to book ahead now vs pre-pandemic

At the same time, a third said difficulty making a reservation was one of the key reasons they might decide to stay at home, so investing in a seamless booking system that offers real-time availability can really give an operator the edge.

3) 38% of hospitality customers will be more likely to try new venues once the industry fully re-opens

New venues or familiar venues that are offering something new will be drawing in customers this summer and beyond. This is partly driven by the desire for new and exciting things to do after months of lockdown – but also to support local venues and to ensure that every visit counts.

4) 56% of customers would like to see table service continue

Could it be that Covid has killed off the peculiarly British practice of ordering at the bar? Probably not, but this insight does indicate that a large proportion of customers now see the benefits of ordering and paying at table. Operators will need to look at offering both where possible.

5) Mobile order and pay has become more important over the last 12 months

Over 40% of consumers said so, which goes to show how technology originally adopted as a solution to a pandemic problem, will endure in the future. Unsurprisingly this rises to 65% of Millennials, although nearly half of people reported being frustrated when “forced” to pay via a mobile app, so it makes sense to offer a range of payment options to cater for differing preferences.

6) 86% of customers would be interested in joining a loyalty scheme

The power of loyalty schemes is generally underestimated by the hospitality sector but they have a number of benefits for operators. The report found that they drive footfall – for 1 in 7 customers, a loyalty scheme has a significant influence on which venue they choose; they encourage reviews – 31% of respondents say they would leave feedback if rewarded with loyalty points, and people are happy to share personal information in exchange for loyalty rewards as well – 79% would do so if they received tailored rewards as a result.

7) Online reviews are becoming even more important

Nearly half (47%) of consumers said they looked at online reviews before booking. Smartphones are key to an explosion in online reviews, with 1 in 3 customers saying they are more likely to leave a review if they can do it via their smartphone, rising as high as 44% for those in the 25-34-year-old bracket.

To download the full research report and find out more about the essential role of technology in customer journey, visit our dedicated resources page: Connecting the Customer Journey

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    Frictionless is the future

    QR Code
    By Glenn Tait, Strategic Product Manager, Zonal

    ‘Frictionless’ is a buzzword used by many in the tech industry to mean a quick and easy/stress-free customer experience.

    The word ‘friction’ then, is the opposite to this, where obstacles can occur at various touchpoints throughout the customer journey. From finding a venue and booking to ordering and paying, potential obstacles exist to detract from the customer experience. Understanding these potential points of friction and removing them is as good for your business as it is for your customers.

    Top 10 customer frustrations and points of friction

    Source: Plan to Plate Research Report, May 2021, KAM Media/Zonal

    1. Being forced to queue outside a venue (i.e. no bookings)
    2. Being told a certain dish has run out when you order it
    3. Under-attentive waiting staff
    4. Being forced to order food and pay via an app
    5. Trying to get a waiting staffs’ attention when waiting to pay
    6. Being told about the specials rather than having them written down
    7. Trying to get a waiting staff’s attention when wanting to order
    8. Waiting to be seated at a table
    9. Being forced to have a to book a table (i.e. no walk-ins)
    10. Not knowing how much you’ve spent until you see the final bill

    Results from Zonal’s GO Technology research programme, and more recently Plan to Plate in partnership with KAM Media, repeatedly cite not being able to attract the attention of the server to order or pay the bill among consumers’ top frustrations. Customers actively want to pay quicker. And quicker payment means quicker table turns, which means extra capacity and ultimately extra revenue.

    Removing friction, it would seem, is a win-win!

    Revival of the QR Code

    Since the Coronavirus pandemic hit at the beginning of 2020, QR codes have experienced a come-back as a simple solution that can achieve everything from checking in for Track and Trace to viewing digital menus. The development in smart phone camera technology that enabled QR code recognition and redirection to website pages has meant that QR codes are now a simple solution to many of the points of friction in the hospitality customer journey.

    40% of customers prefer to use guest checkout rather than creating a user account, Zonal May 2021

    Whilst a primary benefit of using QR codes in-venue may be to enable quicker payment of the bill, they also allow fewer steps and fewer button clicks to order, plus improved accuracy of ordering. All the customer needs to do is scan a code, taking them directly through the ordering process at the correct venue, at the correct table – they just need to choose their food and pay.

    7 reasons why QR codes remove friction in the customer journey:

    1. You can direct your guests to a specific menu, ordering website or even table number so that the number of steps required before ordering is reduced.
    2. An in-venue QR code is specific to your site and location. Customers don’t need to find your site from a map view or list on a mobile app.
    3. QR codes on menus can be specific to that particular menu but can also be used to ask the guest to choose a table number.
    4. Outside, pop-up tables without specific table numbers can also benefit from QR codes. By providing each table with its own unique QR code, you can allow customers to locate a menu and order to that specific location with fewer steps as possible.
    5. QR codes printed on menus direct a user to the digital ordering version of that menu – this can be site-specific so that the guest has less steps in the ordering process.
    6. QR codes on the windows of venues can navigate the user to a click and collect menu as well as advertising this method of ordering.
    7. Codes on tables lead the customer to their specific bill for their table – all with one scan of a QR code, cutting the number of clicks to pay the bill by five and reducing the time it takes the guest to wait to pay. This can also work well with blended operations where the server takes the orders, and the guests use the QR code through which to pay.

    Zonal has long recognised that enabling hospitality businesses to provide easier and quicker ways for guests to order and pay will not only increase guest satisfaction but will make ordering more efficient, increase revenues and cut down waste.

    Discover how Zonal’s connected technology solutions can help you understand and enhance your customer journey.

    Get in touch

    Chat with our sales team to learn about how Zonal products could benefit you.

      6 tech-led growth strategies for hotels

      Hotel bookings
      By Alison Vasey, Group Product Director, Zonal

      With the prospect of a domestic tourism boom and with guests more tech savvy than ever before, there’s a huge opportunity for hotels of all shapes and sizes to seize the positive transformational benefits technology has to offer. Here are our six top tips to help hoteliers hit the ground running this summer.

      1. Personalise the guest experience

      A simple but powerful improvement hoteliers can make to a guest journey is ensuring it begins with booking directly via their own website. This is because a journey that begins with a third-party booking site means the hotelier has no access to guest data and no avenue to communication, severely impeding their ability to create a great guest experience from the off. By encouraging guests to book direct, hoteliers can control the brand experience, capture useful information and use it to send personalised reminders, promotions and deals.

      Investing in a tech solution that facilitates contactless check-in will take this one step further. Such a system gives hoteliers the ability to provide bespoke and high-quality guest experiences. Guest’s room keys ready upon arrival and personalised notes waiting in their room, for example, all contributing to an enhanced and seamless experience.

      2. Capturing the guest in ‘buying mode’

      A direct line of communication now established, hoteliers can capture the guest when in ‘buying mode’ at this early stage in their journey. Upselling prompts to book a table for dinner during their stay, or for a box of chocolates in the room on arrival are all great ways to drive F&B sales and consequently RevPAR. All of these messages can be sent automatically through Zonal’s PMS which is integrated with EPOS and our booking system, therefore maximizing revenues but not generating large amounts of extra work for your hotel team.

      3. Become an integration sensation

      Integration has become a buzzword in the world of tech and with good reason – when done right it can open up a wealth of opportunities and be of tremendous value to any hotelier. Ensuring your key tech solutions are talking to each other, creates an improved and seamless guest experience. One example, is with EPOS and PMS – integrating these two solutions generates one bill for the guest without staff having to input information several times  and without the need for a potentially messy paper trail. Simplifying this step with integration not only improves the guest experience but allows staff to work smarter and more efficiently.

      4. Harness the power of data

      Many hoteliers collect guest data, however knowing how best to use it can seem an impossible and time-consuming task. With integration and tech solutions talking to one another this data can create a meaningful picture. For example, integrating guest feedback data with other parts of the business can unlock a wealth of understanding, with operators able to understand not just when a guest wasn’t satisfied with their breakfast but identify when it was ordered, what dish it was, and how long it took them to be served. These kinds of insights have the ability to enable hoteliers to continually improve the guest experience and operational efficiency, not just improving the immediate guest experience but delivering long-term benefits and building solid foundations for future growth.

      6. The bar has been raised

      The pub and restaurant sectors have drastically changed their use of technology in-venue over the past year and consumers have equally embraced this change, with our GO Technology report revealing that two-fifths of consumers believe technology improves their hospitality experiences. Comparatively, 70% of consumers pre-pandemic said they had never used technology to order room service and 64% said they had never used tech to reserve a table during their stay.

      This is a huge missed opportunity for the hotel industry. To hit the ground running this summer, hoteliers will need to provide guests with a technology-enhanced experience they have become increasingly accustomed to in other hospitality settings. Contactless order and pay for example is now an expectation for many guests in pubs and restaurants with GO Tech research showing that 45% of consumers have ordered food or drink via their mobile. It stands to reason, then, that they will be wanting the same from their hotel this summer and beyond.

      6. Opportunity to cultivate loyalty

      With spending and holidaying locally a key consumer trend this year, the opportunity to create loyal guests and generate repeat visits is greater than ever before. Driving loyalty amongst guests will be a crucial aspect of maximizing revenues this summer and beyond, and tech is perfectly placed to facilitate this.

      Nearly two-thirds of hospitality businesses are yet to offer a loyalty scheme despite consumers’ eagerness for such offers, with 49% of consumers in Britain saying loyalty schemes are important to them when choosing a venue to visit.  In its most basic form, collecting a guest email address allows you to contact loyal customers with future -promotions and reminders. However, using a digital loyalty scheme to attract domestic travelers over the course of this summer could provide hoteliers with a key unique selling point (USP) in a highly competitive market.

      In partnership with the Institute of Hospitality, Zonal has published a Whitepaper on how the use of tech can enhance the guest experience and boost revenue and profits post-pandemic.

      Get in touch

      Chat with our sales team to learn about how Zonal products could benefit you.

        How to use imagery effectively: 6 top tips for your hospitality website

        Food photographer
        By Joe Campbell, Digital Marketing Manager, Zonal

        First impressions count. Humans are visual creatures, and when it comes to websites, images capture our attention and help us to visualise an experience. With 31% of consumers now looking at photos of food and 27% looking at pictures of the venue when searching for a potential hospitality venue according to recent KAM Media/Zonal research, the visual aspect of your website is more important now than ever before.  A great emotion trigger: your website imagery is one thing you can control, and you can customise it completely to your taste and to fit your goals.

        But how can you effectively use images on your website? And what is the best way to optimise your online menu? Zonal’s Digital Marketing Manager Joe Campbell shares his top suggestions:

        1. Invest in quality images

        If you can afford it, hiring a photographer is a great investment. Not only will you end up with professional well-composed images, but an expert will also have the knowledge on how to capture your venue and food in the best way possible. Before you start taking photographs, make sure your images are in line with the marketing goals for the business. Choose to take images of your best dishes and place them on your website with a goal in mind. You won’t be disappointed with the results.

        2. Use titles and descriptions on your images

        When saving a photo file do you give it a specific name? Search engines tend to read photo files, names, titles, and descriptions and not having one there can affect your overall ranking. Do not leave your metadata blank, label your images with short snappy names, and give them hospitality-related labels with relevant titles and descriptions. This will help with optimisation and provide context to the image.

        3. Give an honest portrayal

        The average person spends about 8 seconds on a given webpage (Strikingly.com). That’s 8 seconds for customers to connect with your business and build a relationship with your brand. Be genuine with your photos – customers can tell the difference between stock images, and real images of your venue. Where possible, use photos of you and your staff and choose images that will accurately reflect what the customer will see when they arrive.

        4. Optimise your menu

        The top thing consumers search for when researching a potential pub, restaurant or bar is ‘What’s on the food menu’ (54%). Getting the menu and prices right can help draw your visitors in and convert them to a potential customer.

        When adding a menu online, using the right images and selecting words that match your dish can help trigger senses, giving customers an idea of what each dish tastes like. Entice your customers in with powerful visuals, and accurate menu descriptions that highlight the best features of your business – your food.

        5. Display your prices

        Prices are important too. With 44% of consumers looking for prices when researching a potential hospitality venue, make sure you include your pricing information clearly on the menu. Your customers are going to be more conscious of how much they’re spending, and this is a major factor in their dining decisions. Despite this, 38% are more likely to try new venues when they are fully reopened, so make it easy for them by noting your prices on your online menus.

        6. Leverage responsive design

        With more than four-fifths of time spent online via mobile, it is essential your website is mobile responsive. A mobile-responsive website will allow your visitors to view your website, menu and images with ease. Customers won’t stay on your website if it’s not optimised for mobile devices, and you may lose out on potential bookings. Provide a clear call to action, such as a booking link, and keep branding consistent.

        Discover how Zonal’s integrated technology solutions can help you understand and enhance your customer journey and discover new ways to drive revenue.

        Get in touch

        Chat with our sales team to learn about how Zonal products could benefit you.

          Customer Journey Mapping Checklist

          What is a customer journey map?

          A ‘map’ of all the steps a customer takes from the start to the finish of their experience with your pub, bar or restaurant.

          The aim of a customer journey map is to give you a better understanding of how your customers experience your hospitality business, from the moment they start searching for somewhere to go out to eat or drink, to the moment they pay the bill and leave.

          Having a better understanding of every step in their journey enables you to identify areas for improvement so you can enhance your customer experience, ensuring consistency and a seamless experience at all touchpoints and across all channels.

          The benefits:

          • Discover which are the most influential channels and touch points in your customer journey
          • Minimise negative customer experiences, through identification of key steps and pain points
          • Prioritise actions that will have the biggest impact
          • Improve customer loyalty and retention by creating and delivering better or differentiated experiences to your competitors
          • Lower customer acquisition costs due to improved customer loyalty
          • Happier customers, who spend more 😊

          Mapping out your customer journey is important regardless of whether you’re a multi-brand, multi-site operator or an independent pub or restaurant, and what’s more, it’s doesn’t cost anything – just time and teamwork.

          So, grab a pen and paper and have a look at our 5-step checklist below:

          Five Steps to Customer Mapping Success

          STEP 1: Define your customer types (personas):

          • Draw up a list of your typical customer groups and fill out as many details about each group as you can think of – what are their goals, motivations, key tasks they want to accomplish, likes, dislikes, pain points?
          • Consider organising a customer feedback session with representatives from each of your identified persona groups to gain honest feedback on their experiences with your business, with an incentive such as a money-off voucher or free drinks/meal in return for their time

          STEP 2: List every touchpoint in your personas’ buyer journeys

          Once you’ve created a persona document for each of your customer types, you can use them to create a unique customer journey by persona; list out each stage and every single touchpoint of their customer experience with your brand – from start to finish.

          This could include searching online for your business, the experience on your website, booking a table, arrival, ordering food, paying the bill, not forgetting any third-party experiences of your brand via services such as Deliveroo or TripAdvisor. Everything you can possibly think of!

          For each stage of the journey and for every touchpoint, try to identify:

          • What were their goals, what did they want to achieve?
          • What did they expect the process would be like?
          • The steps they used to complete the stage?
          • How did they feel during each touchpoint experience and why?
          • How long did it take to complete?

          STEP 3: Identify points of friction

          Once you’ve understood your persona’s goals and written down their touchpoints, walk through each of the journey maps for your customer groups with your team to help identify any points of friction within the customer experience. Does your menu load slowly on your website? Are customers forced to queue to get a table because you don’t take bookings? Are customers left waiting to pay the bill because your team are busy serving other tables? And so on…

          STEP 4: Maximise and improve your touchpoints

          Use your identified points of friction to create an action list of improvements. What simple changes can be made to fix the pain points? What communications can be put in place to answer common questions? What technology can be used to solve process challenges and make service efficiencies? Identify and prioritise your solutions and remember to allocate an owner for each.

          STEP 5: Revise and monitor

          The customer journey mapping exercise doesn’t end there. It’s a long-term commitment to improving your customer experience. Treat your map as a living document to be revisited regularly and updated as required; customers’ wants and needs change, circumstances change (Covid has been a sharp reminder of this!). Finally, remember to share it with any relevant internal stakeholders – ensuring the whole team is onboard and behind the initiative will ensure its success.

          Get in touch with Zonal today to discover how our connected technology solutions are helping hospitality businesses of all shapes and sizes to understand and enhance their customer journeys, make significant service improvements and exploit new revenue streams.

          Contact Sales

          Related Content


          From Plan to Plate Insight Report

          This insight report follows the customer journey - from initial decision and venue choice through to ordering, paying and finally leaving a review.

          Read More

          GO Tech Consumer Research: Technology’s role in the customer journey

          The latest GO Technology report reveals that having accepted the need for technology during the pandemic, two fifths of consumers say tech improves their hospitality experiences.

          Read More

          Get in touch

          Chat with our sales team to learn about how Zonal products could benefit you.

            9 Top tips for launching a new app

            By Matt Brooks, Product Delivery Manager and senior mobile lead

            Whether you’re launching a pay-at-table service, loyalty app or any other mobile service which requires a change in customer behaviour or operational processes, it’s essential that as much time and effort goes into the launch as did the development – to ensure your new tech investment is a success.

            Zonal’s Matt Brooks shares his top suggestions for a successful app launch, based on some of the best we’ve seen over the past few years:

            1. Ensure staff are 100% behind it

            The most important people to get on board in any new app roll-out are your front-of-house team. But this also extends to senior management and the board (if you have one). Why have you invested in this technology in the first place – is it to increase revenue? To encourage repeat business? To reward loyal customers? Whatever your reasons, explain what the benefits will be to your customers, to your staff and to the rest of the business. Encourage them to give their feedback and ideas on how to make it a success and of course get them to try out the new app for themselves to see how easy it really is to use. Finally, make sure any concerns are acknowledged and addressed.

            If you don’t focus on achieving this one, you may as well ignore the rest of this list… it really is that important!

            2. Support tipping

            Make sure any new mobile ordering technology supports staff tipping – especially when the new service is replacing a task that the front of house team may have undertaken as part of their role, such as order and pay at table. Any negative impact on tipping will inevitably have a knock-on effect to how much staff are willing to promote the new service. Make sure this is also communicated to staff, including how and when they will get their tips.

            3. Full and comprehensive training

            Organise a series of dedicated training sessions for staff before launch, where you can provide a safe, non-live environment to help them get comfortable with the solution and practice real-life scenarios before they happen. This can also provide a great opportunity to gather feedback from the team and win their buy-in.

            4. Emphasise the benefits in all of your customer comms

            When considering the communications channels and touchpoints you plan to use to launch the new app, remember to lead with the key customer benefits. Think: ‘what’s in it for them?’ Why should they download it? Can they pay the bill quicker? Can they get a round of drinks at the touch of a button? Can they avoid the queue at the bar? Is there a special offer or discount? If they understand the benefits, they’re more likely to adopt the new app.

            5. Make a splash about it

            Think about where and how you will promote your new app and make sure you promote your new service everywhere you can – the more visible reminders the better. Consider table point of sale materials such as menus and flyers, as well as till receipts and staff clothing to help spread the word. Use all areas in-venue to advertise the new service: reception, bar, lounge or smoking area and even the back of toilet doors (yes really!).

            6. Launch with an offer or incentive to download/register

            Whether it’s a free drink, dessert or starter, if you’re asking customers to hand over their details, register for a service, download an app or even use the ‘guest checkout’ facility, launch offers or incentives are a great way to generate engagement in your new service.

            7. Constant feedback

            Your app is an important part of the customer experience. It is vital to actively solicit and respond to stakeholder feedback throughout all stages of the roll-out. Listening and responding to feedback and suggestions, adapting the technology itself or your communications will help to ensure its success in the long term.

            8. Share numbers and reward success

            Be transparent with the results – share the key numbers and metrics with the team: downloads/usage, spend per head, number and increase in orders, contribution by channel, dwell time, customer satisfaction. Something as simple as a small reward or team prize could help galvanise staff to hit and exceed any targets you’ve set for the new service.

            9. Encourage competition

            If yours is a multi-site business, leader boards can be a great way to drive behaviour and new app adoption. Encourage competition between staff and sites by offering a prize for the most revenue/registrations/downloads/new members via the new service.

            Zonal is trusted to power mobile ordering technology for thousands of customer sites around the country. To find out more about our EPoS-integrated mobile ordering solutions, visit our dedicated web page >

            Get in touch

            Chat with our sales team to learn about how Zonal products could benefit you.

              Q&A: The future of mobile ordering and payments

              This Q&A article with Zonal’s product delivery manager Matt Brooks on how the pandemic has changed the industry’s view on mobile ordering and payment technology first appeared in Big Hospitality on the 3rd Feb 2021.

              The pandemic has given mobile ordering and payment a real shot in the arm, so to speak…​

              Even prior to the pandemic it felt as if the industry was reaching a tipping point in terms of adopting digital order and pay products, but lockdown has undoubtedly accelerated this. Zonal has been at the forefront of such technology for many years but over the last 12 months we’ve seen a 500% increase in the take up of our order and pay solutions.

              What would you say to operators that are still on the fence about the technology?​

              There is now a real danger for any operator left behind, as shown in our recently published GO Technology report. In a survey for the report 34% of consumers told us they would be more likely to choose a venue with order and pay technology and 40% feel safer in venues that use it. The report also found that three quarters of consumers are satisfied, or very satisfied, with the ease of digital ordering and payment and satisfaction levels are similarly high for ease of set-up and user-friendliness.

              How big do you see mobile order and payments getting?​

              We believe order and pay will become not just standard but something people expect. Suddenly removing it so consumers find themselves having to queue at the bar again will result in frustration. And any operators still concerned that order and pay technology could detract from the guest experience by limiting interaction with team members, should bear in mind that a properly thought-out solution will give staff more time to have meaningful interactions with guests.

              What are the benefits for operators?​

              Of course, order and pay technology doesn’t just benefit consumers. There are significant advantages for operators too – and those benefits are especially pronounced where systems can be integrated. The Zonal platform for example, is integrated to our POS in real-time, and powers our order and pay, click and collect, and loyalty white label apps, as well as our more recently developed browser-based ordering system. And it handles integration with third parties too, including the major delivery players, including Deliveroo and UberEats.

              What are the benefits of a fully-centralised system?​

              Everything is managed in one place, meaning operators can easily see orders, manage menus and pricing in real-time across multiple platforms and from multiple channels – including different delivery partners. There’s no double keying needed, saving a significant amount of time and removing the risk of human error.

              Any examples?​

              Take digital menus. Operators have reported that one of the major advantages of these over analogue menus is dynamic pricing – the ability to change prices according to the day of the week or time. A digital menu can also be set to automatically suggest add-ons and upgrades, perhaps offering people a side or the option to switch normal fries for sweet potato fries. Traditionally, operators have had to rely on staff to remember to do this but those using our system have found that automating the process yields great results for the bottom line.

              What’s coming down the track that might shake things up?​

              This area of technology is a fast-moving space. One thing to look out for over the coming months is the rollout of Apple’s App Clips. These are essentially mini versions of apps that don’t take up much space and – crucially – appear the moment a customer needs them. This is an area Zonal is looking at, as it offers the best of both worlds –  a native experience that’s as quick as using a mobile website. App Clips are also the gateway to customers downloading the full app with additional functionality, such as loyalty features.

              Where does Zonal stand on the app versus browser-based order and pay debate?​

              At Zonal we offer both solutions so it’s an and/or for us rather than versus. The beauty of technology today is that it can be on whatever platform the customer wants to use it on. The main advantage of apps is that they tend to be quicker, slicker and have the potential to offer more functionality, while browser-based solutions are instant and don’t require a download or a smartphone.

              Any other predictions for mobile ordering and payments?​

              Increasingly, we’re going to see hospitality businesses borrow from the playbooks of the likes of Amazon and Netflix to drive profitability. Personalisation is going to be key, but a balance does need to be struck between offering the customer the same thing over and over again and encouraging them to try new things. Ultimately, every restaurant and pub will use technology slightly differently but there’s always a way that it can improve operations for the business and the experience for the customer.

              Download our latest research: Order and Pay Technology in the COVID-era

              COVID-19 has put technology in the centre of the consumer journey and hospitality’s safety precautions, our GO Technology report reveals how consumers have reacted to this change.

              Download Now

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              Chat with our sales team to learn about how Zonal products could benefit you.

                Four ways loyalty schemes will change in 2021

                Perhaps you think the pandemic has put paid to loyalty schemes, at least for the foreseeable future. Loyalty schemes are, after all, about making customers feel special – hard to do when the doors are closed; they cost money to run at a time when cash is a more precious commodity than usual, and uncertainty reigns over when customers might be able to redeem any accrued rewards.

                However, findings published in our latest GO Technology report, in partnership with CGA, tell a different story. With consumers eager to support their favourite businesses and get back into venues in 2021, this year could in fact be a prime opportunity to launch a new loyalty programme. With the pandemic having changed consumer behaviours though, a successful loyalty scheme will need to look a little different from anything offered pre-pandemic. Here’s four ways to make a success of a loyalty scheme in 2021.

                1 Apps not cards

                A mere 35% of hospitality operators surveyed said that their current loyalty scheme was card-based, with over half (52%) adopting loyalty schemes powered by apps. This is borne out by our own experience in recent times – over the last 18 months we’ve not had a single enquiry from operators wanting to implement a card-based system, indeed all of the loyalty schemes we have delivered in that time have been digital.

                This shift to digital loyalty solutions is very likely to continue in our opinion, a result of increased consumer uptake and comfort with order and pay apps and online ordering during the pandemic. Not only does this offer customer convenience but could drive sign ups and repeat orders. By having applications integrated into one platform the operational burden of linking the solutions and data together is removed as the technology is doing the hard work for you.

                2 Discounts will drive downloads

                For the majority of people, discounts on food and drink are the main driver for using a loyalty app, with 48% looking for a percentage off their bill, 45% wanting a cash benefit, while 37% would like free food and drink after reaching a set spend. Non-monetary perks are relevant too (14% like a loyalty scheme to give them preferential booking and 11% want to be given queue jumping privileges) but with the economic outlook looking far from positive, unemployment on the rise, and job security a concern for many, it seems clear that in the future more sophisticated programmes will take a back seat to discount-driven rewards – at least in the short to medium term.

                3 Integrate to generate profit

                Once consumers start to use a loyalty scheme, they tend to make good use of it – about half say they do so almost or every time they visit a venue, so it makes sense to ensure your scheme is integrated with other digital products. Investing in a loyalty solution that integrates with your EPoS and booking functions for example, will reap many benefits, not least that members will be visible to staff at every point of the customer journey.

                Further integration with your existing channels, such as with an order and pay app, offers further benefits. Giving delivery customers access to loyalty benefits as trading restrictions continue, for example, and then, when we can finally open our doors again, making it simple and easy for those downloading an order and pay app to join your loyalty scheme as part of the sign up process.

                4 Powering insight

                A major advantage of the shift to digital for operators is the valuable insights that can be gained from harvesting the available data. Visiting patterns, purchasing habits and general consumer behaviour can be collected and collated. This can be used to inform and deliver tailored deals and rewards to each customer, driving engagement and sales directly from the loyalty scheme, with the data then used to deliver more engaging and more targeted marketing campaigns. Using the insights alongside other customer data can also result in more informed longer-term strategy and planning to help future-proof your business.

                Alison Vasey is Group Product Director at Zonal

                Download our latest research: Loyalty and Technology in 2021

                Our latest GO Technology report in conjunction with CGA, reveals the popularity of loyalty schemes in restaurants, pubs and bars among both consumers and business leaders.

                Download Now

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                Chat with our sales team to learn about how Zonal products could benefit you.

                  Lockdown: A time to future-proof your tech stack

                  With the roadmap for easing Covid restrictions underway, the ongoing vaccine roll-out, and the doors of hospitality businesses looking to re-open late April/mid-May, we’re finally looking at an exit from the pandemic.

                  There’s no question that tech now plays a vital role in hospitality – not just to solve current challenges, but to future-proof pub and restaurant businesses too.

                  According to CGA, 94% of business leaders now believe technology is a fundamental part of helping them to successfully navigate in the current climate. 

                  The pandemic pushed new tech solutions such as click and collect and mobile order and pay into the spotlight last year as consumers were quick to embrace the technology as part of their new COVID-compliant, contactless guest experience. At Zonal we saw over 40 times the amount of orders go through these channels than pre-COVID.

                  But the benefits of these new ordering channels extend well beyond the pandemic, and with the consumer adoption of these looking set to stay, now’s the time to think about if, and how, they fit into your current business model, and which other technology solutions could add value to your business.

                  Now could a good time to review your current operations technology stack and make sure it is fit for the future. Ask yourself questions such as:

                  1. Am I exploiting all the technology solutions that are relevant for my business and offer new revenue channels?
                  2. Which other tools are out there, that we’re not currently using, which will help our business become more efficient, control costs and increase profits?
                  3. Is our current tech stack delivering the benefits we expected? Are there any pain points that need resolving?
                  4. Are my current technology providers giving me the right level of support or has it highlighted the cracks in our tech infrastructure? Has it put pressure on other systems showing they can’t cope?

                  Additional points to consider when undertaking your review:

                  1. Sharing of data

                  Do your platforms sit in silos or do they talk to one another, can you capture this data centrally to give you a single view of your operations? Is it giving you access to the insight and data intelligence that you need to help you make informed decisions?

                  2. Operations

                  Do your tech platforms offer everything you need to support every aspect of your operations? Are they adding more time pressure on your staff, for example do online orders need to be re-keyed into your POS or kitchen management system or accounting tool? How do you ensure nothing is missed and how do you account for human error? Are the systems giving you complete control of all your customer touch points?

                  3. Protect your brand

                  With more ordering channels now available, this brings more opportunities for customers to engage with your brand. How is this being managed, is the brand experience consistent or is it being compromised? How do you ensure you offer the same experience customers expect from your brand even if they are not in-venue? Do the new platforms allow you to add your brand personality and unique offering, but still allow for that personal touch when needed?

                  4. Availability

                  How are you managing your available stock items or even available tables on different channels? Can customers order things or book tables that are no longer available? Not only is this an additional task for your staff to keep on top of but also leaves a negative impression of your brand with the customer if they are left disappointed during their guest experience with you.

                  5. Right partner

                  You may have needed to act quickly in implementing new technology solutions over the past year, and not had time to complete all the research that you would normally do when choosing a new technology partner. How is your partner working for you, how are they supporting you during this time, if you need help can you contact them outside of the standard 9-5pm? Can they meet your growth plans and expectations, can they grow with your business? Ensuring a partner can provide solutions that can integrate into your existing technology infrastructure and scale with you as you grow, will stand you in good stead for a successful, profitable business in the future.

                  A full technology review will help you to answer all these questions and work out which solutions will help create a healthy business for the road to recovery and a platform for sustainable growth.

                  Integration is key

                  With customer touchpoints becoming increasingly varied and arguably more complex and a plethora of platforms now available to operators, seamless data sharing and integration between technology systems is vital to minimise the burden on operations and ensure the customer experience is not compromised.

                  The data available from a suite of connected solutions provides invaluable insight for business planning, operational efficiency and meeting business goals – not just for re-opening, but for the future.

                  Get in touch with our friendly team to discuss your tech requirements, or if you’re a customer, contact your Account Manager directly.

                  For a completely integrated approach to your technology stack, check out Zonal’s full range of connected technology solutions and list of our partner integrations.

                  Get in touch

                  Chat with our sales team to learn about how Zonal products could benefit you.

                    Top tips for minimising food waste following Tier changes

                    With more cities and counties up and down the country entering Tier 3 and 4 restrictions, restaurants, pubs and hotels are yet again forced to work out what to do with the mountain of stock and fresh produce that will be wasted. As UK Hospitality Chief Executive recently stated before London’s recent move to Tier 4, “as with previous short-notice lockdowns, this is going to cause a glut of wasted food and drink,” because hospitality businesses cannot “just turn on and off”.

                    Whilst changing Tiers and their resulting restrictions is out of your hands, having a clear picture of your inventory is always helpful at any moment in time, so that you’re able to quickly work out a clear plan of action to minimise all avoidable waste. And as lockdown measures are eased and re-imposed over the next few months (as is sadly inevitable), customer demand for stock items will continue to fluctuate, so knowing what you have in-hand has become more important than ever.

                    Our in-house stock and order experts have put together some top tips to help you reduce stock wastage and improve profitability over the coming months:

                    1. Stock ordering policy

                    Make sure you iron out your inventory and ordering policy and brief relevant team members. This includes establishing who’s in charge of ordering, what food items can be re-ordered (if you are open for takeaway), and when they can be re-ordered. If you have an integrated purchase-to-pay system in place, then an easy way to do this is by adding an approval structure within your system.

                    2. Understand what stock you hold

                    Ensure you have complete knowledge of what stock you hold at all times, as it allows you to prioritise which products are at most risk of going out of date or have the highest value. This will help you to identify ways to save your stock. For example, could some of your highest valued food products be frozen? Or could your stock be transferred to another site that are operating in tier one or two? These are all ways to help you educe food wastage and ultimately cut costs in the long run.

                    3. Find out which orders have been placed

                    Find out what stock orders have been placed and see if they can be cancelled. This may seem pretty obvious, but when you’re trying to manage all aspects of closing your restaurant this can easily slip one’s mind.

                    4. Adapt your food offering

                    Why not consider readjusting your sales mix and bundle some of your food items together to increase sales. For example, if you’re open for takeaway or are offering a click and collect service why not offer an extra side or starter, or if they spend over a certain amount offer them a free dessert. Whilst your overall margin and profit percentage will be less, you’ll still bring in more cash. It’s better to get some cash for your stock, even if it’s less than what you have paid for it, than to throw it away and get nothing for it at all.

                    5. Rotate your stock

                    Prior to the Coronavirus, WRAP estimated that 21% of restaurant food waste was due to food spoilage, so make sure you keep on top of your stock rotations by ensuring your oldest stock is utilised before its use by date. This will help you cut down the number of items going out of date and therefore waste.

                    6. Close your beer lines

                    Make sure your beer lines are shut properly as you don’t want to come back to beer that’s gone off or spoilt in the lines as this will increase wastage. This allows you to focus on what really matters – getting back up and reopening!

                    7. Donate to a good cause or charity

                    Sadly, despite the very best of efforts, there will inevitably still be wastage –especially if your business has no choice but to close completely during the pandemic. According to our latest GO Technology report with CGA, 60% of consumers are more likely to use a brand that donates spare food to charity. So, rather than simply throwing good stock away, why not consider giving it to charity, a local food bank or other good cause. There are plenty of fantastic organisations such as Too Good to Go who would be incredibly grateful for the support.

                    For more tips on how to reduce stock wastage and improve your profitability, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our in-house experts.

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                    Chat with our sales team to learn about how Zonal products could benefit you.