Embracing digitisation and reducing costly mistakes in the kitchen

Ollie Brand
Food service

With little let up in the cost of living crisis, hospitality firms are having to work harder and smarter - both to survive and stay profitable. But with inflation and staff shortages still a battle for many, this may not be as straightforward as it seems.

There seems to be little let up in the cost of living crisis and hospitality firms are having to work harder and smarter - both to survive and stay profitable. But with inflation and staff shortages still a battle for many, this is not as straightforward as many hope.

A recent Global State of Hospitality Report found that some 43% of UK businesses said they are operating with less staff than they need, an issue that 48% globally claim they are using technology to offset. But in reality, how invested are hospitality businesses when it comes to embracing digitisation? And how many are still hiding behind ‘perceived’ barriers to adoption?

Cost is understandably the most common barrier to the adoption of new technology, yet this is laced with an array of misconceptions. In fact, technology solutions like our platform Caternet, are cloud-based and many operate on a ‘pay as you grow’ model eliminating cost pressures of upfront expenditure.

However, cost is not the only hurdle the sector needs to overcome. Culture plays a big role here too. Onboarding teams and changing the way you’ve always done things can feel daunting, and many will have felt safer sticking with the processes they have always used. While that might have been an acceptable strategy ten years ago, few will survive the unpredictable journey ahead and the impact of rising costs without the right technology under their wing.

In our 2022 survey of hundreds of contract catering businesses across the UK we found that 40% of firms were overlooking cost-draining areas of their operations, like food wastage, every day due to legacy systems and high volumes of admin. Another 20% admitted they were frustrated by unnecessary complexity and outdated systems, which they confirmed are making problems worse. Yet despite the ongoing battles with escalating price hikes, a number of businesses are still dragging their heels with technology adoption and are failing to make the connection between the issues that cause lost revenue, and the resolution that the right technology can bring.

That said, there is a great deal of resilience and innovation happening within the industry too as the sector gets increasingly used to changing the way things have always been done; this now needs to translate across the systems and processes they use too. Our study also showed a clear acknowledgment within hospitality that technology would help their business. In fact, 51% of the hospitality firms Zupa surveyed said they wanted to introduce new tech that is easy to use and fits with the culture of their business.

There seems to be enthusiasm around the prospect of introducing new tech but there is still an obvious gap between outdated systems and business functions not operating to their full potential. With fewer staff on hand, many teams are feeling demotivated and over-stretched which can lead to cutting corners and human error, all of which could be hugely costly for businesses.

Lack of time and money is the big one. Yet process is the biggest controllable cause of time sink – and lack of time usually leads to costly mistakes. We need to focus on freeing up staff to focus on their job and give them more hours back in their day; technology innovation and automation are keys to solve this.

The hospitality industry has now reached a tipping point, and this may well spark the change that is so needed in this sector. Embracing tech is a key step to embracing survival, growth and profitability.