Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

FoodNovember 28, 2020

How tech became a lifeline for the Covid-hit hospo industry

Photo: Getty Images
Photo: Getty Images

In just a matter of months, e-commerce systems have become a crucial piece in the puzzle that will ensure the hospitality sector has a fighting chance. 

Anyone in hospitality knows there wasn’t any fat in their business margins before Covid, so when the pandemic hit, many questioned how they could possibly survive months of lockdown.

But even when things were at their most dire, a trend emerged that has proved to be a lifeline for hospo: online tech was able to overcome many of the limitations imposed by lockdown. Online ordering, contactless delivery and digital vouchers became essential for hospo to operate under tight government restrictions. 

Even at the height of level four, when almost everything went into hibernation, most food and beverage producers went into overdrive operating as essential services, having to keep supermarkets stocked and coping with the sudden, massive surge in online ordering.

Around the world and across the hospo industry, online ordering systems suddenly became the lifeline hospo desperately needed. As Covid started spreading, the adoption rate of e-commerce systems saw 10 years’ growth in just three months.

Hospo tech hasn’t just given the sector a fighting chance to survive Covid, it’s caused a major shift in the way these businesses operate that’s transforming the industry in ways that will permanently change the way hospo works.

To help hospo operators take advantage of these technologies and new ways of operating, a group of hospo leaders and tech companies organised the Hospo Suite Roadshow, which held its first event on November 2 in Wellington. 

The event brought together top NZ hospo operators including SOS Business, Mojo Coffee, HELL Pizza, Six Barrel Soda Co. and others to share what they’ve been doing to overcome the major challenges this year. Various tech companies including posBoss, Upstock and FlexiTime were also on hand to share examples of how their customers are using tech to streamline their businesses, lowering costs and boosting margins.

The Hospo Suite Roadshow (Photo: Supplied)

At this event, it quickly became clear hospo learnt four key lessons during Covid-19:

Build a business, not just a passion project

There’s still a big gap in hospo between people who run things like a business and people who run things as a passion project. A passion project runs on blood, sweat and tears. A business runs by spending less money than you earn, which means you need systems to keep track of everything. You can still have passion and run a great business, but if you only have passion you’re going to crash and burn eventually.

Take advantage of lockdown

Lockdown was incredibly challenging for hospo, but it also provided a forced break and a long-overdue reset for a lot of exhausted people. Many hospo business owners used that time as a chance to work on their business, to find ways to streamline their systems, which put them in a stronger position coming out of lockdown. 

Stay lean

For the most part, things are picking up and going relatively well because we’re not in lockdown, but it’s still not back to pre-Covid numbers and won’t be for the foreseeable future. The most recent Auckland lockdown was a reminder to make sure you’re running a tight ship, keep working on your business to find more ways to streamline and make things more efficient, because we don’t know if and when there’s going to be another lockdown. 

Tech is key to getting ahead

The businesses doing the best during the crisis have figured out tech is key to not just getting by – but coming out better than before. 

Covid has sparked a sudden and massive acceleration in tech adoption in the hospo industry. As an industry, it’s in our best interests to make sure the whole hospo eco system is running as smoothly, smartly, and efficiently as possible. The more we can collectively eliminate waste and increase efficiency, the better off we’ll all be.

Philip Fierlinger is co-CEO of Upstock, a wholesale ordering app for hospo.

Mad Chapman, Editor
The Spinoff has covered the news that matters in 2021, most recently the delta outbreak. Help us continue this coverage, and so much more, by supporting The Spinoff Members.Madeleine Chapman, EditorJoin Members

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