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Digital transformation in hospitality: 3 ways venues are adapting to COVID-19

Smarter Writer
Smarter Team

A team of business and technology journalists and editors who write to help Australia’s community of small and medium businesses access the technology and know-how that helps solve problems and create opportunities.

Smarter Writer
Smarter Team

A team of business and technology journalists and editors who write to help Australia’s community of small and medium businesses access the technology and know-how that helps solve problems and create opportunities.

Social togetherness is the essence of the hospitality industry. When COVID-19 took this core ingredient away from cafes, bars and restaurants, almost everyone had to change their usual offering to stay afloat.

Delivery person receiving take out food

Restrictions have prohibited dine-in experiences for months at a time, so venues had no choice but to adapt using varying hospitality technologies if they wanted to maintain cash flow.

Here, we look at three ways hospitality businesses have pivoted and used digital tools to keep their venues alive.

Live-streamed video online cooking classes

The rise of the Aussie home cook continues – and if the sourdough bandwagon is anything to go by, it shows no sign of slowing down. Many businesses are now offering  tutorials, where customers get the chance to become a Head Chef for the night. Popular Melbourne restaurant Atlas Dining, for example, now offers Masterclass – live virtual cooking classes with Head Chef Charlie Carrington. Customers can purchase their package online for pick-up or delivery (with all ingredients and recipes included), select a date, and spend the night cooking at home.

Don’t be fooled – you don’t need a camera crew to execute this kind of offering for your hospitality business, a simple tripod and smartphone will do the trick. There are many free video streaming options, such as Zoom, and you can record your live session for participants to re-watch. What you do need is confidence in front of the camera, so consider a few practice runs before diving straight into a live tutorial.

Revamped food delivery – the at-home experience

Delivery is the new norm for fine-dining restaurants, local bars and cafes. Many venues have become purely takeaway restaurants by turning their in-house offering into a takeaway experience for customers to enjoy in the comfort of their own homes. Three-hatted restaurant Attica now offers Attica at Home. Customers can order the full tasting menu, or a three-course spread, and of course, wine pairings are available.

An easy-to-use website with a reliable and secure system for ordering food online is essential for this. Take Bar Romantica, for example: this local bar and late-night establishment has its full menu and a selection of beverages available to order online. You could add an ordering system like HungryHungry to your website to keep operational costs low and streamline all orders to one central location. 

From venue to grocer – the community approach

Particularly for venues where local, top-quality produce is a key component of the offering, a practical pivot is to on-sell stock that would otherwise be used in the kitchen. This community-minded shift supports suppliers, who may also be doing it tough, and it allowed venues to keep physical doors open to the public when Australia was at its peak of COVID-19 restrictions. Charlie and Frank’s in Sydney opted to turn their café into a grocer, so customers could pick up food items while grabbing their takeaway coffee.

A strong social media presence is critical to ensuring this shift is successful. Charlie and Frank’s post daily on Instagram and Facebook. They share what’s on offer from the kitchen, any specials for the day, and information on how the business is responding to the changing restrictions. Customers expect your business to be on social media, and it’s an effective way to get your message out there – you might even be surprised at the support you receive.

Testament to the age-old saying that necessity drives innovation, the hospitality industry has remained agile to survive the pandemic. By embracing digital tools that suit your business needs, you can continue to meet customer expectations and keep your business thriving – even after COVID-19.

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