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What the food and beverage industry can do to future-proof their business for a post-coronavirus world

The Drum 26 Mar 2020 02:23
Since March 1, there has been a 50% jump in the number of restaurant sign ups, compared to the previous month.

As stricter social distancing measures for public venues and social activities are introduced by governments around the world to reduce the risk of further local transmission of the coronavirus, restaurants are forced to reduce their in-dining areas or stop operations altogether.

They are turning to food delivery as a way to sustain their businesses and keep serving customers, who have been advised to stay at home. This has led to an increased demand for takeout and deliveries.

Food delivery company Deliveroo has seen over 600 new restaurants join the platform since late January in order to extend their sales through delivery.

Since March 1, there has been a 50% jump in the number of restaurant sign ups, compared to the previous month.

“We are encouraging them to use Restaurant Hub (previously called Restaurant Home), an online portal that provides data and insights on how their delivery services are performing, as well as another portal call Marketer to set up their own marketing offers to consumers on the Deliveroo app,” a Deliveroo spokesperson explains to The Drum.

The spokesperson adds: “For example, Grain is offering a Feel-Good Salad with ingredients like smoked salmon, kale and broccoli, while Selegie Soya Bean is offering a Lou Han Guo Chrysanthemum Herbal Tea with no additional additives, exclusively on Deliveroo.”

Similarly to how the pandemic has forced businesses to adopt flexible work policies as people work from home, this is an opportunity for the food and beverage (F&B) industry to think about how to digitally transform and future proof their business as they scale back their business during this period.

When it comes to understanding food trends, F&B businesses would pore over consumer studies, which would be a long laborious process as they would have to design the study, find people to survey, tabulate the results and then interpret that data and come to their own conclusions.

“Demand for takeout and deliveries is increasing with widespread lock-downs and home confinements being implemented in many parts of the world,” explains Ian Chapman-Banks, the chief executive of AI solutions company Sqreem that works with F&B businesses to digitally transform their operations.

He continues: “This helps food and delivery services streamline operations and maximise efficiencies in the face of limited resources during this period. Companies can also limit food wastage by accurately anticipating demand while making more efficient use of limited human resources for food prep, deliveries and the like.”

Its dark kitchen, called Wrap Bstrd, uses behavioural data capabilities and pattern analysis powered by Sqreem, with the combined expertise of the analysts, chefs, creatives and branding experts within Ebb & Flow Group’s Dark Kitchen Lab.

Dark Kitchen Lab studied flavours, ingredients, consumer preferences and trends and was able to pinpoint the meals that office workers in the central business district wanted.

“We use AI to craft concepts, develop brands, inform marketing decisions and even help companies make key strategic and business decisions,” Philipp K. Helfried, the chief investment officer of Ebb & Flow Group tells The Drum.

He adds: “For example the brand positioning, tonality, and identity for Wrap Bstrd was made to stand out from the crowd and stemmed from the insight garnered.”

This allows the platform’s rider supply planning team, who are responsible for the operational performance of the delivery network, to be always prepared all year round for any hikes.

“Since it was introduced in 2017, it has helped to improve delivery time for meals by nearly 20%, with Singapore being one of the most efficient Deliveroo markets globally,” the Deliveroo spokesperson says.

The spokesperson continues to explain the personalised experience which includes a machine learning model that predicts a user’s preference for a given restaurant based on historical data and suggests those restaurants to be ranked higher. "They’re therefore seeing more of the food choices they want and less of those they don’t want. From a restaurant perspective, AI also helps with estimating overall restaurant preparation time referencing the same dishes from previous orders, in turn reducing overall rider waiting time at restaurants.”

On top of using data and analytics to learn their customers’ behaviours during and beyond the coronavirus pandemic, AI can also potentially be used in the F&B industry to improve sustainability of the industry by optimising food chains right from the very top, all the way down to reducing food waste within the restaurant itself.

It is also feasible that the use of AI could also potentially open the doors for cross-industry applications. For example, if someone is on a medical diet, AI could help pair him or her with suitable restaurants or dishes.

This piece was published as part of The Drum's Digital Transformation Festival, ongoing throughout March and April. Find out more details here.

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DeliverooEbb Flow GroupSqreemIan Chapman
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