Hostech 2021

Rather than convert this year’s Hostech conference into a digital event, we decided to do things a little differently.

Such was the great leap forward for technology in the industry, as brands sought to keep serving their customers during lockdown, we made Hostech 2021 into a multi-media programme of content and virtual events.

Working alongside our partners at BigHospitality, the result was a month-long project which took in a essential guides in keys areas of technology, spotlight features and interviews with leading operators and suppliers, as well as webinars and podcasts.

Split up into four key categories, Hostech initially tackled order and payment technology, a function that saw a rapid acceleration in development and adoption as the industry adapted to the new climate.

BigHospitality editor Stefan Chomka explored how technology was revolutionising the post-pandemic restaurant sector, and how mobile ordering has gone from a relatively small concern, to a significant factor in the market.

As well as simplifying the customer journey, we reported how mobile order and pay is unlocking financial benefits, with customers typically spending 15% more when using a digital interface.

We went on to explore self-ordering kiosks, and how food to go retailers are following the example of fast food and installing hardware in their venues, with Leon’s kiosks becoming the number one sales channel in a number of stores, after it started working with Vita Mojo in January 2020.

With some concerns about the cleanliness of touchscreens during the pandemic, there is a drive towards touchless kiosks, where depth cameras can record customer movements enabling them to make a selection without having to touch the screen.

All this order and pay content and more was collected in an essential guide, which you can download here.

In week two of Hostech, we tackled back of house technology, and how a switch to takeaway, delivery and meal kits requires a solid kitchen management system and seamless integrations with third party delivery companies.

Honest Burgers co-founder Philip Eales discussed in a podcast how the brand used Facebook Workplace to keep staff engaged while on furlough.

The rise in drive-thrus, with Costa, Starbucks, McDonald’s and KFC all seeing big volumes in the channel, throws up opportunities for investment in click & collect and AI-powered digital display boards, we reported. 

Week two’s back of house content was rounded up in this essential guide, which can be downloaded here.

In week three, we examined the unstoppable rise of delivery, and how three major players are jockeying for position in a market which has been one of the true winners of the pandemic.

A key part of the delivery story has been the rise of delivery-only kitchens, pioneered by Deliveroo Editions, and which we explore in this Q&A.

Pret A Manger has undergone an extraordinary transformation in becoming a multi-channel retailer, according to the company’s chief information officer Sarah Venning, which she shares in detail in this interview.

In another operator spotlight, we spoke to Azzurri Group IT director Joel Robinson, who was brought over from Sainsbury’s to elevate the conversation around digital, and spoke of an ambition to create a single customer view.

Our content on delivery and click & collect was curated together in this essential guide.

In week four, we shone a spotlight on consumer marketing, and how operators can use the wealth of data collected from growing digital channels effectively.

It’s taken a pandemic, but hospitality operators are finally beginning to understand the power of digital and the wealth of data it generates, with a new era of personalisation by way of digital menus.

Hostech sponsor Reputation discuss why hospitality businesses should care about what’s being said about them online in this podcast.

And our essential guide rounding up our customer marketing content, can be downloaded here

In another flagship exclusive interview, Nando’s technology director Richard Atkinson delves deep into the digital opportunities and challenges for the UK’s most popular restaurant chain.

Atkinson’s colleagues Kate Boyle and Reg Mayer also gave insights into the approach of Nando’s in a Hostech webinar, and how the business has “fundamentally changed” as a result of the pandemic and tech investment. 

And looking to the future, PizzaExpress IT director Siobhan Fagan considered what could lie ahead for the pizza chain in terms of AI, the Internet of Things and automation.

Yet to come as a webinar hosted by Zonal on 16 March, which will explore how operators should re-think the customer journey and choosing the best tech solutions. To register, click here