Liang Hwei  |  Singapore
Published 2014-10-15 11:30:41

Here at Vulcan Post, we often cover the latest tech trends and innovations in the world, and often on how these tech innovations link back to our lives. That’s the amazing thing about technology – it doesn’t intrude into the way we live our lives, but becomes integrated into the unlikeliest of places, making it easier and often quicker.

If you need one such example, you only have to look into your local restaurants. Conveyer belt-served food, the adoption of buzzers at a few places to call for the bill or service, or even food-serving drones we talked about before; it is a traditional service-based industry that always seeks to improve itself through integrating technology. And lately, the use of e-menus has taken a handful of Singapore-based companies by storm.

Timbre Group, a popular chain Singapore-based restaurants known for its chill environment, local music talents, and delicious duck pizza, have deployed over 100 e-menus on iPads at their various outlets. Diners simply order their food and beverage items from the choices on the iPad, and even have the option to modify their food or drinks with the specific choice options.

Image Credit: Timbre
Image Credit: Timbre

Coastes, a beach getaway at Sentosa has even developed its own digital menu app that’s downloadable from the iTunes store, allowing customers to spend less time queuing for food and more time relaxing in the sun. By simply ordering their food and drinks from their own smartphones, customers won’t have to compromise their time to feed themselves, and service staff will simply serve the food to the customers.

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 1.52.23 PM
Image Credit: Coastes

BigSpoon is another mobile app founded by NUS graduate Jay Teo catering to restaurants who might not have the resources to build their own e-menus. When restaurants or cafes sign up with BigSpoon, diners can use the app to browse a food photo menu of a restaurant, order food and request for waiter services all at the convenience of their smart phones.

Screen Shot 2014-10-14 at 1.56.32 PM

“Automated or self-service ordering is merely a tool to provide basic service to consumers. When we take a step back and look, we realize that our app fills the need for better service and the demand for better service will always be there. Food and service is the main revenue driver for restaurants. Restaurants that provide a better dining experience will receive higher customer loyalty leading to repeated visits.” Jay told Vulcan Post when we spoke to them last year.

Aptsys, a local company that creates e-menus for F&B businesses, says that their E-menus have been proven to increase sales in food and drinks, with feedback of about 30%-40% increase in revenue.

“The F&B industry has evolved in Singapore. Customers’ requirement becomes more stringent. Good and quality food alone may not succeed,” said Kevin Ng, Business Development Executive with Aptsys. “Customers are looking for a more holistic experience; Food, ambience, quality of service. Good food needs to come fast especially if you are serving peak hour crowd. From this aspect, it is better for customers. Happy customers equate to repeat sales. They will come back to the outlet again, and again.”

Cheaper, Better, Faster?

As this month is National Productivity Month in Singapore, it is perhaps timely to revisit the Cheaper Better Faster story by the Labour Movement. The “Cheaper Better Faster” phrase has been sorely misunderstood and quoted out of context for years. For years, some people have mistaken that the Labour Movement want workers to be “Cheaper, Better, Faster”. Even veteran blogger Mr. Miyagi had a few words to say about Cheaper Better Faster.

The truth is that the Labour Movement advocates Singapore becoming a Cheaper, Better, and Faster economy and produce Cheaper, Better, Faster goods and services to stay competitive internationally.

In today’s landscape, it is no longer enough to just excel in being one of these three: Cheaper, Better or Faster. The only way Singapore and also businesses in general can stay ahead is to be cheaper than those who are better, and better than those who are cheaper and do this faster. It’s the rule of survival for today.

Image Credit: Mothership.sg
Image Credit: Mothership.sg

“I think that (Cheaper, Better, Faster is) a very important concept,” said Labour Chief Lim Swee Say in its introduction in 2009. “In other words, if we can keep improving our productivity, the outcome should not be downsizing of our workforce. In fact, it should lead to, obviously, GDP growing stronger, more healthily.”

The use of e-menus seem to play their part in Productivity month. With it a café would be able to function with fewer staff at each time, orders are less prone to human error and can be taken without any delay. A menu can instantly be updated to reflect only food and drinks that are available, or any other changes that are needed, without having to say to customers, “Sorry, we’re all out.”

The potential of e-menus goes beyond freeing up server’s time. The e-menu could be used as a platform for in-store marketing, updating diners of their most recent promotions, latest creations, and even have slideshow advertisements. With less time and effort being spent on operations, the staff can focus on strengthening the restaurant brand with better and even personalise customer relations.

Image Credit: emenuworld.com
Image Credit: emenuworld.com

The innovations in the food industry move pretty fast. According to Ng, Aptsys saw the potential of e-menus back in 2011, and it’s now fast becoming adopted in several popular restaurant chains, like Akashi Group, Zaffron Kitchen, and even typically traditional stores like Old Street Bak Kut Teh.

What comes next could be anything from flying drone waiters to holographic ordering systems, but its clear to see that the service-intensive F&B industry is where you should keep your eye on for inspirations in ways to keep efficiency at an all time high. There is no excuse for the odd rude waitress to ruin your night now.

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