Technology is no longer a new concept in the F&B scene and is commonplace in many of our cafes and restaurants, and even in street vendors. We’ve seen an uptick in the online delivery sector amid the pandemic, and many restaurateurs are rethinking streamlining and automating their operations (like QR ordering and self-service kiosks) given growing labor shortages. On the other hand, technology providers continue to innovate and develop their existing products and services, and see some creating their own payment terminals and diving into Fintech (financial technology).
But beyond joining the payment and financing crowd, what we foresee is the need to focus on digitizing and automating the backend; specifically, purchasing and supply chain management, especially in the wake of Covid-19.
The need to move beyond the traditional paper-and-pencil process
The conventional way that service staff take orders has evolved into the familiar paperless and digital process, whereby customers simply browse and place their orders through their mobile devices. While this digitization seen in cafes and restaurants appears to be quite mature given the wide range of digital solutions available, the same cannot be said for technology adoption in relation to internal purchasing activities by establishments and suppliers. food.
In Singapore, many food establishments rely on a manual, paper-based system for tasks like inventory and procurement from food vendors. This may have led to success in the past, but it is not necessarily the path for the digital age and the long term. The reason I say this is because the Covid-19 pandemic has made it more apparent that the old ways of doing things don’t work: the entire food value chain has been disrupted; restaurants were rushing to purchase ingredients, and suppliers were facing problems with logistics and the quantity and quality of fresh supplies.
Without the digitization of inventory management, supply and demand are fluctuating for restaurants in light of Covid-19. This means restaurateurs cannot calculate their existing inventory and pre-plan what is required. Similarly, suppliers struggled to meet the demands of food and beverage outlets, leading to volatile inventory volumes and dire effects on their business. All of this can be attributed to a lack of information transfer and demand aggregation, which would otherwise help both food and beverage owners and providers make informed decisions based on statistics.
Interestingly, these observed inefficiencies also presented a great opportunity for restaurant owners and supply chain managers to review their existing strategies and consider ways to run their businesses more efficiently, especially in terms of automating manual processes.
Automation is not synonymous with job loss
When we talk about “digitization” and “automation”, many think that this is synonymous with laying off jobs and, therefore, more resilient. However, the truth is that with the technology adopted, it makes operations more productive and efficient, freeing up the time of already constrained labor and allowing them to engage in higher value-added activities. This, in turn, grows the company and allows employees to perform their roles in a meaningful way.
By digitizing traditional manual processes, such as inventory and vendor purchase order creation, a substantial amount of time can be saved along with increased accuracy. Additionally, recruiting staff for customer service and front-end tasks has been a challenge, and automation can alleviate some of the issues faced with regard to churn.
For example, if a staff member who is leading inventory management leaves and is replaced by a new one, inefficiencies in information and data transfer will occur as a result of existing manual processes that are not automated. Any inventory or purchasing officer has to deal with hundreds of ingredients from multiple suppliers, which makes the job complex in itself. Given the complexity of this role, automation can deliver productivity gains not seen in the current conjuncture of manual labor.
Furthermore, the burgeoning B2C environment presents a stark contrast to B2B, pointing to a significant opportunity available to address a gap in the food supply industry. Being able to digitize a significant volume of restaurant purchasing transactions to suppliers through a centralized marketplace like KoomiMarket, a free B2B marketplace from Novitee and Glife, would mean we can aggregate demand and thus help food chains supply to make informed decisions. , and not one that is based on intuition.
Finally, through demand aggregation and the implementation of digitization, both F&B owners and providers can see real trends and effectively optimize their inventory. They would be able to measure their existing inventory and make strategic decisions that will prove profitable and profitable even with external variables like Covid-19 at play.
Charting the future: digitizing the food value chain
Although the food and beverage industry is characterized by common pain points, such as labor shortages, rising food costs, and rising rents, we see technology as the tool to mitigate many of these challenges. . There has already been a steady adoption of the digitization of kitchen processes; for example, paperless kitchens using kitchen display systems, robotic cooks, etc.
What is the next big opportunity beyond financing and payments? In our opinion, the golden opportunity is in the acquisitions space. Why? Since data, information, and transactional data are separate components, it is difficult to put them together to identify trends. With the existence of a single platform, where we host and examine all the information isolated in the cloud, the possibility is endless.
That’s why the industry is holding its breath for a B2B marketplace. Where street vendors, cafes, and restaurants can freely transact with a variety of food vendors in a transparent and productive manner. Because the data and information we obtain from supply and demand will be invaluable as it will inform the entire vertical and transform the relationship between suppliers and F&B establishments.
The most exciting thing about this is that we are now seeing more movement in the grocery shopping market space. I think both food tech companies and investors recognize that there is a huge gap to fill. In fact, encouraging early results from our own KoomiMarket show that Singaporean vendors and restaurants appreciate the concept of a B2B marketplace platform, and we’re optimistic that this very format can be replicated across borders.
benjamin yang is an internationally sought after food and beverage profit strategist and the founder and group CEO of Novitee. He is currently also the CMO of Glife Technologies. Heralded as an expert in technology and omnichannel marketing, some of the high-profile F&B and Retail brands Benjamin has worked with include:
Sakae Holdings, K Food Holdings, Jumbo Group, Kimly Group, Tim Ho Wan, Don Don Donki, Joe & Dough, Shilin, Hypermarket (Indonesia), Collins, Lady M, Violet Oon, etc.
Using his proven Profit Intelligence Technology System, Benjamin has a track record of exponentially helping companies accelerate growth and increase sales. Under his leadership, he has grown Novitee from a 3-person start-up to a leading F&B foodservice technology platform serving clients in Singapore, Malaysia, Hong Kong, China, Sri Lanka and Myanmar.
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Glife’s Caleb Wu and Novitee’s Benjamin Yang on the impact of data, AI and innovative financing on the future of food [Q&A]