1 AI brings exciting opportunities…
Tech was a big theme at Peach @ The Beach, and a session on Artificial Intelligence and automation heard how it is already being used to cut costs and increase efficiency – and has the potential to deliver even more. Yfood founder Nadia El Hadery said AI is already powering supply chain savings via solutions like forecasting tool Kisan and farming robotics provider Tortuga Agtech. Virta and Foodhak were examples of how AI can support healthier eating, while Satis and SymphonyAI were streamlining chores like packing and warehousing. Despite some apocalyptic headlines about AI, there’s a lot to be upbeat about. “AI can free mental and physical stresses… overall, staff performance is better and people are happier,” El Hadery said. For examples of good AI practice, look to big QSR brands in the US, she added.
2 … But there are risks too
Operators agreed on the potential benefits of AI – but it’s going to need serious investment. “I’m excited about it… it’s going to give us the opportunity to do more for the same [resources],” said Joel Robinson, digital & technology director at Azzurri, which is using AI for jobs like forecasting and labour scheduling. “But we need to be honest as a sector about what we need to do to unlock the advantages… we need to invest more time in getting the foundations right.” Venues must also make sure solutions don’t alienate people who want face-to-face contact. There are legal issues too, especially around plagiarism and new regulations, said Jonathan Emmanuel a partner at law firm Bird & Bird. Companies will need an AI policy, the panel agreed.
3 How to turn data into dollars
Hospitality isn’t yet smart enough about its data, according to a session on analytics and marketing. “We’re terrible at it… we pride ourselves on being ‘people’ people but we do less than any sector to understand our customers… there’s so much money being left on the table,” reckoned Victoria Searl, founder of the DataHawks agency. Businesses need to invest in data that drives loyalty and personalisation and understand not just how people behave but why. “We regressed on data after GDPR—people looked at that and panicked,” said Dan Brookman, CEO of Toggle & Airship. “It’s so important that marketing gets more investment.” The key is identifying and really understanding your most profitable customers.
4 Hospitality needs to adapt to change
While hospitality is resilient, rapid changes in technology and communications mean it will need new digital skills. Sustainability was another issue to track closely, with new research from CGA by NIQ and Nutritics showing around a third (34%) of British consumers are ready to spend more on environmentally friendly options. “Some say consumers don’t care about sustainability anymore, but they do… and it’s only going to grow as younger generations – and that includes your front-line teams – are far more engaged,” said event chair Peter Martin.
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