How innovative solutions are powering hotels, restaurants, office cafeterias, cloud kitchens into the future

By: |
December 07, 2020 4:43 PM

With the year 2020 kicking off in an unprecedented way with the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, innovative solutions for India's hospitality segment have shot into prominence.

Coming to how office cafeterias now cater to the new normal, the challenges are multi-dimensional even as digital platforms roll out unique solutions to tackle the same for the safety and well-being of employees.

With the year 2020 kicking off in an unprecedented way with the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, innovative solutions for India’s hospitality segment have shot into prominence. For Indians who want to enjoy a decent meal at their office cafeteria or opt for weekend getaways and staycations to work in peace, one of the first things they weigh in now is the safety quotient.

Amruda Nair, a third generation hotelier and founder of Araiya Hotels and Resorts, told The Financial Express Online, “With a sudden boom in the need for digitisation, a rational approach employed towards combining guest technologies with refined UI and UX only where relevant and necessary. Frequent travellers and repeat guests are likely to be more comfortable with prevalent practices and could find mass digitisation of all processes cumbersome. As the first touchpoint, hotel websites must have all the information about enhanced sanitisation methods.”

Highlighting how the Araiya Palampur website homepage offers a snapshot capturing essential information a guest would like to know before they make an informed decision, Amruda Nair adds, “Almost fifty per cent of all our bookings in the recent past have come through our website. This can be attributed to the amount of time that guests spend on the website trying to learn more about what to expect.”

Another secret to Araiya’s digital strategy of engaging guests on their hotel portal is that they send out a personal preference menu (PPM) prior to the guest’s arrival. This is thoroughly prepared ahead of the check-in. This makes guests experience an additional level of safety and security.

Coming to how office cafeterias now cater to the new normal, the challenges are multi-dimensional even as digital platforms roll out unique solutions to tackle the same for the safety and well-being of employees.

According to Sanjay Kumar, CEO & MD, Elior India, “Technology has evolved as a new normal playing a prominent role in digitalising the process of serving food in corporate cafeterias while also enforcing social distancing norms. To address the same, the company put forth its digital platform known as El Chef, which lets employees pre-order a day earlier or on the same day. Another available option on the app is workstation delivery, which allows users to place delivery orders to pre-designated locations within the office premises.”

Unlike hotels, office cafeterias have to strictly enforce digital solutions to limit the total number of employees inside the cafeteria so as to be in sync with the mandatory social distancing norms.

Sanjay Kumar tells The Financial Express Online, “We have also opened a tech platform which facilitates Multi Vendor Aggregation support for onboarding other third party vendors, safe cafeteria ops, multi-cuisine offerings, 4 tier social distancing features and e-banqueting for facilitating bulk food ordering during conferences.”

According to Varun Khanna, Director and Founder, Fullife Healthcare Pvt Ltd, “The COVID-19 crisis has brought huge uncertainty but it also provides a new dimension to the food scenario in India. There is a fresh approach to promote nutritious, safe and sustainable diets. There is also renewed interest in old traditional ingredients and also focusing on the health aspects along with the taste. I feel urban India will be moving towards healthier alternatives. Of course, there will be some element of junk food but a large part of the choices will move to “better than” and “good for” options.”

He further adds, “Another important aspect which companies are working on are building nutrition into the experience and also making them ‘fun’. Fullife Healthcare is building interesting products for children as a basic supplementation in a fun format. We are using lots of natural sweeteners, natural colors and focusing on ‘fun oriented’ yet natural products for them.”

Given how digital solutions are completely redefining food experiences across the corporate, travel and hospitality segments, an interesting premise can be linked with the concept of futuristic digital Darwinism has been shared by leading digital anthropologist and futurist Brian Solis.

The best selling author and social media influencer has recently shared a video talk on his official website about creating restaurants for tomorrow. In his detailed explanation of the same. he has been decoding what this really means for the world.

Sharing a futuristic perspective on how restaurants are likely to emerge in the future, Solis shared his definition of innovation and iteration.

Pointing out how markets and industries are constantly changing, he says, “Iteration is about doing the same things better whereas innovation is about doing new things that create new value.”

Digital transformation, according to Solis, is an infinite game. We strive to build agility about what needs to be different while we are moving forward. In his view, digital darwinism is about our constant changes due to the digital transformation happening in our behavior and everything around us has to either adapt or not – everything digital is fast accelerating.

“The idea of ‘ghost kitchens’ and ‘cloud kitchens’ is no longer a new concept as it has mushroomed everywhere. The idea of it has undergone radical change as service is now about serving people we didn’t reach before, this is about thinking about distribution and thinking aspirationally, and this is true even beyond restaurants and kitchens. Earlier the value proposition was localisation.

According to Soli, infrastructure application for restaurant brands is key – he points out in his video talk.

“The American eclectic burger is not even a real restaurant but it is owned by a delivery service through ghost kitchens and the consumer doesn’t know that it is owned by the app where they are ordering the food from. We have to think creatively as apps are thinking of ways to compete against you while helping you reach new orders ,” Solis highlighted in his video message on futuristic restaurants.

While futuristic restaurants continue to be debated in the context of innovations in the hospitality space, there is little doubt on the fact that it is ultimately the end user who gets to deliver the verdict, or rather the final say.

As Amruda Nair summed it up, “Engagement through information reaps quantifiable benefits.”

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