Some of you might not remember this but when I was a kid and you walked into a fast food chain the menu boards were simple basic plastic signs that you either never changed or had to get up on a ladder to change. Similarly, grocery stores were full of printed posters and paper shelf labels. There were no digital signs, self-service kiosks or any of the technology we see today. Fast forward to now where it is common to see digital menu boards and digital signs in most fast food restaurants and grocery retailers. This change has been driven both by advances in technology, such as IOT but also by business needs and customer demands.
The last couple of decades have seen numerous advances in technology with screens, memory and computing power, and the Internet of Things (IOT). It is the sensors and devices that make up the Internet of Things that hold the most promise in food service organizations. These IoT devices are enabling a whole new level of connectivity, personalization and customer experience, and the potential applications are unlimited. Sensors on appliances such as fridges or stoves can monitor status of appliance and send updates to digital screens or mobile phones. This not only extends the life of appliance by keeping it from overheating or breaking down, but more importantly ensures food safety and quality.
Business Advantages For Food Service
Leverage existing systems – Forward thinking food service organizations are tying their digital menu boards into their backend systems such as inventory. This allows them to not only remove items when they are out of stock but promote items when inventory is high. Similarly, in grocery stores digital shelf tags are becoming popular and these can easily be updated in real-time as inventory changes.
Meet regulatory requirements – The need to show nutritional and dietary information about menu items is quickly moving from being a nice to have to mandatory. Information from calories to nutritional content can easily be integrated into digital menus and tied into backend systems or websites so it updates in real-time.
Improve customer experience – By using IoT devices such as sensors and digital screens the experience in food service organizations can be dramatically improved. Whether it is offering self-serve ordering kiosks, alternative payment methods such as the Apple Pay, or pushing coupons and other promotional notifications to an individual’s mobile the possibilities are endless.
There is no question the Internet of Things (IoT) holds great promise for food service organizations and grocery retailers. A lot of organizations are already leveraging these technologies to some extent. What will separate the leaders from the rest of the pack is a cohesive strategy for customer interaction and experience from pre through to post purchase and a plan for where and how technologies such as IoT can be integrated.