Covid-19 has sped up digitalisation in food and hospitality, according to global leaders speaking at a recent Ask Arena online event. The interactive discussion saw industry heavyweights from three time zones share their views on the shape of their sectors, both now and in a post-pandemic environment.
All the panellists agreed that the integration of digital into their businesses had been accelerated by the crisis. Elior UK CEO Catherine Roe outlined how an increased focus on digital transformation is helping the contract caterer to further support pre-ordering services, enabling less dwell time for the consumer. Barry Westrum, chief marketing officer for Taco John’s, said that online ordering had tripled during this period, adding that the Minneapolis-based business had to get “really good at digital marketing overnight”.
Meanwhile, Naim Maadad, founder and CEO of Gates Hospitality, explained how his business fast-forwarded its approach to data, making it a priority to own it in order to facilitate direct engagement with customers. This, Maadad added, has enabled Gates Hospitality to maintain a strong presence and remain a valued part of the community.
The speakers also agreed that the hospitality industry has not been changed dramatically by the pandemic. According to Roe, generally people miss what they don’t have and it’s simply a question of being patient.
Westrum shared this optimism, adding that hospitality will return across the board as people look for great experiences. The fun and excitement of eating out will never be replaced by cooking at home, he said.
Lorraine Wood, director of Arena, said: “The pandemic has undoubtedly been a major challenge and not just for the world of food and hospitality. But it’s clear from the contributions of our speakers and the feedback from our audience that there is an appetite to weather the storm, with innovation and agility at the heart.”