Daring Digital: Unique Ways Bars are Using Technology
Becoming tech-savvy is the way forward - using technology within your venues, be it through service or customized drinks, can reap high rewards. Here are some exciting and ingenious ways bar owners are optimizing digitization across the globe.
Here to Help: Technology to the Rescue
In particular, the last few months have proven to highlight just how useful technology can be, in allowing us to stay connected and maintain efficient service. As for the hospitality industry, the sudden closure of venues across the globe – for months in some cases – has resulted in bar owners leaning on technology to stay connected with customers and generate revenue. In the absence of being able to open their venues, many bar owners have launched takeaway delivery services, harnessing technology in some brilliant ways. And as time has moved on, these venues continue to run and develop delivery services, even as their bars reopen.
Reopening will not been an easy task; trying to re-build customer confidence, moving to table service, and redesigning menus has been challenging. However, this challenge has inspired some inspirational creativity from industry professionals as many bars and restaurants experiment with new tech initiatives to help them optimize operations for a faster recovery.
Here, we look at some unique digital integrations in three key areas:
- The drinks experience
- Communications with guests
- Overall guest experience
Enhancing the drinks experience
Cocktails at home were a major hit throughout lock-downs all over the world. Whilst keeping their distance from the bar, customers were keen to get a taste of the real drinks experience from home. Many bars put together some beautiful cocktail kits and introduced a fool proof delivery service with the help of digitization. As venues reopen, some of these bars have decided to continue with their cocktail delivery service:
-Nio Cocktails: Based entirely online and launched by two friends hosting an evening one night, Nio cocktails deliver ready to go cocktails, needing only ice as an additional ingredient from you. You can build your own batch of three, six, or nine cocktails and they are then delivered through your letter box in a small envelope, made from FSC paper. To enhance the online experience, they created a rewards program, ‘Nio Speakeasy’ for customers to get involved in. You can earn points which convert into free cocktails by joining the program, engaging with their social channels, recommending the cocktails to a friend, writing product reviews, and of course, buying their products.
-RTD, Shanghai: Located in a shopping center, this bar is takeaway only, and its operations are entirely digital. Guests can order customized drinks from their phones using an app or from a sanitized kiosk. The bespoke cocktails can either be packaged in a takeaway cup or in a vacuumed bag for later consumption. Guests can still watch all the visuals of their drinks being made through the theatrical performance of mixology, like in any bar experience, but it is contact free and safe to enjoy from a distance.
How to make this work for your venue
Using digital technologies does not mean the guest experience has to be clinical or un-engaging. With cocktail delivery still being popular in these uncertain times, adding a rewards program is one way to enhance the guest experience, encourage repeat purchase and create a loyal customer base.
New ways to communicate with guests
The closure period forced many venues into growing their online presence, most noticeably through social. The result is a variety of creative ways bars and restaurants have used different platforms to stay in touch with their customers. Camden Hauge, bar and restaurant owner in Shanghai, tells us a bit about how she has incorporated Chinese app, WeChat, into her businesses:
The Fundamentals of WeChat
WeChat is an amazing 'everything app' - beyond its chat function, which people here in China use for both social and work functions because of it's amazing capacity for file sharing and always-on presence - we also use it for sharing everything from photos, to links, to videos on our social channels, as well as practical needs including: digital payments, calling a taxi, paying for utilities and sharing bills with friends. We even can use it for booking flights / trains and contributing to charities! It's incredible how reliant we all are on it for everyday life.
One more recent evolution of the app is the launch of 'MiniPrograms', a brand-owned in-app feature, which allows you to create what is essentially a mini shop for your brand - you can purchase through it, receive discounts, use loyalty programs, advertise your events, sell tickets and more.
We have developed MiniPrograms for all of our venues to increase loyalty and create a stronger bond with our customers, and we're about to launch a streamlined group 'official account' which will allow us to do a weekly advertising blast of all of our events across the venues, pushing customers towards the respective MiniPrograms while encouraging cross-pollination between our brands. We track customer spending in each venue, creating a digital 'punch card', where they can, for example, receive a free coffee for every 10 coffees purchased.
How to make this work for your venue
Being online is about more than just posting some photos of your drinks. Think about how you can build rapport with your customers by inviting them to input into your new menu, hosting virtual sessions or simply creating opportunities for engagement through interesting content.
Upgrading the guest experience
Introducing Ratio bars, by Ross Digital. Using artificial intelligence, one of the bartenders at this café-bar is a robot, and orders are taken through the WeChat app. Although this robot could never replace the knowledge and skill of the real talented bartenders, using this exciting technology could assist your venue in current times and add a USP. Gavin Pathross describes how this process works and the benefits it reaps for outlets.
In store, we use technology to assist with ordering, service, customization and the customer experience as we adapt to the ‘new normal’:
- Digital reservation platforms or apps:
- We operate a SMS messaging wait-list, instead of physical queues - guests join a virtual wait-list and are notified via the app when their table is ready
- Customers are informed of the safety procedures via their mobiles.
- They can view menu, order and pay via mobile.
- The contact-free solution – guests are served by robots in a timely manner.
- Guests can customize their drinks via mobile, which is faster and the app remembers their prior orders and recommends similar products as per their preference.
- Electronic menus which are sanitized hourly to reduce germs.
- We leverage data to improve the guest experience using permission marketing based on customer data (this results in a higher success rate).
- We follow up one week later with an offer of 50% off their first drink upon returning to the bar.
A is for Analytics
Not only does the implementation of this technology help us to run the bar smoothly and safely, it also provides us with insightful analysis of how the business is doing, and means we can improve on anything that may need attention. Some of the analytics produced include:
- Which product sells best and which to push for promotions
- Automated updates on when to top up ingredients and materials
- Automated notification on robotics maintenance
Data gleaned from analytics can improve the business tremendously, as systems provide insight into customers’ top cocktail, preferred cocktail ratio or even top ingredient selection. All of which provide a greater understanding of consumer habits, meaning we can bank promotions and dig into a wider range of recipes that will attract recurring customers in the long run. A win all round - customers will enjoy a larger variety of choices they prefer, while we improve our business by leaps and bounds in a highly efficient process.
Empowering business owners or mixologists to not just produce creative recipes but to truly understand their customers is key - this will increase product satisfaction in the long run.
How to make this work for your venue
Using customer feedback wherever you can is essential for evaluating how something is working, especially considering you may have a brand new layout, or service implemented in your bar. In order to continue impressing customers, gathering any data that you can will be helpful. Tech offers you a reliable and fast way of doing this, from information obtained in apps, to more high-end data from permission marketing.
- Try out new technology: look into where tech can optimize operations in your venue
- Make your drinks experience unique by creating a loyalty program and inviting guest input
- Build guest confidence in your venue with contact-less systems that are hygienic and safe
- Connect with your guests on platforms they’re already using, to create other ways to communicate with them
- Make use of customer feedback to continue improving: analytics from technology such as apps can give detailed insight on customers’ preferences