As much as surviving the pandemic tested restaurants’ resiliency, new digital tools are now allowing them to play offense.
“All these companies pivoted to digital solutions, online ordering, and delivery services. I think it was a great time for tech to really stand up,” he said, “and also for restaurants, their customers, to both pivot and allow these changes to take place in the marketplace. And now — we’re not going back, right?”
Hoyt is right. The hospitality industry’s digital transformation today is even more palpable than ever.
PYMNTS research in the “Main Street Health Survey Q4 2022: SMBs Brace For A Recession” report found that independent restaurants, on average, are planning to add four new digital features next year amid economic concerns.
“The data shows that if you adopt technology and harness the services that are out there, you can drive more business for your company,” Hoyt said to PYMNTS, noting that the two most common objections he hears are “I don’t know how to do this,” and “This costs too much.”
“So, we are trying to knock down both those obstacles by making our services easy to integrate, and also showing businesses how [the services] can be accretive to their P&L, how they can become more profitable by harnessing this, really presenting them with a system that’s easy to use and also cost efficient for them.”
Hoyt told PYMNTS that one of the best compliments he’s heard since joining Popmenu is the comment from investors saying, “Hey, what you’re doing seems completely obvious — you’re addressing a real market need.”
That real market need, Hoyt said, is the need for great tools for restaurants to help them with their front-of-house operations.
“Many of our restaurants are still dealing with PDF menus, for example, that don’t effectively compete in an Amazon-trained culture that expects interactive experiences.”
He added that restaurants don’t generally work well when using a variety of different solutions that all talk past each other, saying that it’s “highly costly and highly inefficient,” and so part of Popmenu’s marketplace appeal is the platform’s ability to integrate many systems into a “one-stop shop.”
“I’m a big believer in focusing on what you’re good at, and we want our restaurant partners to focus on what they’re good at — which is hospitality,” Hoyt said. “These are folks that have gone into business because they love hospitality, they love the experience of serving food and making people happy. They’re not in the business of trying to figure out how to run an efficient back-office system. So ease of use is top of mind for our restaurant partners, and helping them do their jobs better is top of mind for us.”
PYMNTS’ recent “Restaurant Digitization Tracker” finds that new technologies are critical to meeting the evolving demands of restaurant customers, as well as helping restaurants themselves go above and beyond to stand out from competition.
The report shows that successfully increasing revenue, despite staffing and supply chain challenges, often requires businesses to adopt new ordering, payment, and automation technology to help them do more with less.
Popmenu’s own restaurant partner results confirm those findings.
“We have an artificial intelligence [AI] phone answering system that has allowed our restaurant partners to reduce their headcount, reduce the time they’re spending on the phone, and actually drive more online orders,” Hoyt said.
“Often, when our sales team is meeting with a restaurant the restaurant will get a call, and there’s no one else there to answer the phone so the employee or manager will go over and say, you know, ‘Our hours are this, we serve alcohol, this is how to make a reservation, here’s how to order online.’ And we realized there’s a need there, so we developed this AI tool. And already for one restaurant partner, Max’s Group, the AI voice solution has answered over 35,000 customer calls with 35% of those calls converting into online sales.”
As for what the Popmenu CFO is looking forward to most for the year ahead? It’s the massive opportunity for growth that still exists, Hoyt said, both by signing up more restaurant partners and through mergers and acquisitions.