More F&B outlets in Singapore are using digital service solutions such as e-menus, and self-ordering and payment kiosks, to meet rising labour costs and a growing manpower crunch.
SPRING Singapore, the government agency which focuses on helping local enterprises grow, said it has supported about 120 food service companies to adopt such technologies in the first five months of the year – that is about 330 outlets in total.
This is compared to just 60 companies and 190 outlets it had helped in total over the past three years.
McDonald’s Singapore has rolled out self-service kiosks at several of its outlets, seeking to trim queues at counters and to improve the customer experience. But the kiosks also mean that counter staff can be redeployed.
“We used to have a group of people that we have to deploy at the front counters to take orders from the customers. But with the use of the digital technologies, the customers are now empowered to make their own orders, it improves accuracies for the customers, and at the same time, it actually cuts the queues you see at most of our counters,” said Ms Carolyn Khiu, director of e-commerce and customer relations at McDonald’s.
“We have more customers coming in now because it’s a shorter queue. At the same time, what we have done is we have redeployed the manpower required on the front end for taking orders into other areas of the operation.”
McDonald’s Singapore said 20 per cent of its customers use the kiosks, which are available at four of its outlets in Singapore – at Suntec City Mall, Raffles City Shopping Centre, the JEM shopping mall in Jurong, and Yishun SAFRA. The company also plans to put in place more of the kiosks.
Other local restaurants are also picking up on the trend, with an easing on foreign worker quotas unlikely to be on the horizon.
Indian restaurant Ananda Bhavan said it has been facing difficulties hiring even locals.
“We felt that at this moment if it’s going to be like this, in the future it’s going to be very difficult for businesses like us to manage the situation. So we had to start coming up with innovative ideas to see how we could overcome the situation,” explained Ananda Bhavan’s CEO Viren Ettikan. “And while doing that, we looked at our cashiering system, and we felt that part could be automated.”
The restaurant is testing a self-ordering and payment system, which cost about S$40,000, at its Changi Business Park outlet. The initial investment may be hefty, but Mr Viren said the finances balance out in the long term.
The restaurant, which has five other outlets in Singapore, can spend up to S$2,400, inclusive of foreign worker levy, to hire a non-local.
Government funding is available for those hoping to jump on the information and communications technology (ICT) bandwagon. For instance, companies can claim up to 70 per cent of costs for adopting ICT solutions, under SPRING Singapore’s Capability Development Grant. They can also further defray costs with a S$5,000 Innovation and Capability Voucher.
There may be no plans to increase support for now, but authorities acknowledged that it has become “essential” for F&B companies to move towards digital solutions, in today’s competitive business environment.
SPRING Singapore said such technologies are important to help local food services companies cope with manpower challenges and provide fast and efficient service to customers, especially during peak periods.
news source & image credits: channelnewsasia.com