2 December 2016
4 min read
It’s one of the world’s oldest industries, but selling food is unlikely to expire any time soon. And despite being steeped in tradition, the food sector is undergoing a period of rapid and exciting innovation thanks to new technology that makes life easier for customers and restaurants. Just ask Just Eat.
“We’ve brought tech into the most ancient industry of all and transformed it to make it work better for both sides,” says co-founder of food industry disruptor Just Eat, Adrian Blair. “Our business wouldn’t exist without technology.”
Speaking on a panel at the The Telegraph Festival of Business 2016, Blair revealed how Just Eat is leveraging big data to analyse, predict and personalise behaviour and make delivery experiences more to their customers’ tastes. Just Eat wants to use this personalisation to cut the customer ordering time from minutes to seconds. “We learn an awful lot about what people are buying and what people want and we are getting better at predicting what that is.”
But despite significant developments in foodtech in the last decade, the majority of restaurants still operate in a non-tech way, so there’s plenty of scope for change.
“Your average takeaway restaurant in the UK still operates with a pen and paper and a lot of them don’t even have electronic sale systems. Although we have come a long way, we’re right at the beginning of what tech can do.”
The importance of ‘winning the 3 second audition’ with personalisation is all too familiar for fellow panel member Shop Direct Group CEO, Alex Baldock.
“When you have a short attention span and a small screen, personalisation can help. You know who she is, what she has bought, who is influencing her, who she is going to respond to and what she is worth to you. All of that is in the mix and not only is that important to personalisation, it’s essential.”
Innovation isn’t just for the customer benefit. Technology is also helping companies improve working conditions for their biggest asset - their employees.
Corporate giant Tata Group, has recently developed a set of wearable ‘safety watches’ designed for factory workers. The wearables monitor real-time safety data such as the worker’s body temperature, pulse rate and the gas levels in the atmosphere to detect falls, mishaps and health risks.
The world-first innovation for the factory of the future was created through collaboration across multiple group companies, explains Tata Limited executive director, Dr David Landsman.
“What you really need is for different sectors and disciplines to collide. That is where the greatest adventures come from. Every business has to innovate, use digital and leverage lots of different skills, experiences and best practise to come up with ideas.”
Artificial Intelligence (AI)
“It’s a computer that speaks English on steroids and can learn.” That’s how Alex Baldock describes AI, Shop Directs big bet for the future of retail.
With the way AI is moving, he goes on to explain, customers no longer have to fear the loss of personalised service. Instead, they can look forward to a more tailored retail experience with a personal shopper that’s a click away.
“We think AI will allow us to democratise the personal shopper and bring a level of intimacy that is in reach of everybody. The more you interact with our AI technology, the better it gets to know you and the more accurate its recommendations.”
One of the first and most common uses of AI in recent years has been the Chatbot. While some people will flinch at the idea of talking to a customer service robot, Blair explains that chatbots help to resolve simple queries much faster. Queries like ‘Where is my food’ that don’t require extensive human conversation. Another way that chatbots are driving Just Eat’s platform is restaurant recommendations.
“We don’t want the customer to do too much work navigating through all of that choice. The bot tells you the best places to eat at. Through tech, we have made it so simple. Those sorts of things point the way to the future - making things unbelievably easy from a customer point of view.”
In partnership with Starship Technologies, Just Eat has started to trial drone deliveries in selected areas in the UK using cameras, sensors and other technology. Once a customer has placed an order through Just Eat, the land-based drone drives unaided to their location and releases their meal upon a secure code entry. Panic not, however - they’re being monitored by humans in control centres who can operate them remotely.
New technology has the power to transform companies of all sizes in all sectors. To future proof their business, even small to medium sized organisations should invest time and money into working out how to apply new technology to put their products and services into the hands of customers more easily, more intuitively and more successfully