At the end of July, LNER made quite a splash when it announced the launch of Let’s Eat – At Your Seat’ using a digital in-seat app powered by QikServe. The excitement from the travel and tourism industry, as well as regular travellers on the line, which travels from Inverness or Aberdeen in Scotland down to London, was palpable.
Using a mobile app to order food for delivery-to-seat in a theatre or stadium isn’t an altogether new concept, but to install the service on a transport where customers come and go throughout the journey, is a disruptive concept. Now it’s in use on the train line, other tourism industry and transport systems should be looking to adopt similar services. Passengers on river boats and ferries, for example, could benefit from ordering to deck, seat or even car.
The tourism industry has suffered as much as hospitality and food during the COVID-19 pandemic and could take even longer to recover. Businesses need to find ways of boosting revenue streams. Revenues at Irish Continental Group fell more than 21% in the first 6 months of 2020 and a 65% passenger decline, while the BBC reported that P&O needs to find £257m to keep itself afloat. Not an easy task while passengers remain cautious about travel; a surge in staycation demand has seen bookings with Sykes Holiday Cottages rise by 50%.
As ferries and water taxis begin to welcome passengers back, many have put social distancing and other health and safety measures into place. Dream Cruises has introduced a Flexi Feast dining concept to enable better social distancing while AmaWaterways river cruises in Europe has outlined safety measures including limiting itself to 100 guests to ensure the main restaurant and the speciality Chef’s Table restaurant can seat them at a safe distance.
Here’s where QikServe’s order and pay platforms can benefit the industry. By offering customers the chance to order food delivered to their car, seat or a deck collection point, they discourage unnecessary movement and crowded walkways and refreshment queues, reducing opportunities for the spread of infection. Consumers need to feel safe and that the transport companies are doing everything in their power to protect them if they’re going to travel. Knowing that they can stay in one space – whether that’s a car or seat – and still enjoy restaurant facilities, would be a great comfort to many.
For many, the switch wouldn’t be complicated. Groups, like Brittany Ferries, already offer reserved seating areas and lounges where customers can relax or even sleep during their journey. Rather than passengers getting up and disturbing others by coming and going to the restaurants and bars, they could use mobile ordering to request and pay for refreshments to be brought direct to their chosen seat. And, while the UK Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA) has temporarily relaxed rules requiring all ferry passengers on multi-deck vessels to leave their vehicles and go to communal lounges, deliveries can instead be made to those passengers waiting in their hot cars throughout the journey.
Not only can digital ordering make collection and delivery easier and safer, it can boost customer spend in the travel and tourism industry. It’s already been seen that when customers purchase items digitally, with time to browse and explore menus at their leisure, they spend more and with greater frequency. It could contribute to the cash injection needed by so many.
While the global travel industry is unlikely to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic overnight, businesses can take steps to maximise the spending potential of customers onboard, while promoting the steps (including technologies) they have taken to protect their valued customers. As trust recovers, revenues will too.