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Travel concession operators: how self-service tech can solve some of your biggest challenges

The restaurant industry is tough at the best of times but travel concession operators face added challenges that your average restaurant chain often doesn’t. From servicing a whole spectrum of differing store set-ups such as remote service stations to busy airports, to managing multiple brands and back end systems, we take a look at how self-service can help concession operators not just address these hurdles but actually make tangible improvements for the long term.

Defining travel concessions:   For the purposes of this post, when we refer to travel concessions operators, we mean business that have franchise agreements with various brands and operate globally in locations such as airports, train stations and service stations.
The challenge: Maintaining brand consistency across multiple stores

The solution: By rolling out the same, out-of-the-box self-service solution across your estate, you can start quickly maintaining a consistent brand experience for guests regardless of which store they visit.  Technology such as mobile order and pay at table (via web app vs. native application) offers your guests the same streamlined, branded experience regardless of whether you roll it out at 3 or 300 stores.  This is particularly attractive for franchisees who are contracted to a strict roll-out schedule from the brand.

Quick Service Restaurants for example are realizing the power self-service technology has not only on the customer experience but also their bottom line.  They understand that it can be jarring for guests to be able to use mobile or kiosk ordering at one franchised store but not another and are making moves to standardize the experience across brand-owned and franchised estates.

The challenge: Providing a consistently high level of service across different settings and at a local level

The solution: Similar to the previous point of maintaining a consistent brand experience, concessions operators face challenges deploying a turn-key business model in local settings.  Self-service tech can help you adjust to local nuances by offering multi-language and multi-currency capabilities – useful if you operate in high tourism areas or airports.  It also gives guests a range of ordering options such as kiosk, mobile or tablet and not just in person via wait staff.  This is great for customers who aren’t confident speaking in the local language, who want to speed things up or who are used to/prefer self-service.  As well as giving customers greater choice, it helps to free up staff – especially during peak times – so they can focus on more valuable activities or provide better service to guests who need or prefer face-to-face interaction.

Self-service technology offers significant value at locations where operators have challenges either finding or paying staff.  For example, travel concessions operators often have stores that are remote such as service stations or stores that are open 24 hours a day and require staff to work fairly antisocial hours.   By deploying self-service kiosks at these locations, operators can focus on fulfilment and still maintain a high level of service that is consistent with the wider brand.

The challenge: Managing multiple back end systems for multiple brands in multiple locations

The Solution: One self-service platform that is fully integrated into your backend systems and databases (such as POS, loyalty, payments, marketing and CRM).  By consolidating your backend systems through a single platform, you can harness the power of each, for front-end gains.  For example, you can get more out of your POS investment by turning back-end POS data into enriched, fully branded digital menu data complete with upsells and cross sells, primed for digital ordering and payment.

The challenge: Winning franchise tenders

The solution: The travel concessions sector isn’t a fragmented marketplace with a long tail of hundreds of operators all vying for the same piece of work.  There are usually only a few big players with very similar experience and benefits for brands to choose from when they go to tender.  Self-service tech can help travel concessions operators stand out, gaining the edge over competition.  As well as being able to offer a consistent digital order and pay experience for the brand which may have already ventured into the foray of self-service, concessions operators can make a pretty compelling argument for the ROI of self-service tech too.

Ordering via self-service channels has been shown to increase ATV by 20% or more.  Issues that impact operations such as chargebacks and erroneous orders are also reduced when guests take control of their own ordering and payment meaning cost savings for operators.  A concessions operator implementing measures to maximize profits as well as drive an outstanding customer experience would definitely be the more attractive proposition for brands tendering business.

The challenge: Providing a better experience to guests that are ‘on the go’

The solution: Self-service tech is particularly compelling for travel concessions operators because, unlike most other dining situations, their guests are often more time-starved.  Whether they’re dining before they catch their flight or train, in transit or simply have to deal with the added stresses or travelling with kids, concessions operators need to cater to people who are the very definition of ‘on the go’.

By providing these guests with self-service technology so they can control the pace of dining themselves, operators can focus on delivering great service rather than pressuring staff to always be available to stressed travelers waiting to order or get their check.  Self-service might also help to reduce instances of dine and dash (leaving without paying).  One of the factors in incidences of dine and dash is slow service; people wanting to pay but unable to flag down wait staff.  By allowing guests to pay themselves, when it suits them, operators could help reduce times when guests leave without paying because they’re in a hurry.

Travel concessions face some unique challenges but turning to self-service tech can help to not only solve these issues but also drive additional revenue.  From brand consistency and local nuances to simplifying back end systems and staffing difficult locations, a unified self-service platform approach can address all of these unlike any other technology offering.  As QSR adoption of self-service continues to rise, travel concessions should stake their own claim to the technology, innovating their sector to not only maintain relevancy in this digital-first world but enjoy the operational benefits that come with it too.

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