In the wake of numerous closures of established eateries, survivors in the island’s highly-competitive sector can take note of these tips…

On 28 Dec, Singapore managed to successfully avert a resurgence of COVID-19 infections and went into the most relaxed phase of social distancing regulation.

According to one report, 42% of the people thought that the dining outlets did a good job in adapting during the pandemic. From take-away options to socially-distanced in-store dining (maximum of five people per table, with no intermingling between diners in other tables), consumers there now expect food and beverage (F&B) and quick service restaurant (QSR) operators to offer technology-enabled experiences.

Building on this phenomenon, global payments platform Adyen has offered suggested four trends for Singapore F&B sector and QSR operators to ride on in relaxed landscape:

  1. Keep cross-channel purchasing options available: More than half of consumers (62%) used take-away apps such as Deliveroo, FoodPanda and GrabFood during the pandemic than they did previously. Having been habituated by this, 43% of people there surveyed said that they would like restaurants to remain available on such apps when things return to normal.

In 2021, food merchants should consider keeping these delivery options flexible and accessible to keep up with customer demand. Additionally, they can also consider online ordering options, as well as self-pick-up.  

  1. Use technology to improve the in-store experience: 41% of people there surveyed would like restaurants to use technology to improve the experience. This includes implementing self-service checkouts and kiosks or pay-at-table technology. While this has been a growing trend for some time, consumers are seeking more contactless options, as well as personalized services.

In 2021, robotics are anticipated to continue to emerge as well. Beyond robot cleaners, F&B outlets can turn to tech to reduce manpower needs and improve services. For example, Crown Coffee introduced its robot barista, Ella, this year.

Explore the use of technology to improve services from payments to cleaning to food and beverage handling to budgeting. If done correctly, there will be good return on investment.

  1. Use subscription services to encourage repeat orders: Traditionally more associated with health and weight-loss meals, customers in Singapore are starting to appreciate subscription services. Adyen’s study showed that 38% of respondents signalled their interest in using subscriptions for repeat orders of products, including food, to reduce the number of times they need to engage a retailer manually.  
  2. Improve customer loyalty programs: During the ‘circuit breaker’ period earlier in 2020, the F&B space was highly competitive, and now that the surviving restaurants are able to allow more diners into their premises, they need to win back customers. Most respondents (81%) said that food and hospitality businesses need to improve the ways they reward consumers for shopping with them.

F&B and QSR players should move away from loyalty cards, as these are often perceived to be frustrating by 52% of consumers polled. Instead, retailers should consider offering apps that provide bonuses or rewards, as well as connect loyalty schemes to the customers’ payment card so that updates are done automatically, with no hassles to the diner.

Crown Group’s CEO and founder Keith Tan noted: “In the digital economy, this means harnessing technology to offer the right app for an increasingly mobile society in order to enhance consumer stickiness. For example, our mobile app has enabled experiences such as pre-order and delivery, contributing to the overall seamlessness of the consumer journey. Also, 85% of our customers top up money directly in the in-app wallet and in turn, we reward them by offering promotions and loyalty points through the app. This virtuous cycle creates a win-win situation for all and is what ultimately drives loyalty.”

One other trend that may be worth watching is to tap in to cloud and dark kitchens. Said Josh Bell, Principal, Guzman y Gomez Singapore: “Delivery options will certainly be here to stay, but may be scaled down and transformed, moving away from what was offered during circuit breaker. A trend I predict for 2021 and beyond is a rise in cloud and dark kitchens, as well as various online-only delivery channels.”

Adyen’s president for the Asia Pacific region concluded: “F&B and quick service restaurants (QSRs) are focused on creating efficiencies and enhancing services to grow customer loyalty, and digitalization allows operators to focus on their core business: serving meals that keep diners coming back for more. As crowds return to dining establishments, there is an opportunity to turn pent-up demand into even more seamless, richer in-store experiences. Food establishments that have a holistic view of their customer profiles are well-positioned to help diners explore new menu items based on past purchases— whether in store or online—and focus on re-engaging customers in person.”