A luxury 5-star hotel located in the city’s vibrant downtown, InterContinental Singapore Robertson Quay (ICSRQ) was busy year-round with guests checking in and a constant flow of customers to the five celebrated dining outlets located within the hotel. However, operations soon slowed down in late January as safe distancing measures were introduced islandwide. By March, with a global pandemic declared and countries tightening control over their borders, it became clear that ICSRQ would not see regular room occupancy levels for some time.
When the circuit breaker measures were implemented in April, hotels had to suspend their operations temporarily, with no idea as to when they could resume. Like most hotels, ICSRQ faced a problem: How can it compensate for the suspension in operations and reduce its losses in revenue?
The answer: Publico Ristorante.
With its award-winning contemporary Italian fare, Publico had earned recognition from critics and food-lovers alike. The restaurant had built up a strong following for dining in, with takeaway and delivery orders forming a rather small part of their business.
Publico was not alone; across the island, many eateries struggled to cope with the same problem. Due to the disruption, restaurants have suffered up to 90% in revenue losses, with many well-renowned establishments closing their businesses permanently. Partnerships with third-party food delivery services have not been smooth-sailing either, with high commission rates cutting into profit margins and slow responses for updating menus or pushing promotions faced by many.
Publico had always been a forward-looking restaurant and they understood that the F&B industry would not return to the “old normal” even after the lockdown. This meant that it would be better to adopt digital solutions sooner rather than later.
In particular, the restaurant saw that it would be smarter to have their own channel for ordering takeaways and deliveries, as opposed to relying entirely on third-party services. Not only would this help the restaurant avoid paying commission to food delivery services, Publico would also be able to manage the entire process independently, including all updates to the menu due to strong following within the local community.
Getting Vouch On Board
With this challenge laid out before them, Hotel Manager Ankit Airon reached out to Vouch. As a hotel technology provider, Vouch was familiar with building software solutions to address hotels’ operational problems and improve their processes.
Publico’s F&B staff and Vouch’s product team worked together closely to clarify every step of the ordering process and identify the obstacles. Once the product team understood the restaurant’s needs and difficulties, they proposed and discussed the options until they figured out a suitable workflow. They then went to work, building a standalone F&B ordering system from scratch in a week.
The New F&B Ordering System
Publico To-Go, the restaurant’s new ordering system, was launched to a quiet start on Tuesday, 28th April, just in time for a series of public holidays.
The ordering system Vouch developed is a chat-based widget embedded into Publico’s website. When customers land on the page, the widget pops up and functions as a portal into the menu, presented in the intuitive format of an online shopping catalogue, complete with colourful images of the Italian dishes Publico offers and even item tags that make it easier to navigate for those with allergies or dietary preferences. Customisation and add-on options are available, as are fields for customers to indicate special notes for each item they order — overall, ensuring the customers’ ordering experience is personalised and enjoyable.
For the Publico staff, the new ordering system integrated seamlessly with their existing processes, minimising disruption and introducing greater efficiency.
In the past, customers had to place orders by emailing, calling or messaging over WhatsApp. It was inconvenient and confusing for both sides. For example, the staff member manning the WhatsApp orders had to go through rounds of clarification before finalising the order.
Now, the ordering process became entirely automated and streamlined. The backend interface made editing straightforward, bringing in the added benefits of flexibility and speed. Most importantly, Publico could take ownership of the platform, which gives them an assurance of reliability and control.
By shifting from manual ordering channels to the new automated channel, Publico increased the number of takeaway orders by 33% on average, with a conversion rate of about 24% for users who browse the menu catalogue. Within a month of going live, this standalone ordering channel became responsible for 15% of Publico’s overall orders.
Beyond the strong performance, Publico’s experience piloting a new solution with the Vouch team had demonstrated the more intangible quality of trust. As a result, ICSRQ has decided to roll out the same ordering system to a second restaurant, the all-day eatery Marcello. Plans are also being made to pilot a contactless option for dine-in ordering in preparation for customers dining in at restaurants in phases two and three as Singapore reopens.
It’s clear that COVID-19 has created a “new normal”, and companies can best handle the impact of the pandemic by going digital. Now more than ever is the best time for the hotel and F&B industry to adopt solutions that can handle the repetitive, time-consuming tasks, freeing businesses to focus on servicing their guests, which is what they do best.