The former DJ is now the founder and chief executive of mobile order and pay app Wi5. He speaks to James Stagg about how mobile ordering is vital in any business but will never replace the human touch
Mobile ordering and payment has been around for some time but hasn't really gained traction. Do you think this is a breakthrough moment?
Things really started picking up in November last year. It had taken a while for people to get their heads around it. Aggregators like Deliveroo and Just Eat laid the groundwork for ordering food on mobile and we're the literal next step.
Mobile ordering can improve businesses' bottom lines, but it was considered a ‘nice to have'. Now, with Covid-19 and the stipulations around distancing and contactless payment, it's a ‘must have'.
You don't want to benefit from something as tragic as this event, but it's a case of being in the right place at the right time.
How does it work in a hospitality setting?
Different operators use different methods to onboard customers into the flow of ordering and pay. People use QR codes or URLs on menus – some have even used near-field communication for guests to tap their phone against. We also work with companies like Wireless Social, which allows us to get people into the order and pay flow on the wireless landing page.
Is there a great increase in operators getting in contact now?
In the past few months it has gone crazy. Everyone in the business is flat out. One of the reasons things started picking up, even before Covid, was that the solutions available were either off the shelf – which didn't meet the brand desires of multi-site operators – or from digital agencies, which come with a hefty price tag.
We think we offer the quality of an agency with the price tag of an off-the-shelf product. We're very much behind the scenes as a white label. For a business like Pizza Hut to trust us, it has to be super-polished and stable, and security has to be key.
What kind of data does this type of software provide? Do operators have access for insight and marketing?
The main tenet behind our business is to work with operators to keep their customers. They get their data and we're there to help them grow. Of course, we want to make sure it's a great experience for the customer, but it has to be the best for the operator.
Though data is important and valuable, just handing it over in a big chunk isn't particularly useful. There are insights from the data that are useful, so if we can action the data automatically, then we can use trends in behaviour to inform menu design or how something is presented to a guest.
How does Wi5 integrate with existing ordering and payment systems?
We can work with anything to do with customer relationship management or loyalty systems. We're not trying to replicate anything. We're experts at what we do and recognise there are experts in other areas, so we'd rather be part of a suite of tools that work together in harmony.
It's really important to us for people to know this isn't another tech company coming in to automate everything
What kind of changes would an operator have to consider making before implementing a mobile order and pay system?
It depends on the complexity of their systems, but it's built to be frictionless with as few barriers as possible. If you're a single-site operator, we can get you going with little intervention, but multi-site operators will need a more hands-on approach. The most important thing is making sure calls to action are up in the venues and staff understand what's involved and what the process is.
What difference does it make to tipping?
We're focused on building features that ensure front of house staff are looked after in terms of service charge and tips, and how we can incrementally increase them. It's really important to us for people to know this isn't another tech company coming in to automate everything. We want to make sure that people can focus on the key areas of their job where they can bring value, and that they're properly remunerated for that. Getting buy-in from staff is key to making this work.
Do you think this type of system will now become a prerequisite of operating for the majority of operators?
I think it was going there anyway; the current situation has just accelerated it. There are so many efficiencies to be made and improvements in service. People get used to things very quickly. The move to cashless, for example, was on the way in anyway.
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