Stuart Fusco, director at Quayside in Whitby, talks about the investments he has made in technology to help the family business respond to new market and trading conditions
When we have been open, the market and trading conditions have been strong here in Whitby. Early on in the pandemic, people were drawn to the coast (after travelling restrictions were lifted) because other attractions and places of interest were not yet open and the promise of a walk on the beach seemed appealing after so long at home. As the summer continued, we benefited from visitors enjoying staycations, rather than going abroad and this has led to us being gratefully busy throughout the course of the last two seasons.
But we’ve been presented with two big challenges, one has been responding to a high volume of customers in a controlled, systematic wayn and the second has been a shortage of staff. With Brexit, we have seen some of our longstanding colleagues return to their home countries and noticed a reduced number of applicants from Europe. We were not able to fill all the positions available, and we were faced with our team members following the self-isolation measures, reducing our team further.
To counteract both these challenges, we added two key pieces of technology. The first was an online menu and payment system at the tables in the restaurant and the second was ordering screens within the takeaway.
The online table order and pay system is via a QR code at the table that allows the customer to view the menu, select their orders and pay online. There is less movement around the restaurant floor for the waiting on team, reducing the number of times they visit the tables. Early on this was reassuring for more nervous customers, but as we progressed into the ‘new normal’ it now means that more time is spent interacting with our customers. There is an opportunity to inform customers of new specials, new procedures and there are also less bill queries.
The ordering screens within the takeaway mean customers are able to order independently, reducing contact between customers and colleagues. It allows us to manage the queue much better on our busy days, creates more space and reduces the number of actions the counter service team need to do. This has afforded the team more time to check the orders, reassure customers or engage more with them, which we believe has increased their experience.
The menu boards in the takeaway have also been replaced for digital ones, which can be managed remotely. This allows us to adjust the prices immediately, add in short term specials or adjust the prices of fish/seafood from day boats where the prices can change daily.
By implementing these technologies, we have afforded more positive interactions with customers and means the restaurant and takeaway continue to run smoothly if we have a reduced number of staff.
The investment in recent technology has had a profound impact on our business, firstly to deal with the challenges arising from Covid, but latterly to help smooth the day-to-day operations and increase positive customer interaction. This combined with rigorous and relevant team training is a formula that we have enjoyed great success from this last year.