, Australia

In challenging times, opportunities arise

By James Sinclair

(Editor’s Note: This commentary piece has been lightly edited for clarity. Reposted with permission. Link to original post here.)

As we begin another year much the same way that we ended the last, facing plenty of challenges as an industry and community, we’re also reminded of the opportunities created in the last 12-24 months.

Those in the hospitality industry are often asked about the hardships that we’ve encountered, given we’re in one of the industries hit hardest by COVID, and yes, there have been many.

However, we also like to look to the positive outcomes of this experience – one of the trends we’ve recognised and are heavily investing in is the accelerated digitisation of our venues and business. 

What does that mean exactly? 

Like most businesses during COVID, Signature Hospitality Group including our brands TGI Fridays and Sporting Globe needed to pivot and change tact to remain open, viable and COVID-safe.

Easily the biggest trend and opportunity that we see, will be how businesses integrate digital ordering and customer insights into their businesses. 

Introducing a hybrid model
Going forward, our venues will continue to offer the digital ordering technology that we utilised during COVID, as well as have wait staff available to take orders.

We have found that customers love the convenience of digital ordering – they love it so much that 40% of all our dine-in revenue is transacted through our digital ordering app.

We understand the popularity – the technology speeds up the dining experience, customers don’t need to approach the bar or wait for a staff member to take an order and process it.

If diners are stopping in for a quick lunch, they can order their meal before they arrive, and wait mere minutes for their meal at their table after they step into the venue.

And, as a hospitality business owner, we love it too.

This technology has levelled the playing field so that we can be more competitive on speed of service when compared with Quick Service Restaurants (QSR), which traditionally, before COVID, was not possible.

Creating a customised experience
In addition to convenience and efficiency, the order history that this technology allows us to gather helps us to create a personalised experience for the diner or user, so that we continue to serve them the food, beverages and offers that they want, when they want them. 

If you’re a lover of buffalo wings, that food item can be showcased to you when you order digitally, enhancing your ordering experience. Additionally, if we know that you’re a big AFL fan, we’ll be able to let you know when the action is on live and loud at a venue, so you don’t miss a minute of the game.

Each time a customer makes a purchase with the app technology, that transaction helps us to understand their purchasing behaviours to ensure the products that they want are offered either in-app or in-person by our wait staff.

We can also establish average dwell time, so we know if you’re likely to stop by for a quick bite, or likely to stay to catch a game of footy at a venue.

If you’re a loyalty member and in the local area to a venue, we can also send push-notifications to let you know about offers of interest, adding value to members when they’re nearby.

Starting with a solid base
Before COVID, we had 300,000 loyalty members. Through switching to online delivery and digital ordering, we’ve been able to grow that membership to 520,000 – an incredible increase. 

Now that we have a large and engaged membership, we’re focused on a future of digitisation, with work underway to segment our guests into categories so that we can also better communicate with them.

We’re investing heavily into our customer data platform, and we’re committed to providing ongoing support and resourcing for this initiative to further develop our customer experience.
In an industry that is traditionally a little slower to take up trends such as these, we feel that we can’t ignore the opportunity and ability to better service and engage our loyal customers to continue to give them the personalised experiences they want.

For all of the challenges and barriers that hospitality business owners continue to encounter, I know many have also discovered new and exciting initiatives such as this one that will improve their businesses into the future.

The resilience of hospitality businesses in Australia is incredible - I wish everyone in the industry a healthy and prosperous 2022, and a year that presents more opportunities than it does challenges.

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