The world as we know it is becoming more digital-minded.

When you think of the catering industry – what once relied on phone calls to make table bookings, pen and paper to record reservations and even simple cash-in-hand to pay for meals – has all become digitised.

Neil Bradley, former chef and founder of Food Safe System, has found another way to make the lives of those working in the catering industry that little bit easier.

In this week’s ProfileTree TV Business Leaders interview, host Ciaran Connolly unearths the evolution of the catering industry, and how digital solutions like Food Safe System have helped it take this important leap.

Check out the full interview or read on to learn more.

Digital Catering Revolution with Neil Bradley
Food safe system: digitising the culinary world

From Cooking Meals to Creating an App: Neil’s Journey

Neil’s speciality is not in the digital world – but instead the food industry. Working as a restaurant owner and a chef for 25 years – his long-standing career led him to identifying a problem he faced regularly.

“Working in a kitchen for 25 years, that led to the Food Safe System which is our digital food safety compliance app.

“So while running the restaurant as head chef, kitchen manager and owner – it is a very stressful business – so I was looking for a solution to help me run my business a bit better.

“I couldn’t find anything, so that’s how Food Safe System was born.”

Food Safe Systems in action
Neil Bradley’s Food Safe System cuts through the legwork involved in activities like fridge temperature monitoring with the aim of giving chefs more time to concentrate on creating meals. Image credit:

What Does Food Safe System Help With?

As a one-of-its-kind solution, Food Safe System helps restaurant owners keep track of their food hygiene standard, as well as many other elements, as Neil explains:

“It is a food safety compliance app. No chefs are hired to do paperwork. Legislation and regulations mean that there has to be a lot of checks done and documented. Chefs don’t often have the time to do it, so that’s what we do – we replace the paperwork with an easy to use app.

The app offers technology that is unrivalled in the industry, to help better record the safety standards restaurants work in.

“We automate parts of it using wireless temperature sensors and bluetooth probes, then we send the data through a cloud network so it is received quicker and saves the chefs time rather than filling out paperwork.

“Then managers, owners, food safety consultants can all login and see everything is good – or conversely identify an issue before it becomes a problem. It just makes everyone’s life a little bit easier.”

The temperature elements are used to record a restaurant’s cooling and hot hold units. These are then stored in the app and calculate the standard in which food is kept throughout the day.

The app is also designed not only to save time, but reduce costs.

Staffing needs to carry out these tasks instead of the app cost a significant amount. However, the app is proven to reduce wage bills by 2.5%.

The app also focuses on reducing the need of physical audits, and therefore the estimated £1,300 per annum cost. Additionally, if a food safety incident occurred – this could easily cost a restaurant its entire reputation and livelihood. With Food Safe System, this is continuously monitored, helping owners manage the standard of their outlet and continue trading.

As Neil emphasises: “It all boils down to that sticker on the door – the one to five rating, the ‘scores on doors’ – that’s what’s important in the catering industry.”

Food Safe System Logo
Food Safe System’s innovations are revolutionising the way culinary world is managed day-by-day. Image credit: Food Safe System

Catering Technology The Digital Takeover

Although we know digital is the way forward for most businesses and industries, Neil reflects on how new innovations always have the catering customer in mind – rather than the catering worker.

“Digital is very much coming into the restaurants with POS systems and becoming more tablet-based. All the restaurant tech seems to be customer-focused, revolving around getting more people in, out and paying quicker.

“But there was very little getting past the kitchen doors. That’s what we’re focused on – usable and effective solutions within kitchens.

“This is the first product in that arena. But we have plans for more to come in the future.”

He added that the Food Safe System can help catering professionals at a particularly difficult time for the industry, not least due to Brexit uncertainty.

“There are a lot of challenges within the restaurant industry, it’s traditionally a very low margin business. Getting staff is becoming a massive, massive issue and that’s before we even mention the ‘B’ word.

“The guys are under huge pressure so there needs to be a better solution.”

While digital integration may be reducing staffing needs, it increases productivity in the industry. By creating a convenience for not just chefs and owners, but also admin staff and inspectors, this means they can focus on more pressing tasks.

“With inspections maybe not being carried out as often as they should be, digital helps with that. Instead of having to do physical inspections – you do online audits – and that’s where our system comes in too.”

As Neil points out, where digital helps in a lot of ways, it does not solve every problem that caterers face each day.

“There are more pressures, lack of staff, rise in food costs, more regulations. Digital is a way to solve these problems. Innovations have always been around replacing the old, but the workload hasn’t changed. I think what is important is easing this workload.

“I think the catering business is so tough. I have so much respect for people who make a success of it. I know how much work goes into it. That’s why I am so invested in making the lives of these people easier to give them time back.

“When I first started, I was working maybe 80 to 100 hours a week. And that was the norm. Nowadays, this generation don’t want to do that – and nor should they. This is why we do what we do.”

To find out more about what Ciaran and Neil discussed, check out the rest of our Business Leaders interview.

To keep up to date on Neil’s latest technological endeavours – visit Food Safe System.

Quantifying the Impact of Catering Technology: Boosting Leads, Savings, and Efficiency

Beyond buzzwords and checklists, let’s dive into the real-world impact of catering technology through quantifiable benefits. Buckle up, caterers, because these numbers speak volumes:

1. Lead Generation Powerhouse:

  • 30% increase in online orders: Say goodbye to missed calls and overflowing inboxes. Online ordering platforms capture leads 24/7, boosting your reach and capturing business even while you sleep.
  • 25% higher quote conversion: Ditch generic email blasts for personalized proposals crafted by catering software. Targeted menus and client-specific quotes lead to more closed deals.
  • 10% growth in event inquiries: Social media marketing tools built into some platforms help you reach new audiences and generate buzz, directly translating to more event inquiries and potential bookings.

2. Cost Savvy Caterer’s Dream:

  • 15% reduction in food waste: Inventory management software optimizes purchasing and portioning, minimizing spoilage and reducing unnecessary spending on ingredients.
  • 20% lower operational costs: Streamlined scheduling, automated invoices, and digital document management slash administrative overhead and paperwork headaches.
  • 10% decrease in labor costs: Online ordering and self-service options free up staff for higher-value tasks, potentially decreasing the need for additional hires during peak periods.

3. Efficiency Unleashed: More Time, Less Chaos:

  • 50% faster order processing: Online ordering saves countless hours spent on phone calls and manual order entry. Automated workflows and pre-populated forms keep things moving smoothly.
  • 30% reduction in communication errors: Clear, digital communication tools eliminate misinterpretations and ensure everyone is on the same page, from the kitchen to the client.
  • 20% increase in customer satisfaction: Faster response times, accurate orders, and real-time tracking of bookings lead to happier clients and repeat business.

4. Catering to Your Niche: Technology as Your Secret Weapon:

  • Corporate Catering: Impress busy professionals with online menus tailored to dietary needs and preferences. Streamline expense reporting through integrated payment options.
  • Wedding Catering: Wow couples with interactive, visual proposal tools and seamless venue communication platforms. Manage complex guest lists and dietary restrictions with ease.
  • Mobile Catering: Reach on-the-go customers with location-based marketing and real-time order tracking. Optimize delivery routes and offer convenient contactless payment options.

5. Pain Point Annihilator: Technology Mending Cracks in Your Process:

  • Lost leads: Online ordering keeps your doors open 24/7, capturing every potential customer, even outside business hours.
  • Disorganized paperwork: Digital tools eliminate lost invoices, messy spreadsheets, and frantic last-minute scrambling for information.
  • Customer communication woes: Automated notifications and self-service options keep clients informed and reduce frustrating misunderstandings.
  • Inventory headaches: Precise forecasting and ingredient tracking prevent costly overstocking and last-minute shortages.

The Catering Tech Toolbox: Unveiling Your Digital Allies

Catering isn’t just about delicious food and impeccable service; it’s a symphony of logistics, communication, and customer satisfaction. But navigating the chaos can be overwhelming. Enter the catering tech toolbox, brimming with digital allies ready to streamline your operations and elevate your game. Let’s delve into its diverse categories:

1. Order Management and Customer Engagement:

  • Online Ordering Platforms: Say goodbye to endless phone calls! Platforms like Toast Online Ordering and ChowNow capture leads 24/7, personalize menus, and automate order processing, freeing your time for culinary magic.
  • CRM Systems: Tools like Salesforce and Zoho CRM help manage customer relationships, track leads, and personalize interactions. Imagine sending targeted menus and promotions based on client preferences!
  • Event Management Software: Platforms like Eventbrite and Social Tables handle RSVPs, seating charts, and vendor communication, ensuring your events run smoothly, even when juggling multiple bookings.

2. Inventory and Recipe Management:

  • Inventory Management Systems: Tools like Zip Inventory and FoodCost keep your pantry in check. Optimize purchasing, prevent spoilage, and track ingredient usage with ease.
  • Recipe Management Software: Platforms like ChefThesaurus and RecipeLion organize your culinary creations, allowing for easy scaling, substitutions, and recipe costing. No more scrambling for that secret sauce recipe!

3. Communication and Collaboration Tools:

  • Project Management Software: Tools like Asana and Trello streamline communication with your team, allowing for real-time task delegation and progress tracking. Ensure everyone’s on the same page, from chefs to servers.
  • Internal Communication Platforms: Slack and Microsoft Teams foster seamless internal collaboration. Share updates, discuss menu changes, and address last-minute needs in an instant, keeping your team connected and agile.

4. Payment and Delivery Solutions:

  • Point-of-Sale Systems: Platforms like Square and Clover POS handle orders, payments, and reporting in one place, streamlining transactions and eliminating manual data entry.
  • Delivery Management Software: Tools like DoorDash Drive and ChowNow Delivery optimize delivery routes, track orders in real-time, and offer contactless payment options, ensuring smooth deliveries and happy customers.

5. Emerging Tech Saviors:

  • AI-powered Menu Recommendations: Platforms like Nosh and Mealime use customer data and dietary preferences to suggest personalized menus, boosting customer satisfaction and reducing food waste.
  • Food Waste Reduction Apps: Tools like Too Good To Go and Olio connect caterers with customers looking for discounted surplus food, minimizing waste and promoting sustainability.

Remember: Choosing the right tool depends on your catering type, budget, and specific needs. Consider free trials, read reviews, and compare functionalities before committing.

Here are a few recommendations to get you started:

  • Budget-friendly: Square POS, ChowNow, Trello
  • Mid-range: Toast Online Ordering, Zip Inventory, Asana
  • Premium: Salesforce CRM, ChefThesaurus, DoorDash Drive

Embrace the catering tech revolution! With the right digital allies in your toolbox, you can unlock a world of efficiency, customer satisfaction, and culinary success. So, dive into the options, experiment, and watch your catering business reach new heights of deliciousness and delight!

Security and Data Privacy: Savoring Peace of Mind in the Digital Feast

While we’ve been savoring the delicious benefits of catering technology, a valid concern arises: what about the security and privacy of our customers’ delicate data? Thankfully, responsible technology providers prioritize ensuring information is handled with the utmost care, allowing you to focus on culinary magic with peace of mind.

Here’s what you can expect from reputable catering technology platforms:

  • Secure Data Storage: Sensitive information like customer names, addresses, and dietary preferences is encrypted and stored on secure servers with industry-standard protocols. Think of it as a digital vault for your data, guarded by cutting-edge security measures.
  • Data Access Control: Access to customer data is restricted to authorized personnel and managed through access controls and permissions. Picture a culinary team with individual aprons, each granting access to specific ingredients and recipes in the data kitchen.
  • Compliance with Data Privacy Regulations: Reliable platforms comply with data privacy regulations like GDPR and CCPA, ensuring transparency and user control over their information. Imagine a crystal-clear menu of data rights for your customers, empowering them to choose how their information is used.
  • Regular Security Audits: Reputable providers conduct regular security audits to identify and address potential vulnerabilities, proactively protecting your data from digital intruders. Think of these audits as regular kitchen inspections, ensuring the digital pantry stays secure and hygienic.
  • Transparent Privacy Policies: Clear and accessible privacy policies detail how customer data is collected, used, and protected. Remember, transparency is the secret ingredient for building trust with your patrons and ensuring they enjoy their data privacy alongside their delicious meals.

Of course, it’s always wise to be vigilant. Choose platforms with a proven track record in data security and transparency. Ask about their security measures and data privacy policies before sharing any customer information. By partnering with responsible technology providers and keeping data security at the forefront, you can ensure a safe and satisfying digital dining experience for both you and your clients.

Catering to Growth: Technology as Your Culinary Crystal Ball

The culinary world is a dynamic landscape, and savvy caterers understand the need to adapt. But how can technology be your secret ingredient for scalability and growth? Buckle up, fellow food wizards, as we explore the future trends poised to transform your business and keep you ahead of the curve.

1. Scaling Up with Ease:

  • Modular platforms: Choose technology that evolves with you. Modular platforms allow you to add features and functionalities as your business expands, from managing small events to catering corporate giants. Picture seamlessly adding new ingredients to your digital recipe without having to start from scratch.
  • Data-driven insights: Analytics tools reveal trends in customer preferences, popular menu items, and regional demand. Imagine possessing a culinary crystal ball, allowing you to tailor your offerings and expand into new markets with confidence.
  • Automated marketing: Leverage social media scheduling, targeted email campaigns, and loyalty programs to reach new audiences and retain existing customers. Think of it as digital seasonings that enhance your marketing efforts and attract a wider clientele.

2. Embracing the New Culinary Frontier:

  • AI-powered personalization: Tools that suggest customized menus based on dietary needs and preferences are gaining traction. Imagine offering AI-generated culinary recommendations, surprising your clients with delightful and unexpected flavor combinations.
  • Sustainable solutions: Food waste reduction apps and eco-friendly packaging options are becoming increasingly popular. Picture yourself embracing technology that minimizes your environmental impact while maximizing customer satisfaction.
  • Delivery drone fleets and autonomous vehicles: While still in their nascent stages, these futuristic delivery methods offer a glimpse into the potential of technology to revolutionize your reach and speed of service. Imagine drone chefs serving up delicacies on the go, expanding your culinary empire beyond brick-and-mortar limitations.

Remember, the key is to be adaptable and proactive:

  • Stay informed: Follow industry trends, attend technology conferences, and seek out educational resources to stay ahead of the curve. Picture yourself as a culinary scholar, constantly exploring new flavors and techniques, both virtual and physical.
  • Experiment with small steps: Don’t wait for the perfect technology to land in your lap. Start by incorporating smaller features and testing their impact on your business. Think of it as micro-experiments in your digital kitchen, refining your approach along the way.
  • Invest in your team: Train your staff on new technologies and encourage them to embrace the digital shift. Picture your whole team becoming tech-savvy culinary alchemists, working together to transform your business into a digital feast.

Technology isn’t just about serving food; it’s about serving the future. By embracing these trends and using them strategically, you can turn your catering business into a scalable, adaptable, and future-proof culinary empire. So, ignite your digital oven, experiment with these innovative tools, and watch your success rise like the perfect soufflé, light and delicious, ready to be savored by a world waiting to experience your unique culinary creations.

FAQ: Demystifying Catering Technology

Q: Does catering technology replace my culinary skills?

A: Absolutely not! Technology simply complements your talents. It handles logistics, marketing, and data analysis, freeing you to focus on your culinary passion and create delicious masterpieces.

Q: How much does catering technology cost?

A: Options range from affordable monthly subscriptions to premium platforms with advanced features. Do your research, compare, and choose one that fits your budget and needs.

Q: Is my data safe with catering technology providers?

A: Reputable platforms prioritize data security with encryption, controlled access, and compliance with data privacy regulations. Choose providers with transparent policies and strong security measures.

Q: How can I convince my team to embrace new technology?

A: Start small, train them thoroughly, and highlight the benefits of technology for them (e.g., efficiency, reduced workload, better communication). Make the transition collaborative and emphasize its positive impact on everyone.

Q: Is catering technology right for my small catering business?

A: Absolutely! Even basic features like online ordering and customer relationship management can significantly improve efficiency and attract new clients. Start small and scale up as your business grows.

Conclusion: The Future of Flavor is Digital

Embrace catering technology, it’s not just about shiny apps and automated processes. It’s about unlocking a world of efficiency, growth, and customer satisfaction. Imagine a seamless workflow, happy clients, and more time to pour your passion into creating culinary magic.

Start by identifying your pain points and choosing tools that address them. Experiment, learn, and adapt. Remember, technology is your digital sous chef, there to assist you in crafting the perfect culinary experience. So, step into the kitchen of the future, turn on the digital stove, and let your creativity and innovation simmer with the help of these powerful tools.

The world is hungry for your unique flavors, and catering technology can help you serve them up in a way that’s both delicious and delightful. Bon appétit in the digital age!

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