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Digital transformation: Perspectives every F&B business need to consider

9 May 2019 by Keith Tan, Crown Coffee

At Amazon Go, customers simply walk into the store, scan their phones and do their shopping without any need to queue for payment. Minutes later, a payment receipt for the items they’ve picked out will be sent to their phones – all without human intervention.

Will technology steal jobs from people? With examples like Amazon Go, a grocery shopping experience that relies almost entirely on technology, it’s not difficult to see why people would think so.

Ella, Keith’s robotic barista showcased in ConnecTechAsia 2018, Asia’s mega infocomm, media & technology event.

However, Keith Tan, owner of Singapore-based coffee chain Crown Coffee, proffers a different perspective. “I believe that every company can benefit from digitisation,” shares Keith. “While advances in technology will inevitably lead to some job redundancies, traditional businesses should not dismiss its tremendous potential.”

Crown Coffee started out as a café serving traditional Italian coffee by the cup. However, Keith saw the opportunity to grow his F&B business exponentially with smart solutions. Hence, Crown Digital was founded in 2018. The offshoot focuses on developing innovative F&B technology, such as fully-automated coffee machines, smart Point-of-Sale (POS) systems, and smart digital signs. Their most noteworthy achievement thus far: Ella, Singapore’s first robotic barista, which has been introduced at various international technology trade shows, such as ConnecTechAsia 2018.

Ever since he has implemented these technologies into his own F&B business, Keith found that quality and consistency levels have increased. While all four of Crown Coffee’s outlets are still manned by a crew, service has been sped up with the use of fully automated coffee machines.

What started as a humble 14-seater café in the corner of CTHub2 in 2016 has now turned into four outlets, including a 70-seater bustling café at the original location that now serves Grab & Go Breakfasts, Fast-Lunch Salads and signature Hot-Pressed Paninis, Afterwork Beers, and Tapas.

Innovation always comes out of a necessity to solve a problem, and Keith feels that the right use of technology can alleviate one of F&B’s biggest problems – manpower shortage. A lot of people would argue that the cost of automation is higher than hiring people. But again, taking every factor into consideration, automation done right can solve all the aforementioned problems while allowing your business to scale.

Plus, the amount of effort and time needed to train new hires can be overwhelming for business owners. With automation, there is no need to worry about inconsistent quality or the hassle of advertising and screening the right person for the job.

Having said that, digitisation cannot and will not completely remove the human aspects of the F&B industry. No matter how ‘smart’ a café gets, most people will still appreciate a personal touch. However, we should explore how technology can be better used to complement our efforts. That is the journey that Crown Coffee has embarked upon, and they’re not looking back anytime soon. As Keith succinctly puts it, his ultimate aim is to put a cup of coffee in every hand, perfectly and easily.

Topics in this article

Coffee Digital Transformation Opinion 

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