DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION

The Self-Service Movement in Hospitality: Host

How venues are finding operational resilience amidst the challenges of post-pandemic recovery.

Marty Jenkins-Lyttle
6 min readSep 12, 2022
Goodness Gracious Instagram, Self-Service Kiosk, and Bagel Served on Plate
Host technology at Goodness Gracious cafe, Auckland. Image: Host

The hospitality industry is facing rising operating costs and labour shortages as pandemic-era trading conditions recede. This leaves venue owners asking whether they should continue investing into the digital solutions that acted as lifelines during lockdowns, or minimise overheads and hold out for better economic conditions.

In this article I talk with Wes Moir from Host, a digital order and payments company helping cafes and bars navigate that problem without losing focus on the human side of the dining experience.

Host is working with hospitality businesses to develop flexible solutions for venue owners amidst the unpredictability of post-pandemic trading. Their latest installation at Goodness Gracious uses self-service innovations to augment the experience of both patrons and employees.

Customers can now place their own order from a countertop kiosk or tabletop QR code if they’re dining in, or online for an easy collection at their local cafe — all of which sync to a central point of sale (POS) for the team to manage.

Greg Cornes, Owner of Goodness Gracious, and Wes Moir, Founder of Host. Image: Host

Where does self-service technology sit in the relationship between customer and employee, within a cafe setting?

Digital solutions like this should enable hosting, not block or barricade it. The self-service aspect supports a patron’s journey through the venue as they order, then dine or takeaway.

Our kiosks are designed at a height that lets conversation flow between the customer and the barista. This approach to digital integration allows the team to focus on the service that sits around the transaction, which improves the overall experience for every customer.

“Digital solutions like this should enable hosting, not block or barricade it.”

Host website screenshot
Host creates tailored solutions for a range of venues. Image: Host

What has prevented wider adoption of self-service kiosks in the hospitality industry until now?

The systems that Quick Service Restaurants (QSRs) use are typically expensive — small businesses have no capacity for 5 figure installations in their overheads. By introducing up to 8 large kiosk terminals, these QSRs enable menu exploration and discovery for their customers, which reduces order pressure and also lifts the average spend per order. Eight self-service kiosks may seem excessive, but there’s a reason QSRs like McDonald’s have been around for so long. Unfortunately, those systems and the floorspace required for them is out of reach for the majority of owner-operated businesses.

Our solution is much more compact, with a single main kiosk for ordering and additional options via tabletop QR codes or online orders. A QSR-style kiosk next to a barista would never work if you wanted to maintain that human connection. We’re helping venues complement the service experience, not outsource it.

Host kiosks are designed at a height that fosters human connection. Image: Goodness Gracious

How do operations and insights differ for Host-enabled cafes?

There’s more confidence in the way they run. Covering staffing shortages and peak hour is a whole lot easier if the transactional component is taken care of. Self-service supports the part of the business that pays the overheads with no risk or uncertainty — even if EFTPOS goes down you can flip to QR code or table ordering. Having redundancy built into the system keeps the operation moving.

The insights off the back of transitioning from a printed menu to a visual format that enhances discovery — they’re incredible. We’ve seen stores with a 300% lift in categories that were overlooked on the text only menu simply because those items are no longer buried away in a paper menu.

Customer ordering from a Host self-service kiosk
Self-service enables menu discovery and removes pressure for customers. Image: Host

How does a venue that’s open 7 days a week implement change at this level without stopping their regular operations?

In terms of preparation everything is built off-site, then customised on site. On installation day it only takes 15 minutes per venue to get Host up and running. Everything is in a case ready to go.

The real challenge is team adoption, which all comes back to communication. Early buy-in with the entire team is critical. We usually see some hesitation before the team realises that their jobs have become easier and they can focus on service quality and speed.

We’re now looking at scaling that adoption up, and focusing on ways that we can replicate our efficiency for more than one new site a day.

“On installation day, it only takes 15 minutes per venue to get Host up and running.”

How have you seen the customer-cafe experience change over time following a move to Host?

There’s an initial shock for both the customer and the business, then the entire expectation of the cafe experience changes. Customer wait times are more stable, staff stress levels are reduced, and it actually gives the team more time to deliver quality customer service — instead of only interacting during the transaction.

Added personalisation is one of the biggest benefits. Not every barista remembers everyone’s name, but our kiosk will step in to collect a name for you when an order is taken. This lets you serve every coffee with a personal touch. Experiences like that make any customer feel like a regular.

Greg Cornes with customer using Host kiosk in cafe
Helping customers with their first order assists adoption of the self-service model. Image: Host

What should we expect to see next in the world of digital hospitality innovation?

Wider adoption of products like Host is on the horizon. With more products coming to market, persistent inflation, ongoing labour supply issues, and growing customer familiarity with the technology — you’ll see more and more solutions like this.

Longer term at Host we want to create a more integrated hospitality ecosystem. People are already automating ordering across multiple suppliers for single venues as an example, so we want to get in ahead of that to help assist in stock stability and reduce wastage with smarter stock management.

Key Takeaways

  • Technology can complement the service experience that humans provide — not just replace it.
  • Digital adaptation doesn’t have to disrupt day-to-day venue operations.
  • Self-service models support menu discovery, lift order values, and provide stability at the point of transaction.

The way we interact with businesses will continue to evolve as technology becomes increasingly accessible thanks to companies like Host. Their self-service kiosks and wider customer connectivity via table and online ordering offers businesses a way forward in an environment where operational resilience is a must-have and profitability is becoming increasingly difficult to manage.

Thanks for taking the time to read this article, and of course thank you to Wes Moir from Host. If you’d like to learn more about how Host works, you can contact their team on hello@goodhost.co.nz.

--

--

Marty Jenkins-Lyttle

Digital strategist consulting on marketing, ecommerce growth, and business transformation.