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Four ways remote monitoring (IoT) can transform coffee shops

The internet of things has incredible potential in hospitality and catering environments – and nowhere exemplifies this better than a coffee shop, says Sam Roberts, Sector Director at mpro5.

With the rapid developments of the food industry, many businesses are struggling to optimise their operations amidst the chaos of the daily grind. Restaurant and café management is tough work, even without the climate of the pandemic affecting all facets of the catering industry. Businesses need to maximise the resources they have at their disposal now to stay ahead of the competition.

Implementing IoT solutions can be the first step to success. The Internet of Things, otherwise known as remote monitoring, is a fourth-gen technology that is already impacting many industries – and it can do the same for catering, Quick Service Restaurants and cafés. It may not have the revolutionary potential of its more futuristic and less-developed counterparts, such as AI, but it has clear potential, today, to radically improve hospitality and catering business operations.

With the correct software to manage and action the vast amounts of data it creates, IoT can streamline operations and increase productivity, allowing you to see what actions are most pressing and what needs doing in real-time. From this, you can see accurate patterns which allow you to plan more accurately.

What is remote monitoring?
Simply put, these are remote sensors that can be connected via the internet to a network that talks to you through a digital platform. These sensors can measure anything from the power draw of a coffee machine or the temperature of a fridge to the level of lighting or even noise in a room. Individually these sensors may appear useless, but once utilised in a wholistic and linked network of IoT devices – organised by a software perfect for managing this multitude of devices – then you get the information to create lasting results.

The importance of the humble coffee shop

Coffee shops are the underlying crutch of the business and social world; both productive mornings for the working business world and relaxing, social get-togethers between friends have become galvanised by the growing coffee culture. The UK consumes, on average, 95 million cups of coffee daily – that adds up to approximately £10 billion a year for the UK economy. With this potential for profit, it’s important that shopkeepers do whatever they can to keep a constant flow of customers; great coffee will always be a great help in attracting business, but making sure that the technology is there to support every aspect of your business goes a long way in keeping the customer experience that much more enjoyable. 

Here are four ways that IoT helps transform coffee shops.

  1. Plug the gaps during the staffing crisis

Whether due to the pandemic or ‘The Great Resignation’, much of the industrialised world is facing a staffing crisis – and hospitality, catering and service industries are one of the most impacted – hence why job vacancies in the hospitality sector have risen more than 700% in a year.

Although there is no technological cure for such an endemic problem, teams that learn to use their time more wisely will feel less stressed and that their work is more productive. IoT provides insight into what’s happening around you in real-time, which means you can work off what needs doing when, rather than a fixed schedule.

IoT sensors fitted on toilet doors make that possible by counting visitors. So, staff can be more profitably employed selling coffee and cake instead of cleaning and restocking toilets after a quiet morning when only a handful of shoppers have wandered in. Conversely, additional staff will need to be deployed to cleaning duties during a busy afternoon. Ultimately, this means time is spent more efficiently, and therefore more productively, netting only improvements for your operations.

  1. Assuring food safety

Safety should be a top concern for a business in catering or hospitality, however, that does not mean that it is wise to spend hours doing tasks unnecessarily. For example, manual temperature checks on fridges with thermometers can take up to an hour a day, which really stacks up across the week.

In contrast, IoT sensors connected to good software can tell you the fridge temperature continuously, and even warn you if it goes above a maximum threshold – saving you not only time but also adding another assurance that everything is how it should be, minimising food wastage and money. This assurance is additionally backed up by a digital ‘paperless’ trail.

Furthermore, and carrying on from the fridge example, IoT allows you to see patterns in temperature changes – which means you can accurately predict the future. For example, if temperatures consistently rise around lunchtime, this could point to inadequate training or inattentive staff who leave the fridge open in between uses.

  1. Proactive maintenance

Cafés and coffee shops are full of fragile, expensive and vital equipment – as are most businesses involved in the production and sale of food and drink. Many of these are instrumental to keep working. One failure can completely disrupt operations for the entire day, and so minimising the damages by staying ahead of any maintenance needs should be an underlying priority.

IoT sensors on equipment can enable you to implement a system of preventive maintenance, which can either react to a prediction you’ve spotted from the patterns of use or to an alteration in the equipment’s performance. This means reducing any potential downtime and costly repairs to a minimum, and although this investment into predictive maintenance solutions can appear costly upfront, in the long-term it reduces costs by upholding productive uptimes for longer.

  1. Creating comfortable conditions for customers

The repeatably perfect customer experience is the goal. As we all know, improving a customer’s comfort can have a direct and quantitative impact on the time spent in a premises, how much they spend and ultimately the business’s bottom line. Sensors, connected to an IoT network, can monitor anything from open doors so you can stop a draft, to radiators and temperature levels so you can maintain a comfortable ambience.

This is especially important for customers returning after the absence of the pandemic. They are looking to reclaim a sense of pre-pandemic normality, and want the ideal experience that they could only longingly dream about for months to be back once more. Creating inviting, secure and smooth-running locations is a priority that cannot be overlooked at least, capitalised on at best.  

Data, however, is nothing without action, and only with the right software can you access, view, and create meaningful action from the reams of data an IoT network will produce. Adaptive, flexible, and intuitive software is the key to unlocking the productive power of remote monitoring.

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