Embracing digital to offer travelling consumers tailored, efficient F&B experiences

Autogrill is Corporate Sponsor of this year’s ACI EUROPE Airport Commercial & Retail Conference & Exhibition, with Chief Marketing Officer Ezio Balarini participating in the Innovation Masterclass at the event. Interview by Ross Falconer

Ezio Balarini, Chief Marketing Officer, Autogrill: “We are committed to providing our guests with services that meet the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s travellers while, at the same time, making an important contribution to the gradual adoption of advanced digital behaviours on the go.”

Digital transformation is touching all aspects of the travel experience. New technologies are reshaping the way travelling consumers interact with retail and food & beverage (F&B) brands, both physically and digitally.

F&B operator Autogrill, for example, is building partnerships, projects and services to advance the digital evolution of its offering. “We are committed to providing our guests with services that meet the needs of today’s and tomorrow’s travellers while, at the same time, making an important contribution to the gradual adoption of advanced digital behaviours on the go,” says Ezio Balarini, Chief Marketing Officer, Autogrill.

Indeed, Autogrill recently signed an agreement with PayPal, through which it has introduced a mobile proximity payment system in its directly-operated locations, allowing customers to pay with their smartphones via the MyAutogrill app. The service is currently available in Italy and will be rolled out in other countries.

This is just one step in the digital transformation that is a key strategic priority for the operator. Balarini emphasises the importance of tailoring digital solutions to the particular needs or behaviours of guests in each location. Autogrill recently introduced kiosks for pre-ordering in 26 quick-service restaurants in North America and over 20 in Europe, with the aim of allowing customers to better manage their time at the airport.

Kallpod is a communication tool which directly connects guests with restaurant staff for quicker, more efficient service. It works by placing the ‘Kallpods’ – small circular ‘pinging’ devices with three simple buttons – on tables so that guests can request service when they are ready to order, to ask for an additional item, or to request the bill.

“In North America, HMSHost has finalised an exclusive agreement with Kallpod, based on which a new generation interactive service will be made available in 100 restaurants across 33 airports,” Balarini adds.

Kallpod is a communication tool which directly connects guests with restaurant staff for quicker, more efficient service. It works by placing the ‘Kallpods’ – small circular ‘pinging’ devices with three simple buttons – on tables so that guests can request service when they are ready to order, to ask for an additional item, or to request the bill. The Kallpod immediately notifies staff via ‘Kallwatches’ – digital wristwatches which display the guests’ service needs, as well as updates from kitchen staff.

“The system allows staff to better manage time and provide travellers with more accurate and faster service crucial inside airports,” says Balarini. “The HMSHost-Kallpod partnership represents a step forward for the entire travel dining sector.”

Meanwhile, Autogrill has introduced a tablet ordering system – QIKSERVE – in its Kebaya Asian food outlet at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol. Customers choose from the menu and order using tablets placed at their table. The order is then immediately sent to the kitchen. “This enables us to serve all dishes within 15 minutes, enhancing the F&B experience,” Balarini explains.

Alongside its desire to deliver an “interactive, personalised and memorable” experience, Autogrill remains strongly rooted in each region of operation, offering authentic, regional flavours. “Each location is conceived to transmit authenticity to travellers,” says Balarini. “The needs of customers on the go are always at the centre of the spaces we develop, in order to provide an engaging experience in which each detail is conceived to provide a 360-degree experience.”

Digital innovation is essential across commercial activities, as airports and their partners aim to thrive in an increasingly technology-centric world. Delegates will learn more on tailored digital solutions at this year’s ACI EUROPE Airport Commercial & Retail Conference & Exhibition.

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