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Why has only half the catering industry been transformed by mobile?

There are some industries where sitting in front of a computer can be more of a hinderance, than a help. The catering industry is one of them. Payments have been transformed, thanks to new services and hardware from companies like Square, iZettle and PayPal.

There are some industries where sitting in front of a computer can be more of a hinderance, than a help. The catering industry is one of them. Everything from bookings, orderings, stocktaking, website management, employee management, property management, equipment maintenance and more can now, largely, be done with greater ease thanks to mobile devices, such as smartphones and tablets.

Payments have been transformed, especially for mobile caterers, thanks to new services and hardware from companies like Square, iZettle and PayPal. These services are able to lower the cost of enabling card and mobile payments, whilst also speeding up the time it takes to process. Other solutions have also helped to turn devices like the iPad into smart tills for the front of house, which in many cases are cheaper than traditional systems.

Elsewhere, the delivery industry has undergone an Uber like transformation thanks to the rise of apps like Just Eat, Hungry House and Deliveroo, the latter of which has just earned $100 million to help it expand, indicating the potential for such services. These apps led to the UK take-away industry contributing an estimated £9 billion to the UK economy in 2014, according to Just Eat and economic analysts at the Centre for Economics and Business Research (Cebr).

It’s not just the takeaway industry. For a number of years, services which started off as websites and then became highly popular apps like OpenTable, FourSquare, Tripadvisor and mapping apps have also contributed to increases in restaurant bookings and takings. According to Bookatable, 40% of online bookings are made on a phone or tablet

For customers, it’s never been easier to find, order or pay for food.

Key to the success of apps and mobile within the catering industry has been the impact it has on improving the process for both businesses and end customers; yet much of the industry is still underserved by mobile. At the front end, apps are revolutionising the way in which catering and hospitality is done, yet at the backend with operations, traditional providers of software for caterers are dragging their heals.

Chief among them is the corporate catering industry, which still largely relies on PCs, paper and pen. As these companies continue to diversify to offer more property management services, and meet demands for fresh, healthy food without increasing costs dramatically, they need to work more efficiently and intelligently.

Corporate catering companies often run a vast array of sites for different corporate clients. Delivering enhanced productivity and efficiencies across their sites, ensuring that health and safety checks are carried out properly and operations run smoothly is a key challenge that mobile can solve.

There is a huge opportunity in this space for companies to drive improvements to their operations and deliver their customers with a better overall service. We are already seeing a rise of challengers to this space, though services which are already delivering fresh food into businesses, which are driven by mobile.

Outside of core operations, ensuring that food remains fresh and that orders can be processed quickly, mobile has the potential to further lower costs and wastage by delivering important intelligence where it’s needed.

Whilst it’s promising that so much of the industry has seen the benefit that mobile can bring, there’s still a large part of it that will benefit from mobilisation.

In addition to the corporate catering industry, back of house operations could also benefit from their ‘Just Eat’ moment. By focusing on operations and what is happening at the backend, across the entire catering industry food chain, improvements can help to deliver lower overall costs through improved customer service, improved operational efficiencies and less waste.

Mobilisation is really about helping to solve some of the challenges that end users have. For customers, many of these challenges have been solved, so now is the time to focus on internal operations and focus on other sides of the catering industry. The technology is now at the point where it is relatively cheap and easy to drive innovation into this space.

Apps are key to this, but it requires companies to try to see where the bottlenecks are in their operations and be the leaders in innovation and transformation to deliver benefits.

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