Hosted by Glion Institute of Higher Education
Nicola Munari: Good afternoon everybody. This is a new experience, a great opportunity to get to know each other. A quick introduction about the spirit of this panel. Veronica works in restaurant tech, a startup with an innovative approach to hospitality: Foodetective. While I (the speaker) work in the Michelin star restaurant industry as well as in the wine and distribution industry.
Today we will be talking about hospitality and about the aspects that we have seen evolving in the past years, sharing the advice following the experience that we have had in the hospitality industry and trying to understand its needs.
Q: So Veronica, would you like to introduce yourself and explain what is Foodetective and your role in it ?
Veronica Stacey: I had been working in event management up until Covid came around, that is when I started at Foodetective, a Restaurant Tech start-up that was born in 2018. Foodetective’s mission is to make restaurant’s lives much easier.
In complicated terms we are a unified API for the restaurant industry. But what does it really mean? Restaurants have a ton of hardware and software that they use (waste management, take-away, stock management, HR), up to 18 softwares that they use on a daily basis. Visually, using Foodetective means eliminating all the hardware from different apps into a single platform, but what is interesting is that more often than not, the data restaurateurs have is currently fragmented across operating systems, what we do at Foodetective is unite all the data under a single platform so that restaurants can have an intelligent operating system through which they can get notifications on how to improve their business.
It really is an all in one system personalised for restaurants that improves business and makes restaurateurs lives easier.
Q. Who are the users of this platform?
Veronica Stacey: Well we are actually a B2B to B2C platform. We have 2 different types of users. One on hand we have the restaurant staff who will be using the software on a daily basis or the restaurant owner who manages their business as has a complete overview of what goes on in the restaurant from orders, to marketing to stock.
At the same time, when you have a subscription on Foodetective we automatically create a profile for you on our website where users can find your restaurant and find out about the services offered. We cover it all: the end users (customers) all the way up to the manager.
Q. Amazing, you really are connecting the dots.
Is the industry growing?
Veronica Stacey: The restaurant sector, per se, has a 2.95 billion forecasted growth up to 2025. So, yes you could definitely say that the industry is growing. We opened during COVID, since restaurants *needed* and need to transform themselves and stay up to date with the digital trends in order to succeed.
Before restaurants had adapted to seasonal fluctuations, however at this moment there is a lot of instability, not only because of the pandemic itself but also because of political instability or customer confidence on spending. We created this software in order to give businesses the tools for better forecasting. Restaurants now can connect the dots in the food chain: we begin with wholesalers on the one side to the end user who will order from the restaurant.
Nicola Munari: All the collected and connected data in one single place is something quite smart and useful.
I have been working in Michelin star restaurants for the past 15 years and, up to a few years ago we would not even have been able to dream about this technology. Everyone was focusing on the artistic process of creation and service. This broadening horizon of perspective and working outside the perimeter of the restaurant is fundamental.
Q. What is the level of interaction Foodetective has with its partners and consumers?
Veronica Stacey: For the consumer side it is also advantageous. Since restaurants are uploading all this data: menu, delivery information, online ordering etc. the final consumer can go on our platform and have access to all of it and use our website to book, order, read reviews and guides created by our “detectives”. Saves time and makes everything accessible.
We seek to add value and connect the whole value chain because we focus on partnerships, so we strive to work closely with them. For instance for delivery, we integrate, technologically speaking with Uber Eats, Just Eat, Deliveroo. Then do the same for payments, review management, stock management, and so on.
What is great is restaurants don’t have to undergo extra training, we are not creating new softwares, we integrate the ones they already use or need and connect all their systems together. We have the whole industry underneath the same “umbrella” so that is easier for everyone to manage.
Some of the next features we will be focusing on are human resources, or waste management. As well as continue to be members of important groups such as the Swiss Food and Nutrition Valley.
Nicola Munari: Great.
Transparency also plays a big role in the industry nowadays. There are many projects interested in collecting information about where the food on our table comes from. The concept of Farm to Fork, for example, following the chain from the wheat to the baked bread is very in demand right now.
Therefore transparency is something to strive towards both when it comes to talking about what products restaurants are using to put dishes on our table and also about the HR strategy and what a company can give to people onboarding, looking at things like how the company interacts with the human resources it is an important aspect of transparency.
Q. What kind of interaction do you have with human resources, if any?
Veronica Stacey: Start-ups naturally are quite different from corporate environments. We are currently around 25 people working at Foodetective and we are building the team and adding new members as we see necessary. We always welcome spontaneous applications and are open to welcome new team members.
When it comes to HR, we have a colleague who takes care of the legal and contractual side, but really the whole interview process is done within the department that the candidate is interviewing for. Foodetective is a very flexible environment and we ask candidates for that same flexibility, we value candidates that have different assets.
For us it is important for the candidate to fit into the culture that we are building and into our aspirations rather than in a specific position. In fact, once you pass through the first stage of screening we will most likely look at your personality, your aspirations, we will try to understand things like: how much of a foodie you are, how much you understand restaurateurs, are you jack of all trades?
Before I was leading the marketing department, I was helping out with sales, talking with our partners and it has been immensely useful for what I do now: you need to know that side of our business in order to be efficient in marketing, understand what do they want to know, what they need, how can you help them. Now, for example, I am working with the UXI designer on various projects. Everyone in Foodetective is participating, cooperating and joining in the mission.
So for someone that is considering joining us, or any start-up really, send spontaneous applications, don’t be scared. Pitch why you are interested in our project and what you could offer, most of the time we end up opening positions or creating something that might be interesting for you to take part of. Sometimes you start in a certain position and then you move into a different department where we see you fit. You are most likely not gonna do a defined job from a to z, it’s going to be stimulating and a constant process of learning.
I also suggest to start studying the personality of the brand, they all have one. Study their social media, their presence, see what they do with employees on their off time and see whether it is a good fit for you.
Q. I like the idea you bring forward at Foodetective of thinking about restaurants in terms of brands. Absolutely phenomenal. How is the company structured?
Veronica Stacey: We have two offices: one in Geneva and one in Paris, where you can physically go and work. There are people who work better in a social environment and people who work better in isolated spaces to fully focus.
However Foodetective is hybrid, so as long as you are in a 2 or 3 hour time zone difference and you can adapt to the schedule we usually work in, you have a % of the time in which you can work from wherever you want.
Tools are given to us that are created to facilitate work, communication and cooperation, tools such as Slack, Monday.com, Hubspot, Confluence… We have plenty of these apps that help us interact on a daily basis and be as productive as we can be.
Q. Is the team growing?
Veronica Stacey: The company is growing. We’ve done a lot of integrations. Over 50 partners now and the workforce needs to grow as we have more integrations. In a startup you get to sell the dream: “This is what we can become and you will grow as the company grows, that is the motivation”. When I started 2 years ago we were 5 people, now we are over 25 and if you are a part of those people you will really be the witness of an impressive growth.
It’s been a master course for everyone joining. I always say it has been like a second master for me, you are constantly learning, improving and that is what really counts. You feel like you are making a difference and that’s what is most motivating about being in a startup.