To survive the crisis, the Elior group is accelerating its digital transformation

The collective catering model has undergone unprecedented disruptions in recent months. Due to the pandemic and the massive use of teleworking in confinement, the Elior group has boosted its digital services and increased its delivery methods.

Ordering from their mobile, taking advantage of click & collect, or managing the reloading of their lunch pass directly from their personal account, have become features accessible to consumers. Changes in health rules and new customer expectations, accustomed to the rapid services of delivery platforms, are all factors that are disrupting the group’s business model. The days of the classic corporate canteen are already long gone, since corners, thematic areas, and ready-to-eat foods have appeared.

“The triple health, economic and social crisis has given rise to a certain acceleration in digital subjects, and the rise of new models which tend to open up collective catering to the outside”, exhibits at Bernard Duverneuil, director of digital and information systems at Elior.

The Elior group, which has 22,000 catering outlets around the world, had to re-prioritize its action plan. “Digital is one of the main levers of economic recovery,” confirms Bernard Duverneuil, specifying that the crisis has confirmed the right direction of the group’s digital strategy, published more than a year ago. This massive digitization has enabled the group to test its “agility in the implementation of its digital solutions, and flexibility in the processes and production tools”, observes the manager.

Multiplied delivery methods

Concretely, this acceleration of digital uses has manifested itself in a multiplication of services and service models. “This is the acceleration of what we saw as basic trends,” notes Bernard Duverneuil, who also chairs the professional organization of Cigref. However, he assures us that “everything is not called into question, and traditional collective catering remains an important pillar. “

Faced with the closure of offices and the desertion of company restaurants and schools during the first confinement, production capacities had to be redirected overnight to sectors under pressure. The group has increased the use of click & collect and other delivery methods, through the deployment of click & serve (making it possible to receive meal reservations on mobile phones and ensure delivery to the office) and click & deliver (where delivery is made directly to the customer’s home).

With the rise of teleworking, Elior intends to continue exploring the path of home delivery. Two possible choices of business model are then available to the leader in the restaurant business: adopt, on the one hand, a “B to B to C” approach, or further deploy a support model, as is already done with seniors , making it possible in particular to deliver individual meals in the same geographical area and thus facilitate rounds.

Teleworking is a major challenge in this new era. Catering services are no longer simply directed to centralized reception areas such as companies, hospitals or schools. “Considering that companies add an additional day of teleworking on average to their organization, we must find a new way to compensate for this second day of telework in the week, to maintain our level of income, as well as our restoration mission. social benefits subsidized by the employer, ”says Bernard Duverneuil.

Digital strategy driven by customer experience and data

To successfully complete its digital transformation, the Elior group is concentrating its efforts on two fundamental points, namely the customer experience and a “data-based” strategy, explains Bernard Duverneuil. Mobile applications, such as TimeChef, offer more and more interactive features to access menus, place orders, or even reserve transit times. All these developments are made possible by the ability of IT teams to cross interfaces and databases between them.

On the back-office side, these efforts translate into more open systems, in particular through APIs, to enable the connection of digital tools and guarantee robustness and performance. “In terms of information systems, we have deployed more quickly solutions already tested in the past and considered viable from an operational and financial point of view. By relying on our systems, our processes and our production tools, we can offer innovative and profitable catering solutions ”, considers the manager.

Elior is also closely monitoring what is being done in the start-up ecosystem to integrate innovations in the field. The group is particularly interested in connected fridges, successfully implemented in recent months in companies to allow employees to freely collect meals pre-ordered on site. For the group, this new booming system allows better upstream inventory management and solves the problem of the last mile.

The company is also experimenting with other technologies in its catering areas, such as visual recognition of trays and digital checkout solutions, coupled with click & collect. The predictive model becomes inherent in upstream meal management, order history tracking and supply anticipation.

Bringing together the strengths of IS and digital

But to achieve a lasting integration of these innovations and new business models, budgetary rebalances are necessary. “There are sectors in which we continue to invest, such as digital and cybersecurity, and subjects on which we have room for maneuver,” says Bernard Duverneuil, stressing that the health and economic context undeniably leads to a “reduction significant cost ”. The savings are particularly concentrated on the infrastructure part, where less consuming technologies are integrated, and recourse to the cloud is anticipated “when it makes sense”, specifies the manager.

From an organizational point of view, the overall strategy of combining resources between IS and digital makes sense, assures Bernard Duverneuil. A particular focus is on cross-functionality between the different teams. “Operations are carried out in close collaboration with the business lines, using agile methods of course, but also by integrating greater flexibility within the project teams, and strong reactivity within the company. If we look back even five years, we see that the professions are much more involved in digital projects in the broad sense, because they are business projects above all. “

Asked about the impacts of teleworking in this more agile mode, Bernard Duverneuil observes, paradoxically, that this new remote working mode has “favored transversality”, since in the absence of unity of place, “exchanges take place. between individuals ”. If the director is fairly convinced of the efficiency of teleworking teams, he believes, on the other hand, that a hybrid organization would be liable in the long term to “complicate the dynamics of meetings”.

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