Australia is known as one of the best culinary destinations in the world. Our multicultural population and access to local fresh produce means it’s hard to find an eatery that leaves you disappointed. By the same token, competition in the dining industry is high.

The Australian Bureau of Statistics published September 2022 quarter retail spending results that showed, “Department stores had the largest quarterly volume rise, up 4.4 per cent, followed by cafes, restaurants and takeaway food services (3.3 per cent), and clothing, footwear and personal accessory retailing (3.2 per cent). These industries have been the top three in terms of volumes growth in each of the past four quarters, mostly driven by post-lockdown demand.”

When comparing spending in these areas to same time last year, the Australian Retailers Association (ARA) recently published that “As we continued to cycle the Delta lockdowns of 2021, there were substantial year on year sales increases across all categories, led by clothing, footwear and personal accessories (up 70.4%), cafés, restaurants and take away food (up 52.6%) and department stores (up 53.6%).”

One point that the ARA raised was that, “Overall trading conditions continue to be challenged by supply chain constraints and staff shortages with vacancies continuing to be at record levels.” The staff shortage challenge is clear, and it is not one that can be eradicated quickly.

Can technology help?

Yes, on a number of levels. Let’s start with the basics. Technology that ensures merchants can conduct nuts-and-bolts retailing don’t receive a lot of attention but they’re essential. One of the core workhorse technologies helping to support all kinds of digital systems inside dining outlets is cellular broadband. 

Food outlets and retailers are increasingly opting for cellular networks to power POS terminals and in-store video surveillance cameras, or as failover (backup connection) because of the increased reliability and flexibility that cellular provides.  

Food outlets that utilise pop-up stalls at markets for example, vending machines or interactive kiosks know that establishing wired connections can take months. In contrast, obtaining cellular connections can be done in days. Moving a landline often involves huge expense, time, and effort. Moving a cellular-connected operation is a cinch and almost always is far less expensive. 

For stores wired by landlines, interruptions like a construction mishap or weather event can take down a connection. Turning customers away during the holidays because a POS system suffers a glitch can be hard to come back from, especially after the ongoing interruptions to the dining sector over the last few years. To eliminate some of this risk, employing network diversity can be helpful.  

During busy periods, food retailers can choose to practice something known as router redundancy. Say for example, a business that operates during evening hours experiences an outage at night to its landline-connection. If that’s the store’s only connection, it’s out of luck. Chances are that tech-support staff are off duty.  

An additional cellular router used as a backup or failover solution can enable staff to keep operations humming and customers happy. This kind of redundancy is also handy when maintenance must be done. When calculating the cost-benefit ratio of a second router, retailers should also take into consideration the additional number of already stretched staff that would be required to manage a dinner service when payment or digital ordering systems are down.


Relying on connectivity in food outlets

Many new applications have been created and enabled by a trusty old retail technology: security cameras. Smart video has enhanced its primary function, which is providing security. One modern smart camera equipped with 360-degree vision and 4k resolution may be sufficient to replace three or four traditional cameras — reducing cost while improving coverage.  

Many dining outlets in recent years have sought to completely remake the food ordering experience. Although it started as a COVID safety measure to minimise service staff interaction with customers and avoid sharing physical menus between customers, digital food ordering systems might be here to stay in some venues.

While relying on stable connectivity, scanning a QR code and ordering from a digital menu is quicker and easier than the traditional way. It enables venues to change seasonal menus more easily (no printing costs), can help with customer loyalty (store your favourite orders for next time) and requires fewer waiting staff on the venue floor. It’s a concept that has already been used by apps like Uber Eats for example.

Citizen reviews for food and venues have become more valuable than food critic reviews. With the rise of social media, there’s an opportunity for food outlets to let their patrons ‘do the talking’ for them. Using connected digital signage, food outlets can let patrons post photos of their food and venue onto their social media platforms and display posts on digital signage at the venue. Similarly, connected digital signage can be used to display daily changing menus or images from functions at a venue.

The future of dining out 

Anticipating how the dining retail sector will evolve isn’t easy. In the near-term, restaurants owners are focused on recovering from the past two years and navigating the slumping economy.  

Meanwhile, whether a food outlet wishes to create new interactive experiences, implement new tech tools to boost operational efficiency, or simply ensure that its internet connection has redundancy, the need for cost-effective, high-speed connectivity will continue to rise.  


There’s also the emergence of 5G to consider. The fifth generation and most recent technology standard for broadband cellular networks continues to get rolled out by the major carriers across Australia.  

While most of today’s retail applications do fine on 4G LTE, it’s widely recognised that the faster speeds and greater capacity 5G offers will open the door for breakthrough applications, some that haven’t even been thought up yet.  

When it comes to creating the next generation of leading food retail apps, the merchants that acquire the most experience using 5G may be the ones that map the course of the industry’s future.