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Staff crunch? Businesses turn to tech

WINE ON TAP: The owners of Napoleon Food & Wine Bar in Telok Ayer invested in four wine-dispensing machines located within the dining area that allow customers to serve themselves.


    Jul 17, 2014

    Staff crunch? Businesses turn to tech

    NO ONE to serve you? More consumers are rolling up their sleeves and serving themselves.

    And businesses are installing technology to help them do it. This enables businesses to deploy staff elsewhere and shave manpower costs.

    The owners of Napoleon Food & Wine Bar in Telok Ayer have set up four wine-dispensing machines in the dining area. The customer inserts a card each time he wants to pour himself some wine and it bills him accordingly.

    Co-owner Pearl Pillaert said this has saved the bar from hiring one to two more service staff.

    "The self-service systems allow us to focus more on communicating with the client instead of serving. We try to make it an experience for them," said Ms Pillaert.

    There are at least three other outlets - gastro pub Cook & Brew, Praelum Wine Bistro and wine bar and restaurant Vintry - which have installed similar systems in their premises within the past three years.

    Cinema operator Golden Village (GV) introduced Quick Tix in October last year - a QR code that patrons scan before entering the theatre.

    Customers are sent the QR code in an e-mail when they buy tickets online or via a mobile app. With this, they no longer have to collect the tickets at the box office.

    The system is available at all 11 GV outlets.

    "Prior to the introduction of Quick Tix, there were long queues at the box office to purchase tickets, or collect them if you booked them on the Internet and through remote channels," said a GV spokesman.

    Extra staff had to be deployed to cater to the queues on weekends and during the blockbuster season.

    More than 50 per cent of GV's customers have adopted the new system.

    Now Ikea is jumping on the bandwagon.

    The Swedish furnishing store installed eight self-checkout counters at its Alexandra branch in October last year.

    "This system helps lower the pressure on manpower needed to serve customers during peak hours as well," said Janet Lee, customer relations manager at Ikea Alexandra.

    And at the FairPrice supermarket chain, self-checkout counters, introduced in 2011 to eliminate the need for cashiers to scan and bag groceries, are available at 16 stores. By the year end, at least 20 stores will have the facility.

    Some 10 to 15 per cent of customers use these counters, said FairPrice chief executive Seah Kian Peng.

    Retail expert Sarah Lim, a senior lecturer at Singapore Polytechnic's business school, said that the move towards self-service can ease the manpower crunch and allow customers to make decisions in their own time.

    Said research writer Faith Tan, 26, a regular user of the counter at FairPrice's Bishan outlet: "It is much faster to use the self-checkout counter, especially for those who are buying just a few items. It is easy to use and hassle-free."

    Another consumer thinks that these self-help options should be implemented only for regular activities like grocery shopping and going to the movies.

    "When it comes to fine-dining restaurants, where the experience is important, that human touch is still indispensable," said editor Lindsay Davis, 31.