Aigens Technology to cash in on Hong Kong’s self-order ‘tap and eat’ trend, targeting systems in 5,000 outlets in city by 2022

Jun 23, 2019 | Media Coverage

Original Source:

  • Move is in line with ‘smart city’ innovation push, and seeks to solve manpower and operating issues
  • Platform centres on ordering on mobile phones or kiosks and digital or tap-and-go payment

A Hong Kong firm is set to increase the number of restaurants equipped with its self-order “tap and eat” technology by up to 10 times in a bid to cash in on a growing trend amid the city’s push to embrace innovation.

Aigens Technology, the architect of the self-checkout system used by some fast-food chains such as Cafe de Coral and Maxim’s Group, is aiming to have some 5,000 restaurants install its platform by 2022, up from the current number of about 500. These include in-store kiosks, as well as tablet or smartphone software to allow diners the convenience of ordering food at their fingertips.

With the technology, users can access menus and order food on kiosk screens, tablets or their own smartphones via QR code, sparing them long queues at cashiers. Payment is made through credit card or Octopus at kiosks, or through digital transactions on mobile phones.

Aigens co-founder Hans Paul, a Hongkonger who worked as a software consultant in the US for 10 years, estimated there were about 10,000 eateries in the city in general. He said he hoped to seize at least half of the market share of those which were suitable for the self-order service.

On Paul’s list are fast-food chains, hotpot outlets and cha chaan tengs.

“Hongkongers are efficient. After all, when there is any method that can provide convenience to them, they will be open to it,” he said.

The move is part of a global trend of restaurants seeking to revolutionise ordering and payment methods, and is in line with Hong Kong’s “smart city” push, with about HK$45 billion allocated to boost the innovation sector in this year’s budget.

Simon Wong Ka-wo, president of the Hong Kong Federation of Restaurants and Related Trades, estimated that a restaurant could cut its cost by 20 to 30 per cent by fully utilising self-order technology.

He added that it would also reduce manpower costs and make it easier for operators to control finances.

Wong said the food and beverage industry faced a labour crunch, and the sector would need about 30,000 workers for its development.

“[Technology] is not about competing with humans. It’s just for improving the industry to make operations smoother,” he said.

Hong Kong Day, a cha chaan teng branch of Maxim’s with more than 10 outlets across the city, is one of those planning to introduce the self-order platforms this year. MiMiDi, a traditional noodle shop brand also under the group, will have two outlets allowing customers to place orders with their smartphones.

Peggy Chong Wing-nam, Maxim’s senior brand development manager under its quick service restaurant and catering services division, brushed aside worries about technology resulting in job losses for employees.

“We have been hiring for a long time … Each restaurant is trying to find a way to keep up with the quality of food and services given that they are short of staff,” she said.

Chong said the group would not save much by deploying the machines. According to her, setting up a platform for consumers to tap and order with their phones would cost a five-figure sum at a restaurant while installing two kiosks cost more than HK$100,000.

But she noted the platform allowed managers to identify popular dish combinations, among other useful data that would be available.

Francis Fong Po-kiu, honorary president of the Hong Kong Information Technology Federation, said that even though the development of such systems was more advanced in other countries, Hong Kong did not lag far behind in this aspect.

He expected the technology to eventually become widespread locally.

Fong said he believed the machines could help resolve manpower issues as some restaurant chains had extended their operating hours. “This could be a way out. Apart from providing efficiency, it can help reduce manpower needed and prolong service hours.

“With these retailing platforms, it will be easier for people to do data analysis, which is hard for bare eyes.”