What Online F&B and Hospitality Businesses Should Look Out For?

Nadine Kahaleh , Apr 05 2017

Setting up an online presence for F&B and Hospitality businesses was the subject of the panel organized in collaboration between ArabNet and Horeca 2017 – held in Biel, Beirut.

Drawing from their personal experience in the industry, the guests Remo Giovanni Abbondandolo - Expansion Director at Travelstart Middle East - and Bechara Haddad - Country Manager in Lebanon for Zomato – talked about how an F&B and Hospitality business should capitalize on the power of online to grow and expand.

The panelists spoke of the power of data in transforming the customer experience, and the importance of adopting an online mindset, among many other topics that we will elaborate down below. So, buckle up!

The Pillars of Starting an Online Presence

Travelstart – Payments and Data on a Pedestal
As explained by Giovanni, ensuring local payment methods and keeping a strong eye on data analytics constitute the spine that sustains a successful ecommerce business.

Giovanni underlines the importance of localization, and places it as a crucial component to a positive online experience. He also basks into the limelight the relevance of data analytics in understanding consumer behavior, and optimizing the ecommerce company’s strategy.

Zomato – The Visual Experience
Speaking from an F&B perspective, Bechara explains how captivating and high-quality pictures can lure the customer into trying out a new restaurant – pictures beef up the branding of the dining experience, if used correctly. He insists that there should be distinctive guidelines in terms of displaying pictures (of a meal, setting, restaurant, etc.) – whether on social networks, web, etc.

Also, Bechara brings to the surface the necessity of keeping the data up-to-date, and liaising with F&B business owners to keep track of the validity of the information about the restaurant.


Remo Giovanni Abbondandolo - Expansion Director at Travelstart Middle East. 

The Top Common Mistakes to Avoid

Travelstart – Prioritizing localization
Giovanni mentions that the lack of localization is a widespread mistake in ecommerce - understanding the culture of a market is very crucial, as it dictates the business decisions that fall under it. He uses language as an example of a poorly or well done localization “you can’t dismiss Arabic language from your website, if you’re targeted to the Middle East for instance”, he says.

On a different note, shortcomings in terms of respecting the online mindset and abiding by its rules is another common mistake ecommerce business owners do -- “you cannot apply offline rules to online”, Giovanni  insists.

Zomato – Answering Customers
As online reviews can make or break an F&B company’s reputation and endanger the quality of its word of mouth, it is very important to stay well-aware of all the feedback that’s being submitted by the customers – according to Bechara. “Listening to the customers is a must”; however, answering them is placed higher on the list “but a lot of companies fail to do so.”

He also points to the necessity of handling a negative review constructively “take a few days before you answer your customer” -- it will give business owners time to investigate, detect the source of the problem, and satisfy their unhappy customer. 

In addition to the above, Bechara stresses the point of constantly updating the website information in order to avoid confusions and false expectations. “Update menus, meals, prices, etc,” he says.


Bechara Haddad - Country Manager in Lebanon for Zomato.

Data is Key to Anticipating & Understanding

 Travelstart – Sales, Revenues, Searches  
Aggregating data and analyzing it are both very important components to the process of optimizing the customers’ shopping journey on an ecommerce website; “take a look at your sales revenues, the percentage of users who completed the transactions, those who abandoned their carts, etc.”, says Giovanni , as they all constitute effective pointers in the aforementioned process.

Moreover, monitoring what visitors are searching for on the website is a great factor to estimate demand and anticipate forthcoming trends, according to Giovanni.

Zomato – Search Filters
Observing customers’ filter choices and analyzing them is a good strategy to detect the most popular dishes, latest eating trends, preferred dining spots, etc. Bechara elaborates “filters help reveal what’s becoming a trend by using different parameters – region, age, type of food per region, etc.”






Catch up on what you've missed