Posted: 01/03/2022

View from HQ: Let’s embrace technology, but not like the supermarkets


View from HQ

Only some of you are going to get this cultural reference, writes John Farrand, Guild of Fine Food MD. I wasn’t a Star Wars or Star Trek boy. I was very much Back to the Future. I loved that foray looking ahead to 2015 in part two. There were hoverboards, people chatting over video phones and flying cars. Technology to get excited about.

So, I tucked into the rushes of this month’s lead feature looking at the future of retailing (p34) with child-like enthusiasm. What’s to come, what will it look like, and most importantly, will we need a flux capacitor? The article looks at key areas of innovation, broadly looking at what the supermarkets are doing. We should all embrace technology, but independents shouldn’t be implementing it for the same reasons as the multiples.

Surely the food and drink goliaths are embracing no-contact and self-service to have fewer employees and lower costs? They don’t need to chat to customers or tell them the story behind why that cheese has a layer of olive stone ash running through it, or indeed ask them how their mum is. 

Which is what I did this morning in our local fishmonger. We’d promised him some of the Great Taste Golden Fork-grabbing Sublime Butter No. 55. We made that delivery, having promised Ash some after swapping recipe ideas before Christmas. We chatted about trade generally, our family, his family, and left. We didn’t even buy anything. But we’ll be back because we like Ash and we like shopping there and the fish is top-drawer. 

Our trade needs people, service and contact. And technology could remove that as well as help you. I can see a place for having an online offer bolted onto your shop, and I quite like the augmented reality angle: we’ve been looking at QR codes on shelves for award-winners for a couple of years. E-commerce can find you more customers and the latter could help you explain that Morbier-like goats’ cheese from southern Spain through a well-made video. Whether I’ll be watching it on Star Trek-style Smart Glasses is questionable. I may just stick to my phone.


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