TECHNOLOGY

Order in the (Food) Court: WAAVE is Using AI to Turn Singapore’s F&B Businesses Cashless

Diners no longer need to clamor for the service staff’s attention in a busy F&B venue — they simply WAAVE instead

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BY Tricia V. Morente - 24 Nov 2017

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

As Singapore continues her push towards going cashless as part of the country’s Smart Nation initiatives, the myriad of options and lack of integration among payment systems, as observed by Prime Minister Lee Hsein Loong, appears to be slowing down the rate of adoption.

This is especially apparent in the food and beverage (F&B) industry where, according to the SPRING Singapore 2016 Food Services Industry report, F&B operations in Singapore are still lagging behind their regional and international peers in the various sub-sectors when it comes to productivity. 

In their quest to usher in a cashless future for the country’s food and beverage (F&B) industry, WAAVE founder Silvana Carpanelli-Hayes is looking to address the industry’s pain points. “There’s a need to streamline operations in F&B and events. This need is obvious in places like Singapore where manpower shortage is a constant problem. With limited staff operating at the POS (point-of-sale) system, it forms a bottleneck for orders to be processed more quickly especially when it gets busy. Customers end up getting frustrated,” she relates.

WAAVE’s solution? To repurpose customers’ phones by turning them into a fully-operational POS system that can be used at multiple venues for ordering and paying. The solution Carpanelli-Hayes launched in February 2016 integrates with F&B POS systems, such that customers no longer need to wave for the service staff’s attention every time they order food — they need only WAAVE instead.

There’s also the added convenience of going cashless: customers don’t need to pull out cash or credit cards while dining or drinking out. Everything is paid for securely within the app.

The same convenience extends to F&B vendors, as there’s no need to install additional hardware to adopt the WAAVE system. “Orders can be processed immediately without the need for the business to fork out upfront costs to join the wave and improve operational flow,” says Carpanelli-Hayes, adding that every business transaction is traced and recorded, thereby eliminating any form of human error and susceptibility to theft that could eat into revenue.

It’s a business model that’s showing promising results.

Not only has WAAVE improved the service gap between customers and F&B venues, it has likewise increased F&B work productivity by an average of 30% by allowing more orders to be processed per staff member.

There are currently 21,000 members onboard with WAAVE across 72 active venues in Singapore. Year-on-year growth in registration is a strong 72% from 2016 to 2017, with revenue increasing by 135% on the same period. As of press time, “close to 160,000 drinks” have been ordered with WAAVE.

These stats are set to improve, as WAAVE is now “smarter than ever,” says Carpanelli-Hayes. “We’ve a newly-launched feature called Open Dialogue that leverages machine learning and AI technology to understand consumer usage patterns when they engage with the app.”

Through the data acquired from repeated use, WAAVE is able to anticipate customers’ needs and make personalized order suggestions, including what to get and where to go. The app has also incorporated built-in memberships and loyalty programs so partner venues can offer customers rewards for WAAVE-ing.

Moving forward, Carpanelli-Hayes says they are eyeing Bali, Indonesia as another potential market for WAAVE. “It’s a different set of issues from Singapore. In a place like Bali, there’s certainly no shortage of staff, but there are loads of cash transactions which make it more susceptible to theft issues,” she relates.

Indeed, anybody who has traveled to Bali has probably experienced the risks that come with cash transactions, from getting short-changed and receiving false currency, to rigged ATMs and calculators. “Tourists have been advised against handing over credit cards at bars and restaurants as well to avoid dealing with fake charges later on,” adds Carpanelli-Hayes. “With WAAVE in the picture, we want to eliminate that risk.”