The speedy expansion of Servy, the self-service ordering platform for airport hospitality, has enabled the startup to cross ten million orders this month, a year ahead of its target date of November 2022. The company has also just entered its 13th market by partnering with Montréal-Trudeau International Airport in Canada.
The ten millionth transaction took place at a Wendy’s restaurant run by catering specialist Areas USA, which has more than 150 restaurants and travel retail stores in American airports. Other big clients include Paradies Lagardère, which has expanded its MishiPay mobile self-checkout service, and the U.S. airport division of global mall developer Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield.
In November 2020, Mark Bergsrud CEO of Servy (then called Grab) told Forbes.com that he expected to hit ten million “within two years.” The cautious forecast, made at a time when Covid-19 was still playing havoc with travel, was one year out, but he won’t be complaining.
In a social media post, Servy’s chief experience officer Jeff Livney, said: “When it takes five years to get to five million transactions and then you double that in one year during a global pandemic that is significantly affecting your primary sector of airports, you know the paradigm shift has begun.”
Servy, known as Grab until the start of this year, was founded in 2014 in Houston, Texas and launched in 2015. Grab remains the name for the airport digital commerce app which is now used in more than 80 airports, mainly across the U.S., but also Europe, the Middle East and Asia-Pacific.
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The company claims it is now the largest omnichannel airport e-commerce platform, available at more than 1,000 restaurants. Customers have options such as self-order, self-checkout kiosks, and an order-and-pay-at-table solution called Order@. This allows for a traditional dining service to be integrated with contactless ordering and payment through a guest’s own devices without the need for an app.
Contactless ordering in uncertain times
CEO of Areas USA, Carlos Bernal, said: “Many of our guests are turning to self-service options for stress-free ordering and the freedom to choose how they order.” It is also one reason why the partnership at Montréal has taken off. There, the airport operator, Aéroports de Montréal (ADM) calls it a ‘click and collect your meal’ service. “It allows passengers and airport employees to order their meals online from participating restaurants and then collect them at designated pick-up locations, all without waiting in line,” said the airport operator.
In a new phase of the Covid-19 pandemic, when the latest variant Omicron has started a new round of travel bans, contactless food ordering will grow in popularity. Sébastien Duteau, marketing and commercial director at ADM said: “We are continuing to do all we can to ensure our airport is a safe and reassuring environment. Our partnership with Servy is an important element in a comprehensive suite of measures and we’re looking forward to rolling out the platform across the airport in the future.”
So far, the Grab Airport Marketplace, which launched this month in Canada, has been rolled out to nine restaurants at Montréal-Trudeau, but eventually 40 stores are expected to be part of the lineup.
Scale could provide useful insights
The fast growth in airports has given Servy the scale to analyze and assess—in a meaningful way—transaction data from an expanding user base. “This enables the right decisions to be made about what’s best for our customers and their travelling guests,” said Livney.
In theory, the result should be a better dining experience and improving revenues as menus are fine-tuned and service elements such as turnaround times are adjusted.
Using artificial intelligence and machine learning, Servy Insights+ has been developed and touted as a way for airports and hospitality players to leverage data. Livney said: “This is a ‘rising tide floats all boats’ moment for the industry.”
Whether the scale that Servy has is enough to be a game-changer has yet to be demonstrated. But it’s a start for the airport channel which has been very slow to keep up with the domestic market on consumer behavior and insights.
The latest data from Servy’s sister company Airport Dimensions found 60% of travelers would consider using digital pre-order services to make food and beverage purchases at airports, with the fastest growth occurring in the U.S. and the U.K., where Servy has a significant presence. These data were extracted before the emergence of Omicron which is likely to lift pre-order and touch-free demand.