Much more on the menu
Toby Waters / Photo by Kageaki Smith
Toby Waters / Photo by Kageaki Smith
Edenred can trace its roots to France in 1962 with the creation of Ticket Restaurant, a corporate service that distributes meal vouchers to employees of client companies. These vouchers can be redeemed for lunch at participating restaurants. According to Edenred Japan’s CEO Malik Roumane, this system, though simple, significantly benefits both employees and their companies.
“The office canteen is fantastic, don’t get me wrong,” he explains. “But the problem is that you’re always eating in the same place, the menus don’t change very often, and you always know what you’re going to get. You need to have more than that.”
By giving employees the opportunity to purchase food at various restaurants or stores outside their work place — and not have to pay the full price of the meal themselves — they enjoy a greater variety of food in their diet, and get some exercise as they walk to and from their eatery of choice. It’s certainly more satisfying than eating at your desk in front of your PC.
“You, as a worker, deserve better than low flexibility and limited choices when it comes to your lunch,” Roumane says.
The cumulative effect of Edenred’s voucher solution, he believes, is to boost employee morale and, therefore, business. In other words, it helps workers to be more engaged and productive, making life better for customers and more profitable for companies.
Ticket Restaurant came to Japan in 1987 and, since 2012, Edenred has been expanding and improving its range of services here. One of the most important changes it is implementing is the digitalisation of its meal voucher system. While Ticket Restaurant Touch — the option of using cards instead of vouchers — came late to Japan in April 2016, its adoption will be rapid.
“A few years ago, almost 100% of our clientele were serviced with a paper voucher solution,” Roumane says. “By the end of this year, 40% will be using a digital card solution. By the end of the Olympics next year, that number will be 100%.”
It’s a challenge to change how the company does business so quickly, Roumane admits, but one that is overdue.
“Some countries in Europe started this transition 15 or 20 years ago,” he says. “This process of catching up is going very fast, but it’s something we want to do.”
Introducing digital services is also bringing new possibilities for employee satisfaction. One example is the Ticket Restaurant smartphone app, which shows both participating restaurants in the surrounding area and the remaining balance on an employee’s account. Soon, Roumane notes, it will have additional features, including the ability to give recommendations based on criteria set by the user.
As part of Edenred’s growth strategy, called the Fast Forward Plan, it is branching out to help companies provide benefits to employees well beyond their lunches. In order to accomplish this, it has acquired or partnered with
several firms over the past several years. One important acquisition is ProwebCE, an employee engagement platform, which negotiates discounts for numerous companies’ employees on shopping, leisure and culture activities, and even vacations.
Changes such as these will ensure Edenred remains a leader in payment solutions for businesses. It will also help Japan become a country that is kinder to its workers.
“The government has decided to change the work place and make it more efficient, more friendly to women and the elderly, and one that will enable people to work from home,” Roumane says. “We really believe that solutions like the ones we have — and the desire to be the best companion company for the working world — help with this.”
Through the introduction of digital services at restaurants and other stores, Edenred is supporting those on the other side of the counter.
“Everything has been designed to make the sales staff more efficient, faster, and, in a way, make their lives easier,” says Roumane.
The firm’s digital offerings also help to improve the customer’s in-store experience with its Smart InChain solution, which started in the APAC region earlier this decade. Using customer relationship management technology, sales staff can get algorithmically generated suggestions based on a customer’s previous purchases — while giving the personal face-to-face service that can only come from interaction with a real sales assistant.
“We enable staff to give an offline experience that is as good as the online experience,” Roumane says. “There’s also better results, better sales and better productivity for the sales advisor.”
Edenred Japan also has ambitions to make transactions between businesses smoother, faster, easier and more cost efficient. Its global group recently acquired US-based Corporate Spending Innovations (CSI), a specialist in automating and streamlining B2B payments.
To illustrate what the firm’s product can do, Roumane gives the example of a hotel that might have employees spending a great deal of time and energy invoicing and settling payments with numerous vendors, such as florists, butchers and brewers. CSI’s cloud-based corporate payment software automatically sorts and pays invoices, which frees up time for hotel employees to do what they do best: serve their guests.
For Roumane, the future of employment is this fusion of technology taking care of the processes and people taking care of the relationships.
“We have a deep conviction that the working world is changing fast, and we want to stay ahead of these changes,” he says. “By changing like we are changing, we are moving into the real 21st century.”
As it leaves paper behind — and invests in startups and new technology — Edenred Japan is helping to build a world of work that ensures people come first. •