Leveraging tech for success

Have you taken steps to introduce technology into your hospitality business? Whether you are an owner or employee, the hospitality industry is making up for lost time when it comes to technology improvements.

Hotels are faced with a unique set of challenges with the rise of services like Airbnb and are focused on enabling digital customer engagement, with 52 percent saying it’s their top strategic goal for technology. Below, we explore the top ways to introduce and improve tech in your hospitality business.

FOOD & BEVERAGE

Tech at the table

We’re not suggesting you install tablets for digital ordering at every place setting—after all, taking this step may be too drastic (or expensive) for most. But consider making it optional for customers to employ the use of a tablet ordering system. According to a recent study of IT decision-makers representing the quick service restaurant (QSR), casual dining/full-service, and fine-dining industry segments, 41 percent said tableside ordering devices will be a priority in 2018.

As the trend shifts towards faster service, there is an indication that consumers want options interwoven with their dining experience when it comes to tech. In a recent survey, 79 percent of diners said that restaurant technology improves their guest experience. By installing tableside tech, savvy customers can engage at their leisure while more traditional diners can place their order with servers the old-fashioned way. Tech at the table also allows customers to feel more in control of the bill paying process and may even encourage them to spend more freely (bonus!)

Tech in back of house

While tablets and tech are a “maybe” in your dining room, they should be prevalent in back of house. Tablet systems with digital workforce operating systems, like Harri, can be used for a wide array of things, including a smart time clock with facial recognition login, alerting employees to announcements upon clocking in, and the opportunity to instantly poll employees upon clocking out. This creates a more interactive, transparent work environment in which you’re able to easily communicate with, and thus educate, your staff—which in turn leads to better customer service and increased sales.

Over the past 5‒10 years, one of the biggest changes in the restaurant technology sphere has been the ability for customers to discover new restaurants through the growth of social media applications like Facebook, Instagram, and OpenTable. These apps connect consumers to the broader world and allow them to experience a wider variety of dining options at their fingertips. This has led to a shift from people favoring their usual haunts to being open to new experiences.

As an owner/operator or manager, you have the ability to tell your powerful brand story through social media. By capitalizing on these free platforms, you’ll be able to share menu updates, seasonal specials, beautiful imagery, and more—using hashtags and geotags to allow new consumers to discover your dining options. Telling your brand story can garner you more customers, and telling your hiring story can garner you the best people.

60 percent of consumers are more likely to choose a hotel that is smartphone enabled.

Reporting

It’s 2017: time to ditch the spreadsheets and rely on more sophisticated tech for reporting. Your staff, while a rich source of information, cannot be expected to do the same manual data collection that computers or digital solutions can do. Managers may not be able to identify who of your staff is most effective, or how the new special is performing. But with smarter technology, you have the ability to do so.

Attracting the right people

You may think a new restaurant in town is to blame for a slump in sales—but it could just be the way the trends are turning. Millennials are more likely to be health-conscious, cook at home, and order takeout. As a business owner, you need to keep customer engagement front of mind and think creatively about how to always be inviting people to come through your door.

LODGING

Mobile enhancements & efficiency

Content and Entertainment

The rise and accessibility of the smartphone has forever changed the way people interact with each other, which in turn has a direct impact on the way they expect to interact with businesses. Case in point: 60 percent of consumers are more likely to choose a hotel that is smartphone-enabled.

Mobile-friendly solutions in hotels have dominated the list of new tech rollouts for businesses in recent years. Things like mobile booking, mobile check-in options, and even mobile room access are hot commodities that customers are looking for their hotels to provide. In fact, mobile represented roughly half of all travel bookings in 2016. Mobile options not only streamline hotel operations, but they also enhance the guest experience through efficiency.

Mobile booking is good for both customers and business, as time-starved travelers are better equipped to make last-minute bookings, which hotels can then capitalize on. (Mobile-savvy hoteliers understand the importance of native apps when it comes to promoting deals.) Once at the hotel, guests do not have to wait in long lines at the front desk, enabling travelers on a time crunch to breeze through check-in and get settled, leading to higher satisfaction rates. Finally, mobile room keys have the benefit of added security and lessen the risk that the hotel will lose money from misplaced or lost keys.

Content & entertainment

Increasingly, with the rise of streaming services like Netflix and Hulu, many travelers are relying on their own electronics in order to consume content during their hotel stay. In fact, the average guest travels with three Wi-Fi enabled devices. In order to keep up with this trend, hotels must choose to address two key things.

The first is to make impressive updates to technology in each room, replacing outdated TVs with upgraded flatscreens and enhanced HD content. These upgraded electronics will be able to interface easily with common guest mobile devices, such as mobile smartphones and tablets, allowing for the most seamless viewing experience.

Mobile Enhancements and Efficiency

The second is to boost bandwidth, which is a priority of roughly one-third of hotels, as well as cloud services and offerings. Hotels that can’t keep up with these trends stand to lose a lot of money: The amount of revenue lost across the hospitality industry due to poor Wi-Fi offerings is estimated to be roughly $5 billion per year.

Energy conservation

Hotels have a unique opportunity to become more energy-efficient, and technology is a driving force behind this. 20 percent of hotels listed energy conservation as a priority last year. Though not as big of a priority as security and entertainment and content updates, many hotels are choosing to lead the way for the next generation of environmentally friendly hotels.

Even if a hotel chooses not to go “full eco” there are still small changes that can be made with the help of technology. For example, through gathering data across locations, businesses will be able to analyze how individual hotels are managing energy performance and use automated learnings to drive improvements. This will lead to energy efficiency, cost savings, and the feel-good satisfaction of customers who know they’re doing their part to choose environmentally conscious options when traveling.

Customizable experience

In a way, energy conservation and customized settings go hand-in-hand. By giving guests control over things like water pressure and temperature, hotels can ensure they are giving the customer a tailored, boutique experience while simultaneously making smart, automated decisions about energy conservation.

Cybersecurity

Data breaches can cost millions, often as a direct result of lost sales due to reputation damage. The last thing a hotelier wants is for sensitive customer information—especially credit card numbers—to be stolen. With hackers infiltrating even some of the largest companies in the country, investing in data security is more important than ever. Everything from payment security—especially with the rise of mobile payments—to room security needs an extra measure of caution. Hotels going for the technology “wow” factor should consider investing in fingerprint or retina scanning technology for room access, which allows customers to feel truly secure during their stay. At the very least, hotels should seek out the best and brightest IT talent and build out IT teams.

In conclusion

Maybe you’ve gotten used to doing everything manually over the years. You may even have a pretty good “system” in place. But adopting new technology is the key to getting the new generation of the workforce in the door and optimizing your business. Without it, you could be missing out on crucial data that will help you drive sales.

And remember: don’t work in silos, which is when departments do not exchange information with others in their organization. The time has come for marketing, operations, and developers to work together—only when everyone provides input will it produce the most well-rounded and customized experience for the guest.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Luke Fryer is a food and tech entrepreneur with 18 years of experience in ground-up concept, operational, and growth development. As a global restaurateur, Luke saw an opportunity in the restaurant and hospitality industry, which has been held back by fragmented systems and outdated technology. He decided to devise a new platform that could help businesses adapt to the industry's ever-changing landscape. In 2013, Luke launched the Harri platform as a disruptive online marketplace for recruitment in the hospitality and retail sectors.

ABOUT HARRI

Harri's next-generation Workforce OS provides hospitality businesses with the management tools and strategic insights necessary to make real-time impact on revenue growth, profit margins, and risk mitigation. With Harri’s human capital management and workforce resource planning suites, hiring managers can source and hire top talent using media-rich profiles and streamlined tools, all while reducing costs and saving time. To date, more than three million applications have been submitted to 53,000 jobs posted on Harri while supporting more than 400,000 members and 8,300 employers spanning the U.S. and U.K. markets. For more information, visit harri.com.