Technology’s refusal to slow down has seen it disrupt established industries and create entirely new ones. For diners and hospitality owners, however, the tech-led transformation has only just begun – with exciting results.
We have much to thank technology for: without recent innovations, the modern world would be a lot duller, without the likes of AI bots helping us with small tasks, or new-fangled mobile phone technology keeping us more connected than ever before.
These advancements have been particularly fascinating to behold in the world of work. Devices, applications and bespoke software solutions are continually being produced to streamline workflows, enable successful remote working, and to help businesses to reach a level of global growth previously assumed unattainable.
In the hospitality industry, however, all these developments remain relatively new, leaving plenty for restaurants, pubs and coffee shops to get excited about in the years to come. But what role is modern technology playing within the industry already? And where could it go from here?
Tech Behind the Scenes
There’s a lot going on behind the scenes of your favourite restaurant – just as you’d expect if you viewed your own business through the eyes of your customer. That’s why it makes sense that a large part of technological disruption within hospitality has been focused on streamlining what happens on the other side of table service.
Operational excellence is particularly highlighted by startups such as Trail, an app which allows team members to access checklists to ensure compliance with health and safety, as well as removing the need for tedious amounts of paperwork. The bigger picture of Trail, however, is that hospitality businesses can focus on consistency across multiple branches of the same business – a particularly juicy draw for burgeoning hospitality businesses.
Meanwhile, automation is finding itself a cosy home in the kitchen, with the likes of CST’s ConnectSmart Kitchen system finding popularity among chefs. The system automates dish allocation to the correct chef, creating a workflow which sees all the food prepared to the same high standard, and ready for the customer to enjoy at the same time.
These applications of technology all have efficiency in common, and have already started to help restaurants, hotels and bars to improve how things run back-of-house. But what about the customer-facing side?
How Are You Being Served?
The customer experience has always been an important factor in how restaurants and bars attract new business and maintain loyalty, but with the rise of social media and online reviews, it’s become more important than ever to consider how customers feel.
The likes of Twitter, Instagram and TripAdvisor have done amazing things for hospitality, with research showing that 68% of millennials trust online reviews (as opposed to 34% trusting television advertisements), and an average increase in sales of 18% can be produced through having reviews. As such, the customer experience has become an all-encompassing focus for hospitality.
Factor in our digital expectations – access to Wi-Fi and tech-enable wait staff, for example – and it’s understandable why chains and independent venues are all investing so heavily in front-of-house improvements.
Wetherspoon – as mentioned in a previous Kaleida blog – has taken its place at the forefront of the hospitality tech race, offering customers an easier ordering and payment experience via their mobile app. The Wetherspoon app offers customers full access to menus, the ability to save their favourite locations, and smart payment options, cutting down on traffic at the bar and allowing for a faster, more tech-savvy approach to being served.
In 2017, McDonald’s opted to introduce ordering kiosks to engage with millennial customers, allowing them to order and pay via touch screen, before picking their order up at the collection point, or enjoying table service.
Unsurprisingly, on the back of this technology comes the assumption that jobs are being put at risk – a common concern when the word ‘automation’ is floated in the workplace. McDonald’s higher-ups have been vocal in reassuring critics, however, pointing out that such systems require additional investment in people back-of-house. The chain’s tech upgrades are now a common feature across the globe, and have escorted the brand into the 21st century.
Meanwhile, some customer-centric advancements have taken place outside of the venue, with apps such as OpenTable becoming a familiar sight on restaurant webpages. By linking up to OpenTable, venues are able to take bookings and display reviews, potentially attracting a whole new demographic of customer who might be unlikely to phone to reserve, or who wants to see honest reviews before doing so. On the restaurant’s end, the booking can be easily managed, and becomes part of a bigger operational picture.
What’s Next on the Menu?
There are already a lot of exciting developments going on in hospitality tech – the above mentions only scratch the surface. But with technology continuing to evolve, and the industry keeping up, it remains to be seen what else will soon be on the menu.
One new addition we could see disrupting the industry is Blockchain, with the cryptocurrency-forbearer finding new footing in a range of different applications. In the context of hospitality, Blockchain could better protect customer data when making reservations, and could totally transform payments in the coming years, making it one to watch.
Elsewhere, VR is another technology gearing up in other industries, and which could soon make the transition to hospitality. Currently, 360° tours available on websites help customers to get a feel of a hotel or restaurant before making a reservation, but in the future, there are opportunities for complete virtual hotel tours. And, of course, I’d be remiss not to mention the growing presence of AI and the Internet of Things, offering better-connected hotels and a more personalised experience.
With so many exciting developments taking place across the technological landscape, there’s everything to play for in the world of disruptive hospitality tech – and with customer experience, operational capability, and the looming threat of staff shortages post-Brexit, brands would do well to consider what’s already on offer, whilst preparing for what’s to come.
Kaleida is a bespoke software development house in Manchester, serving clients across the UK. To enquire about a free software review, please feel free to get in touch with our team, or find out more about our services by exploring our website.