It comes as no surprise that technology is at the top of the list of trends shaping today’s hotel and restaurant industries. Innovative apps and tools are being applied across operations at tech-savvy companies, and the benefits are emanating outward into the market. What are operators doing, and what are the results of these efforts?
Hospitality companies are adopting technologies to improve safety protocols, cater to changing consumer behaviors and demands, monitor spending, manage inventory, drive down costs, optimize pricing, improve processes, operations, and marketing – and perhaps most important, enrich the customer experience.
Necessity is driving innovation
Years before the pandemic emerged, companies in most industries were aware of the need for digital transformation. The heat was on, but commitments within the hospitality industry at large, in the form of planning, investing, and adopting, were not as compelling as they are today. The pandemic shifted these initiatives into overdrive when it became a matter of survival – and it still is.
Hospitality industry players know that digital operations, including the IT infrastructure to support advancement, are needed to compete and grow in these fast-changing and hyper-competitive markets. Here’s one example of how the movement has escalated. An NYU School of Professional Studies revealed that 81.7% of hoteliers surveyed had implemented at least one new technology during the pandemic and/or were planning to in 2022.
It is now a tech revolution with two main drivers
Technologies and tools organizations adopt vary according to their needs, unique business strategies, clientele, and market opportunities. A lot of research and consulting is going to help leaders identify the right solutions to restore and sustain performance, along with the talent needed to manage new IT portfolios and platforms.
- What consumers want: Now, two-and-a-half years into the pandemic, travelers and diners still want around-the-clock access to technology-enabled self-service and contactless transactions. They also want their interactions with companies to be ultra-responsive and timely through diverse and innovative methods and messaging. Many capabilities existed long before the pandemic, but the masses have come to expect them for planning, choosing, and transactions and for the newfound speed, convenience, and benefits that new features are delivering every day.
- What hotels and restaurants need: This is easily the most challenging era that hospitality companies have faced in modern times, and it is a challenge of global proportions. Supply chain disruption by itself continues to hit operators on every continent. Companies are still recovering from the impacts of the pandemic, laser-focused on reducing and controlling costs, struggling to find and retain talent in a tight hiring market, and searching for greater operational efficiencies – all while upping their tech game to quench consumer expectations. Technology is providing answers to hotels and restaurants worldwide.
Following are some of the most prevalent innovations unfolding today, domestically and worldwide.
Hot tech for restaurants
Operators are making it easier than ever for customers to order using computers, cell phones, and other mobile devices, complete with QR (quick-response) code technology and a variety of contactless payment options.
Technology advancements are ensuring credit and debit cards never leave the customer’s sight, whether dining in, carrying out, or using home delivery, and mobile devices are being used to text customers when tables are ready. But these are just the tip of the technology iceberg.
A Forbes contributor and industry expert recently cited the finer points of six restaurant top tech trends:
- Online Ordering: Nearly every restaurant technology trend is enabled through partnerships with technology providers, and online ordering platforms are no exception. A study reveals that almost one in three Americans use online food ordering systems once a week, a dramatic increase since the start of the pandemic. Third-party platform providers helped restaurants continue to operate during the pandemic, and the trend is here to stay.
- Point of Sale (POS) Systems: These robust solutions combine ordering and payment processing with restaurant management software, replacing complex computer systems with virtual solutions that serve restaurant staff, servers, and customers alike.
- Reservation Software: Restaurants in all segments are increasingly automating reservation scheduling with systems that also provide real-time waitlists and reviews from other patrons. Benefits are felt inside and out, freeing up staff, reducing booking errors, and providing 24/7 accessibility and convenience to customers.
- Food Delivery by Drone: Drone food delivery systems are becoming very appealing to operators because the process is less costly than hiring delivery staff or paying third-party delivery services. Even though the technology is in its infancy and currently available in select markets, progression is happening fast. “In five years, I think that, unless you need something very heavy or you need a human being for a very specific reason, there will be no point in delivering meals in any other way than drones … in the suburbs,” said Yariv Bash, CEO of drone delivery provider Flytrex.
- Website Chatbots: Providing around-the-clock accessibility, these customer-centric solutions are very affordable in light of the customer experience benefits they deliver. The artificially intelligent software applications replicate interactions with staff to answer questions, facilitate food recommendations and ordering, promote specials, process payments, and much more. People want information and assistance ‘now,’ and chatbots answer the call.
- Air Quality Control: The world became acutely aware of air quality during the pandemic. In response to still-lingering concerns among guests, restaurants are investing in high-tech air purification and filtering systems. Such systems, while still emerging, are becoming a prominent safety solution during the protracted pandemic and for future events that necessitate them.
Revfine.com, the Netherlands-based knowledge platform for the hospitality and travel industry, discusses many of the above restaurant tech trends and several others, including digital kitchen display screens, augmented reality menus, digital inventory tracking, virtual reality onboarding of new recruits, and restaurant management systems.
Disruptive hotel technologies
Hotels and resorts worldwide have been on the fast track in rolling out customer-focused, technology-driven solutions, as well as business-related advancements that are streamlining operations, maintenance, hotel management, inventory management, staffing, and other core hotel operations.
The technology revolution is happening faster in the hotel industry than in many others with the advent of virtual property tours, location-based services, mobile apps and check-ins, keyless hotel room entry, smart lights and thermostats, wristbands synced to the customer’s house account, virtual concierge and room service tools, and scannable cards for various services, such as ski lift tickets.
HotelTechReport.com recently cited multiple disruptive hotel technology trends that operators are watching and implementing. Here are some of them:
- SaaS Is Exploding: There is tremendous interest and opportunity in acquiring tools and platforms that allow hotels to capture new levels of operational efficiency and revenue growth, from property management systems (PMS) to hotel channel management, booking engines, revenue management, and the automation of workflows.
- APIs Have Gone Mainstream: Tech companies and hotels are partnering to ‘white label’ software for hotels through application programming interfaces (API). These user-friendly solutions integrate a hotel’s technology portfolio so that systems can talk to each other and feed data from one system to another for reporting, analysis, and decision-making. One example is feeding data from the property management system into a business intelligence tool to capture real-time operational data, analyze trends, and make smarter moves in every area, from marketing to staffing, purchasing, and competitive decisions.
- Guest Room Technology Innovation: Hotels are adding convenience through streaming, voice activation, guest-room tablets, and food ordering tech.
- Privacy and Cybersecurity: With malware attacks on hotels (and their guests) on the rise, hotels are being forced to invest in security with tools that provide multilayer security, data protection, secure transactions, and compliance with international payment and data privacy standards. Current innovations require constant vigilance of cybersecurity best practices, regular updates to security software, and dedication to routine testing and threat assessment.
- Wi-Fi 6: Like 5G, Wi-Fi 6 will have significant implications for guests who use smartphones to book and manage their stay. Beyond the guest experience, hotels can take advantage of faster Wi-Fi to power streaming, tablet, and voice-activated devices and leverage in-room technology to provide better service. Smart thermostats, smart speakers, and smart locks will all perform better with the adoption of Wi-Fi 6 over the next five years.
- Big Data: Hoteliers are starting to realize the potential of guest data. Platforms combine data from multiple sources to give operators a complete picture of hotel guests, delivering the information needed to increase satisfaction scores, bookings, and profit.
A few more trends for both sectors
- Business Intelligence: Big data is essential to both restaurants and hotels, regardless of type or size. And both segments recognize the need to have real-time, data-driven technology to manage facilities and inventories, drive workflows, manage expenses, monitor and analyze performance, and make better and more timely decisions to lower costs and increase profitability.
- Quick-Response (QR) Codes: Since this technology is known for delivering immediate ROI and because it is also here to stay, we’re calling it out as a strong revenue generator. Hotels and restaurants are leveraging QR codes in multiple ways, taking advantage of the public’s affinity for the scannable imprints that transport users to digital menus, contact-free check-ins and transactions, and instant access to amenity details, specials, events, activities, reviews, restaurant reservations, hotel room bookings, and additional services.
- Digital Business Cards: There’s a new way of sharing information in our hyper-digital world. Traditional business cards are being unseated by digital business cards. According to this study, the digital business card market is expected to touch US$242.3 million by 2027, with North America to lead this adoption growth. Hospitality is a fluid, multifaceted industry, and having fast access to the right contacts and partners at the right time is leading to new opportunities.
A new breed of talent has entered the hospitality space
As a long-time leader in hotel and restaurant talent recruitment, Goodwin Recruiting stays on top of advancements and trends with a focus on the caliber of talent that operators need to implement and support new technologies. From manager to executive-level candidates, including IT specialists, we have a nationwide talent network with relevant skill sets and experience. We’re here to support your hiring needs on your journey of advancement.