I am not a tech guy. I’ve worked in the hospitality industry for 25 years, from high-end restaurants to event venue spaces and everything in between.
Over the last five years I’ve watched how technology is transforming the hospitality industry—and, trust me, it needs it.
Transforming the customer experience
The first wave of technology was designed to help restauranteurs and hoteliers attract customers and it worked extremely well. Now, there are dozens of smartphone apps that help customers read menus, post and read reviews and book tables. Think Yelp, OpenTable, TripAdvisor, Zomato and YP Dine.
Customers have all the information they need on their smartphones and can book reservations or reserve a spot in line while they are walking down the street. The customer experience in hospitality is unlike other business interactions; it’s before, during and after. There are many more touchpoints enable by tech and it’s up to the restauranteurs to ensure that the customer experience is flawless.
Technology, including AI, is transforming the hospitality industry. Some hotels are even using robots, like Botlr, to respond to guest requests and deliver meals to rooms. Housekeeping carts can now be equipped with infrared sensors to detect body heat, so guests need not be disturbed if they are still in the room. Guests are using their smartphones or retina recognition, rather than traditional swipe cards, to enter their rooms.
The days of handwritten orders, reservations or clipboards packed with lists for inventory control are falling to the wayside.
Cloud computing, including POS, CRM and inventory-control tools, are being used to help deliver better customer service. Restaurants are increasingly using iPads as both menus and POS systems. Orders go directly to digital kitchen display screens, eliminating the need for printed (or hand-written) chits and possible error. Front of house digital menu boards make it easier to change menus at a moment’s notice.
Mobile payments and e-wallets, like Apple Pay, have changed the way customers interact with businesses. Digital receipts have eliminated the need for paper and allow businesses to interact with customers in a more personal way.
What the industry is saying
According to The National Restaurant Association, four in five restaurant operators say technology has helped increase sales, has made their restaurants more productive and the use of technology has given them a competitive advantage. A quarter of operators surveyed also cited loyalty programs as an important future development in restaurant technology.
All this technology means one thing; establishments are more accountable than ever for the quality of their food and service. While technology has certainly streamlined the process and is giving customers an easier, more hassle-free experience, it is also responsible for raising consumer expectations when it comes to the dining experience. Having adequate staff on hand is a major contributor to meeting, or better yet surpassing, these expectations.
Unfortunately, our industry has not only been plagued with well documented labor shortages, but also by shift no-shows, interview no-shows, unpaid trial shifts, and under or lack of payment. According to Tourism HR Canada, the food and beverage industry could see 102,00 jobs go unfilled by 2035. The industry needs a fundamental shift to bring a sense of control to both workers and operators as a means to promote hospitality as a fulfilling career choice for young Canadians.
Solutions with technology
We recently launched Pineapple Hospitality, an app-based job marketplace for trusted and qualified professionals in the service and hospitality industry. Pineapple connects job seekers with job providers’ employment opportunities ranging from single shifts to long-term work.
It’s not just about employment; it’s about respect. We know that the hospitality industry is comprised of passionate and dedicated people who deserve security, opportunity, and to be treated fairly.
Our goal is to help promote the industry as a career choice, so we’ve created an online community built on accountability. Employees can promote their job experience while employers can access a database of reliable workers. Workers can set their preferred rate of pay. Two-way reviews keep everyone honest.
Technology is helping change a troubled industry into a culture that is fair, respectful and accountable. The future for our industry is sensational and there is no doubt that technology will continue to play an increasingly important and vital role.
Dejan Lazic is the founder of Pineapple Hospitality.