Technology in the hospitality industry

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Last month, we sponsored the Northern Restaurant and Bar Debate for the first time. Held at Manchester Central, a panel of experts discussed the impact technology is having on the hospitality industry.

Chaired by Jamie Campbell, CGA’s Retail Business Unit Director, the panel consisted of Johnny Smith, owner of The Clove Club; Laurence McCarthy, Managing Director at The Russell Partnership; Gavin Adair, Managing Director at Rosa’s Thai Cafe; and Nadia el Hadery, co-founder and CEO at YFood.

Technology is advancing quicker than ever before, affecting industries across the world. And the hospitality sector is no exception. Together, the NRB Debate panel delved into the benefits and the challenges they’re experiencing in light of these advancements, as businesses adapt to new technologies both in the way they work and interact with their customers.

The first challenge the panel discussed was actually the range of technology options available to hospitality industries at the moment. “It’s very difficult to separate and find out which ones to prioritise,” says Gavin. Businesses, especially small entrepreneurs, often don’t have IT or business development teams to help them access these opportunities. “It comes down to the leaders of the business spending time doing this.”

“I think it’s important not to be scared of technology,” explains Johnny. “From previous experiences, there is a tendency to be anxious about staying on top of technological developments.” When it comes to prioritising which technology to explore, Gavin explains how important it is to keep in mind what type of service you want to provide for your guests. “You should evaluate the technologies that are available and work out which one is going to help you achieve your business goals.”

To ensure these new technologies work effectively, it’s important that the tech industry and hospitality operators engage to perfect solutions. Nadia gives the example of a business who struggled to sell technology to restaurants; they built their own restaurant and have since been able to develop really useful technology. “The start-up world is really engaged and willing to listen to what the hospitality industry is trying to say, so it’s important operators engage with that,” says Nadia.

Of course, to truly make the most of new technologies, businesses must consistently being measuring their success. By staying aware of how technology is benefiting your team, customers and business, you can investigate whether you’re using the right solution. One area in which operators are seeing huge benefits from technology is in overcoming the problem of ‘no shows’.

“I think unless you’ve worked in the industry you don’t realise how much of a disruption it is just to not turn up on time. Holding tables, rearranging restaurants, and not seating customers while you wait for someone who may or may not show up, disrupts the rest of the service,” says Gavin.

Johnny found that he was losing a huge amount of revenue each night due to no shows and decided to implement a data system called ToK. This system prompts customers to pay upfront for their meal, and while this might be considered an alien approach, The Clove Club saw positive results in a short amount of time.

“Since launching ToK, within three months we’ve seen our no shows drop from 15% to 0.3%,” says Johnny. “It really fitted our brand, but a technology that could be good for one restaurant, might be bad for another.” Further reasoning for making sure you are researching technologies which fit the goals of your business.

A key factor in whether a technology is going to work for an operate is how they want to interact with guests. So while a pay and walk technology might be perfect for one business, another may suffer because of it. “I see the start and end of a meal as great opportunities to engage with guests,” says Johnny. “We always take the opportunity at payment to speak to the guests , make a connection and understand how their experience was.” However, a large company like McDonald’s are obviously using that type of technology to suit their guests and give them an easier experience. “There isn’t a one size fits all solution, you have to look at your experience as a user,” finishes Nadia.

As a business, we are currently working with CityVerve, the UK’s Internet of Things demonstrator based in Manchester, to explore new ways in which we can use technology to benefit our retail customers.

“Taking a partnership approach to facilitating technology is key to how we work with our retail and food and beverage customers,” says Toby Sproll, Head of Retail and Amenity at Bruntwood. “Whether that’s enabling high speed broadband in our schemes, or working with customers to maximise their social media presence, or collaborating with them to pilot new tech led initiatives.”

Through operators, developers and consumers working together, technological trends will be able to provide the opportunities and tools to create positive experiences for businesses and customers alike. These changes will enable positive growth within the industry.

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