Hospitality is an industry in constant flux. Restaurants, bars, hotels and similar establishments are at the mercy of fashion and trends, never quite knowing what the next big thing will be. One day it’s American food, the next Mexican cuisine is big, while hotels can be dismissed as uncool as their décor dates. Additionally, the high turnover of staff can make maintaining consistency and a reputation a constant battle against the tide. The last decade has seen hospitality, like almost all industries, get completely turned over by the inexorable advance of technology. Here are a few of the innovations that are impacting the sector.
It used to be that a person who has a good experience would tell three people, while someone who’d had a bad one would tell 10. The rise of peer review sites has given anyone and everyone the ability to make or break a restaurant, bar, hotel, or just about any service industry provider.
“The mobile technology that we have today has increased pressure for companies to provide the best service, which is advantageous for the consumer. If people are not happy with a service they can let potential consumers know with the click of a button, and they have access to hundreds and thousands of other companies providing the same service.”
— Twiza Singoyi. Course adviser at The Hotel School, Melbourne
Whether deserved or not, a bad review posted on one of the many available platforms can have serious implications for the future of the business. Additionally, review sites are powered by advertisers, which calls into the question the impartiality of these sites and opens the way for unscrupulous sales tactics. A new industry has also sprung up around review sites and good, and bad, reviews can now be purchased from third-party services in an attempt to game the system.
Taking bookings once meant staff were constantly on and off the phone, with customers relaying their details and hoping it was all heard and recorded correctly. In 2018, online booking systems have made it possible to take reservations 24 hours a day, seven days a week, without a single staff member required to answer the phone. The system also allows for all manner of data collection — from how often people eat out, to what they eat — and enables businesses to build an accurate picture of their clientele. Of course, there are downsides and while there is little data surrounding no-show rates, anecdotally restaurants now have to balance ease and convenience, with the challenges of a virtually anonymous booking system.
Online ad targeting
Having a profile of individual customers can be a powerful way to market and can lead to better return on investment. The data gained from bookings can be supplemented with emails, surveys, promotions, and just about anything that requires a customer to reveal something about themselves. While the topics of data and how that data is used can be contentious, it is undeniably a powerful tool. The arrival of big data in an industry as hands-on as hospitality demonstrates exactly how disruptive technology has been.