No question about it, the COVID-19 pandemic has taken a toll on the global economy. For the majority of the world’s workforce, widespread lockdowns have led to major changes in the way people work. In fact, it’s estimated that nearly half of the US labor force is now working from home. As the remote model has gained in popularity, the majority of new telecommuters hope to continue working remotely, at least some of the time, once the pandemic ends.
If you work in the hospitality industry, however, you’re probably not going to have that option. You probably don’t even want that option. After all, there’s a reason you’re in hospitality. Chances are you love interacting with the public, meeting and greeting people, making them feel comfortable, and above all, showing true hospitality to guests.
Yet of all the industries impacted by the coronavirus outbreak, the hospitality industry has been among the most affected. According to a recent study, nearly 75,000 restaurants in the US have closed their doors due to the pandemic. Many of those closures may be permanent. Likewise, some of the nation’s most well-known chains, from Souplantation to TGI Fridays, are facing bankruptcy.
But the news is not all bad. Far from it. Every day, new technologies and systems are being developed to help businesses adjust to the new normal. This article examines the role of disruptive innovation in the hospitality industry, both during the coronavirus crisis and beyond.
What Is Disruptive Innovation?
Disruptive innovation (DI) didn’t just come about because of the pandemic. DI is nearly as old as business itself. Simply put, DI refers to a significant change that fundamentally alters an industry.
DI can take many forms, including product and service innovations, as well as changes to operating processes and business models. What they all have in common is a commitment to continuous improvement and growth. The goal is to always be on the lookout for new and better ways to serve the customer and lead the market.
That commitment is an immense advantage in the hospitality industry, especially now. Our customers need us more than ever. Our businesses also need to quickly adapt to this changing business landscape.
Innovating in a Post-Pandemic World
No matter what’s going on with the virus, people’s basic needs don’t change. They still have to eat. They still have to travel on occasion. And they still need a place to sleep and shower when they do.
That makes hospitality much more of an essential service than many people may realize. The demand is there from a consumer standpoint, but the fear of the virus is still strong, at least right now.
DI, however, can help you reconnect with your customers and revive your business. You’ll just be doing it in a new way. Contactless ordering and payments , for instance, are powerful tools in keeping you guests and staff safe. But that’s not their only benefit.
Leveraging contactless ordering and payments, operators can collect more data on their guests. These details seamlessly flow into your point of sales system, as well as your guest database to track spent and historical data. Best of all, these tools don’t require close physical contact between staff and guests. You don’t have to worry about handling cash or credit cards that could be incubating viruses on their surfaces.
Your customers will have peace of mind in knowing they won’t have to expose themselves to unnecessary risks when visiting your property. They’re also more likely to find contactless ordering and payments quicker and more convenient. Anything that’s going to make your customer’s life a bit easier right now is going to be a significant draw.
Pandemic or no pandemic, one of the most frustrating experiences for customers going out to eat is having to face crowded lobbies and long wait times for service. But, right now, this isn’t just an inconvenience — it may be an outright risk for vulnerable customers and employees alike.
Fortunately, there’s DI for that. Streamlined SMS messaging directly to guests, for example, can be used to automate communications during the wait time process. Equipping your host stand to send customized SMS messages to guests will open the door of contactless communication, decrease likelihood of table abandonment and prevent overcrowding.
Retargeting Your Guests
Collecting actionable data via the right guest experience platform is crucial in deeply understanding who is dining at your venue and their behaviors whilst on-site. DI is an ideal way to reach your guests even after their dining experience at your venue has concluded. Marketing automation, for example, can retarget guests with targeted marketing campaigns, triggered by certain thresholds dependent on preference, spending habits and other guest traits. This helps tailor the guest experience and personalize your communications with guests, resulting in increased loyalty and retention!
The hospitality industry is truly a people-focused field. It is a labor of love that takes a lot of work, especially now amid the COVID crisis. Disruptive innovation, however, is a powerful weapon in the industry’s arsenal, not only allowing professionals to survive in ordinary conditions, but also to thrive in extraordinary ones.