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The hospitality industry is a dynamic environment that’s constantly moving and evolving. As one of the largest industries worldwide, restaurant sales in the United States are projected to reach over $860 billion this year alone, making it a highly lucrative marketplace for business owners. However, greater opportunities also mean greater competition.
Today’s hospitality businesses need to be creative to attract and keep a healthy long-term customer base. Positive customer experiences should be fueled by great services and streamlined operations. Technology continues to play a more important role in facilitating processes for hospitality businesses. From ordering kiosks, to smartphone hotel check-in tools and food delivery apps, hospitality businesses are using more technology-focused tactics to gain a competitive edge.
Here are four of the leading tech tools your hospitality business should consider:
Today’s restaurant managers are faced with many demands. They must meet the needs, wants, and requirements of their customers. They must also meet the needs of their workforce and business owners. At the same time, restaurant managers need to manage sales, inventory, purchasing, and human resources.
An enterprise resource planning system (ERP) refers to a suite of software applications that organizations use to manage day-to-day business activities, including accounting, project management, workforce management, and supply chain. ERP can help restaurant managers efficiently handle each of these vital functions that ensure the restaurant performs at its full capacity. Some ERP solutions are even able to leverage real-time information. This allows restaurant managers to consistently review critical business information and reports.
For example, managing inventory is a critical activity for restaurant managers. It helps them plan their menu, track food usage, determine the cost of goods, and reduce waste. When they use an ERP system to record inventory, restaurant managers can simultaneously compare their information with financial data, purchase orders, billing schedules and other analytics. ERP systems house this information in one central platform. Restaurant managers constantly have updated and accurate data at their fingertips. This allows them to make data-driven decisions, and confidently report on this information to the relevant stakeholders.
Credit: Reliance Hope
Given that customer retention and loyalty is at the core of any service-based business, it’s paramount for restaurants to fulfill and exceed expectations when it comes to guest service. In the hospitality industry, whether guests are ordering food, making reservations, or getting recommendations, it can be difficult for staff to meet everyone’s standards consistently. Unfortunately, this can result in a negative brand image for the business.
By using chatbots powered by artificial intelligence (AI), restaurant staff can keep up with the many demands of their customers. With chatbots, customers no longer need to call to reserve a table, wait for staff to attend to them, or wait in line for tables to free up. Chatbots can be programmed to carry out a myriad of tasks including answering FAQs, making a reservation, ordering food, or processing payments.
The use cases for chatbots in restaurants rely on the kind of experience a restaurant wants to offer its visitors. Chatbots offer helpful, friendly, and timely service. This keeps customers happy and excited to return to the restaurant. Many hotels have already implemented chatbots into their operations. Those that use chatbots have noticed immense benefits, including increases in direct bookings, streamlined check-in/check-out services, and 24-hour reception.
The number of social media conversations happening at any given moment is massive and increasing every day. It’s estimated there are over 3 billion social media users today. Many of these users are offering up their thoughts and opinions to their online followers.
Social listening is a crucial tactic for brands in today’s digital society, especially for those in the hospitality industry. Social listening is the process of monitoring digital conversations to understand what customers are saying about a brand and industry. It enables brands to assess customer sentiment, gather feedback, and understand what their customers are interested in.
Brandwatch reports the restaurant, food, and beverage industry accounts for about 32 percent of brand mentions. That’s why it’s important for organizations in the hospitality industry to partake in social listening. Luckily, there are a number of social listening tools today’s hospitality businesses can turn to in order to watch their brand mentions on social media.
Word of mouth online is one of the most valuable and effective types of messaging in the hospitality industry. The messages come from real people, rather than directly from the restaurant. Through social listening, brands can make more informed business decisions based on the insights and feedback of their customers.
Automation is growing in popularity across many industries. The hospitality industry is no exception. Hospitality Technology’s research reveals robots are a growing area of interest for hotels and restaurants. According to the 2018 Lodging and Restaurant Technology Studies, 25 percent of hotels named robotics a top emerging technology and 33 percent of restaurants believe robots will make an impact on foodservice. For example, California-based CaliBurger partnered with Miso Robotics to debut Flippy, the world's first autonomous robotic kitchen assistant. Flippy serves 300 burgers a day, improving consistency and speed-to-service at the restaurant.
Credit: Miso Robotics
Although your business doesn’t need to jump directly into the use of robots, there are many automation solutions available that are seamless to integrate and simplify a restaurant or hotel manager’s daily work. The use of automation helps organizations cut down on repetitive tasks that otherwise can be overly time-consuming. Overall, this allows them to become more productive in their processes.
One way in which hospitality businesses can use this technology is through email automation. Restaurants and hotels regularly send emails to boost customer loyalty, offer coupons or promotions, or even gather customer feedback. Finding a tool that can automate email marketing campaigns makes it much easier for marketing teams to efficiently send those emails. With the help of email automation, they can use their time for high-level tasks, like brainstorming new ways to connect with their customers.
Over the years, technology has become the key ingredient for success in the modern hospitality industry. Customers continue to expect and prefer streamlined services that cater to their many preferences. For this reason, it will become more important for hospitality businesses to adopt technologies that not only create ideal customer experiences but also keep their businesses running smoothly.