Shoppers, food lovers and travel junkies have all had their customer journeys and experiences augmented by the advancement of technology. However, over the last couple years technology use and adoption by the hospitality industry have exploded, reshaping how consumers are connected to the services they desire. The function of hospitality has been redefined as restaurants and hotels fought to meet consumer expectations under pandemic conditions, and the changes are now finding some stability.
Naturally, consumer habits shifted during the pandemic in order to maintain safety procedures. However, once restrictions eased, consumers were eager to return to the services they loved, and new technologies were there to bridge the gap. The addition of new tools enabled businesses to operate productively under new safety protocols, assist employees in completing their tasks and streamlined the training process. Technologies like learning management systems (LMS) and services like contactless pickup reduce business expenses while simultaneously increasing revenues, helping manage employees and improving and personalizing the customer experience.
Advancements in hospitality tech
Even before the pandemic, smartphones and mobile apps had become the de facto method for consumers to purchase flight tickets, book a table at a new restaurant and research exciting destinations. Through these services, app providers collect and package user information to help companies curate personalized experiences for their customers. The Internet of Things (IoT) — the connection between personal devices, enterprise hardware, local networks and software applications — powers these services and facilitates the relationship between consumers and providers.
Behind the scenes, the hospitality industry depends on LMSs to drive employee training, development and learning. Entire learning and development programs (employee progress tracking, training sessions, communications) can be housed within a single LMS and helps management with the creation of consistent company culture across teams.
The future of restaurant tech
Restaurants were already pivoting to a technology-oriented approach to better serve their customers prior to the pandemic. Then in the midst of a labor shortage, business owners found themselves “employing” more automated solutions powered by artificial intelligence to make up the difference.
During the middle of the pandemic, about 20% of Americans said they felt comfortable eating inside a restaurant, but that number has now jumped to 80%. Although guest confidence has increased, restaurant owners should not ignore customers who prefer contactless service.
Contactless payments and orders are now must-haves in the hospitality industry and most businesses in the U.S. now offer said services. Delivery apps like DoorDash and GrubHub experienced an explosion in user growth as in-person ordering and pickup declined under shutdowns.
In moments of uncertainty and confusion during the early months of the pandemic, restaurant owners realized the advantages an LMS provided them when communicating safety protocol and guideline updates to their teams. Food and service industries were able to rapidly enact new best practices to protect their workers without compromising on delivering the best service possible for their customers.
About half of U.S. adults said they would like restaurants to expand and make delivery/take-out services more convenient. As restaurant lobbies closed and at-the-counter orders were no longer available, drive-thru volume exploded with fast-food chain Chick-fil-A leading the charge and optimizing their system for quicker service.
The future of hotel tech
In order to successfully operate a business during the pandemic, hotels had to develop an entirely new technology-focused approach to maintain the guest experience and to protect their bottom line. Tech-oriented luxuries like robotic bellhop assistants, automatic room sanitization, mobile keys and online reservations and check-in delighted frequent hotel guests while ensuring their safety is valued.
In addition to providing lodging for guests, the expanding use of remote work has created a demand for hotels to provide space for traveling business people. Suites and rooms are now fitted with features that would be found in traditional office spaces to accommodate the influx of remote workers that need reliable internet access, meeting rooms and desk space.
Guests are more likely than ever to book trips and accommodations specifically for their well being and for self-care after the stress of isolating for extended periods of time. Understanding this, hotel operations can modify their existing offerings to cater to these types of travelers and provide them with experiences focused on health and wellness, fitness or nutrition. Managers can quickly develop and deploy these new programs through an LMS and train employees to be knowledgeable in these new areas.
As a whole, technology has been a huge asset to both hospitality entrepreneurs and their clients. Hotel and restaurant leadership should continue to seek and incorporate new innovations into their current technology stack. The pandemic opened the floodgates and now is the best time to adopt ambitious projects while customers are accustomed to change. U.S. adults are clamoring for the opportunity to plan their next destination, so why not welcome them to the new normal with new and exciting opportunities?
Ali Knapp is president of Wisetail.