Innovation is rife the food and drink industry. Only a few weeks ago, Nando’s unveiled a ‘game-changing’ delivery app, which took social media by storm. Mobile ordering technology has transformed the restaurant sector, with much discussion around whether the traditional dining out experience is suffering as a result. With this in mind, there are important considerations for hotel restaurants that pride themselves on their dining experience, if and when they look to adopt these new technology systems.
There have been significant developments in the industry. Earlier this month the InterContinental Hotel chain introduced an incentive whereby guests staying in their US hotels are able to earn points for ordering food on Grubhub, or making dinner reservations through OpenTable. Partnering with an online food ordering service gives hotel guests an alternative choice to room service, a service that hotels can struggle to make profitable. Enabling this type of technology can tailor the guest’s stay to their individual needs and gives them the chance to explore the local area’s dining offerings from the comfort of their own hotel room.
The introduction of technology into your own hotel restaurant can similarly elevate customer experience. Consumers are increasingly interested in how ordering and payment applications can streamline their experience. Convenience and efficiency are fundamental for better service; during busy periods when waiting staff are indisposed or when a taxi is waiting outside, placing an order or settling a bill from a mobile device suddenly becomes very appealing for the customer. Customers are drawn in by the fact that they can get quick and efficient service, facilitated by the latest technology and software.
Speed and efficiency also work for the hotel restaurant itself, particularly those who welcome both internal and external guests. If room service orders can be taken more efficiently or restaurant tables turned over more quickly, more covers can be serviced per sitting. Additionally, there are clearly cost-cutting incentives for implementing these new technologies. Automating the hospitality work place, notorious for being labour intensive, can help to keep the costs down. In the current climate of seemingly ever-increasing outgoings, reducing the wage bill can help prop up bottom line profitability.
Furthermore, hotel restaurants can also look to maximise upselling opportunities. Interactive menus can be programmed to make pre-empted suggestions for side-dishes or complementary drinks, based on the customer’s initial choices. Whilst good hotel waiting staff will undoubtedly be very effective at this, automating this process ensures a higher degree of consistency. This could be particularly effective for room service orders.
The technology can also be used to capture data and track an individual’s tastes and ordering patterns. Targeted marketing and selling can then encourage repeat visits to boost revenues, both for the hotel and its restaurant.
There are reservations as to whether technological advances in the industry will compromise face-to-face interactions. For many, personal engagement is part of the experience when staying in a hotel. Drink recommendations from the bar’s mixologist and chatting to waiting staff contributes to people’s enjoyment of a particular bar or restaurant. Despite arguably being more efficient and streamlining existing processes, an ordering device will not be able to replicate the charisma of a human being!
In the restaurant sector, where more ‘impersonal’ technology appears to fit most naturally is in the quick service and casual space. Notably, McDonalds’ recent “experience of the future” initiative has seen the chain invest in self-service kiosks – not something that would suite a fine dining hotel restaurant. When consumers are looking for a more relaxed and engaging experience for their evening out, then the use of technology can be too impersonal. However for room service delivery, the impersonal nature of these interactions is much less important.
There is much to consider when weighing up a potential technology investment or partnership. Customer experience and perception should certainly be one of the key considerations when deciding how to proceed – do you want to be seen as a convenience venue more than an experience venue? Or are you aiming at a balance between both?
Ultimately, whilst these technologies clearly have exciting potential, success and reputation will depend upon the quality of the product and service offered. With all the integrated ordering and payment gadgets in the world, there is no substitute for the delivery of excellence.