Technology is taking the world by storm, and in recent years has become essential to the survival of many industries - one especially being the hospitality industry.
When covid hit the world in 2020 the world stopped working in the way we once knew - industries had to update their services and operations to stay accessible, and people’s behaviours changed entirely. The hospitality industry in particular took a huge hit as social distancing was put in place. This meant that human contact had to be put on hold, and health and safety regulations heightened.
Luckily with the use of tech the industry was able to stay afloat, introducing QR codes when needed, online booking/check-ins, online orders, contactless payments, and so on. But as we come out of the pandemic these operations are sticking around, due to the updated consumer behaviours.
The advancements in technology continue to make operations smoother and far more efficient, but are we losing that element of humanity? And how far will our use of technology go?
The latest roundtable hosted by the Great British Entrepreneur Awards and haysmacintyre saw a group of founders and experts in the hospitality industry discuss this topic, covering things such as; the changes and effects tech has had on the industry, the positives and the negatives, and what we can expect to see in the future of the hospitality industry in regards to technology.
Discussing the way he has seen the industry change Max Barkes, Operations Manager, Copper Beech Consultancy said, “I’ve been working with a number of hotels recently, where they are using digital booking systems, EPOS systems, HR systems, and CRM systems. It’s amazing to see how far we have come since I started in the industry about 12 years ago. At that time we were all using opera, which was a very complicated system that used to give me nightmares.
“Now places can be using things like Seven Roomsor Lightspeed, and the integration they offer is just like using an app - it’s so user friendly. So that’s one of the big changes I’ve seen recently - going with more cloud-based software.”
Yogesh Gupta, Founder & CEO of Gaston, agreed that businesses in hospitality are needing tech solutions now more than ever. “We work within the restaurant and food enterprise sector. So the majority of our customers are restaurants, meal kits and ingredient sellers, bakeries and so on. And we’ve seen the introduction of new allergen-specific legislation that means they have to change the way they operate. Natasha’s law is the most recent legislation to be introduced that requires all food outlets to provide full ingredient lists with clear allergen labelling on Pre Packed for Direct Sale foods,” he said.
“Businesses are struggling to drive more diners into their restaurants and maintain profitability. So, so they are looking for new innovative solutions that can help them out for making their operations more efficient, and easier to be compliant,” he added.
One of the main concerns we hear when it comes to this subject is whether or not technology is removing the human element we need, and if it’s in fact removing the need for as many employees.
Addressing this concern Antoine Melon, Co-Founder of HOMETAINMENT, says, “I think there will always be this scare that hospitality using technology will remove the human factor that we need - but I think what we’re seeing at the moment, is that it’s actually removing the pain points from a customer point of view.
“For example, in a restaurant, people hate to be waiting for ages for the waiters to come to take your order because he’s busy with another table, or taking payments. In today’s society, everyone wants to move quickly - you want to leave when you want to, you want the bill and it takes ages to get the bill, and then you can’t find the waiter, or you’re waiting for the PDQ machine because they got to another table first. And I think there’s a lot of progress in the last couple of years that now allows people to avoid this struggle.”
Tom Snellock, Founder of Clays, says “COVID has accelerated technology a lot, and we have been amazed at how good some of the systems are that are coming from outside of the hospitality industry. Like wireless social for example, it gives you the ability to understand your customers much better and get real proof of presence.”
Where we may have the impression that technology is taking over the hospitality industry, Celia Gaze, Founder of The Wellbeing Farm, says “I actually think hospitality has been playing catch up a little bit with some of these systems. This basic integration between the CRM, your EPOS on your till, and finance systems should be something that was done a long time ago.”
“There’s so much opportunity for hospitality to catch up with this digital age - we’ve definitely started, but we’ve got a long way to go,” she added.
Although consumer behaviours and times are evolving, the hospitality industry is inclusive and is needed by everyone. So, is introducing technology into all areas of hospitality excluding certain groups of people? For example, older generations are far less tech-savvy so may be turned off if there is too much tech. Discussing this, Stuart Humphreys, CEO of Leisure Management Plus, says, “I’m from an older generation, and I actually find that a lot of the tech stuff actually makes for an awful lot more work. I also find that there’s a loss of what matters in the hospitality industry because of this. I agree with many of the things that have been said, and we do need to integrate essential technology, but I often find you will now go and check into a hotel and somebody’s looking at a screen all the time, rather than looking you in the eye - and I don’t like that. It’s important to keep the hospitality there, If I check into a hotel, I expect the guy to look at me, not some computer screen, and I think we’re in great danger, of allowing this behaviour in the industry if we use too much Tech.”
Going on from this, Isabelle Shepherd, Director of haysmacintyre asked the group how they felt that the advancements in technology were affecting staff and employability in the industry overall.
Matthew Walker, co-founder of Savora Drinks said, “Speaking with a lot of the businesses we work with, one element that’s really been helpful is apps and the digital menus so that people can order directly from their phone. Now that’s great for us because we save time and money on printing an entirely new menu to list our products, and it’s great for the bar because you don’t have to send a staff member to the table to take the orders. So we’ve found that really beneficial, it’s saving efficiency. There is a risk that jobs are getting lost but I would actually argue that jobs are being repurposed to do better things and add more value-adding things - and the computer can take on the menial jobs now.”
Isabelle Shepherd, Director of haysmacintyre said, “It was a pleasure to host this roundtable and hear from a wide range of exciting businesses’ operating across different areas of the hospitality industry. It was noted that hospitality is generally behind other industries in terms of technological development, most notably with regard to the integration of software. Participants discussed the need for this to change to create efficiencies, especially given the current job market. They did however note the need to retain a personalised approach and a high level of service, therefore it is evident there is a balance to be found between the ‘old’ and the ‘new’.”