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Jonathan Pryor
Written by Jonathan Pryor
March 15, 2017

4 Key Hospitality Industry Technology Trends You Should Know About

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In meeting with industry leaders in my travels over the last few months, there have been lots of discussions about where the industry is headed. This is in terms of the kind of technology that's out there. But it's also about how target demographics are shifting to drive changes to tech infrastructure that hospitality companies must pursue and develop to ensure continued success.

I attended a talk hosted by Michael Schubach who talked about some emerging trends for the hospitality industry when it comes to technology. That talk provided me with four very pertinent and useful takeaways.

Here are the four key hospitality industry technology trends that you should know about to scale your business/facility into the future.

1. Investing in the Cloud

 

The term "cloud" is bounced around now like “Y2K” was in the late nineties. This time around, it's a more meaningful and practical concept. The cloud represents a fundamental paradigm shift when it comes to how operations in the hospitality industry are planned and implemented. Cloud-based technology is a liberation of all kinds of resources and an eliminator of headaches, big and small. To start with, the cloud eliminates the need to have a file server on site, with maintenance demands placed on operations removed from the equation, along with the strict environmental controls and physical floor space needed for it to function properly.

The cloud adds more flexibility than standard on-site servers, too. If you want to add features and integrations like rewards programs that connect directly with point-of-sale, property management, and even kitchen systems, or receive automatic software updates via the internet, the cloud is purposefully suited for all of that. This makes it a more maneuverable model to streamline day-to-day operations. It makes it easier to expand on functionality that adds value to the guest experience. All around, the cloud gives hospitality companies the ability to scale in the long-term as new technology emerges without having to upgrade a server every few years, and without the need to manage all those security patches with compliance to rules and regulations.

This is not even to mention the benefits of real-time data. In the cloud, incoming data is pulled together from varied sources and from numerous locations into a cohesive whole. This creates a unity of information that makes for a more informed business strategy, particularly for businesses with multiple locations who want to be able to compare and contrast locations for performance indicators and areas of improvement. Better business intelligence has always been a goal. The cloud adds new and necessary dimensions to meeting that goal, and provides a clearer path to it, too.

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All of this is why the cloud is a significant hospitality and foodservice industry trend that everyone in our space must consider. Another trend is how the expectations of an emerging sector of consumers is shaping how technology infrastructure must become, which is those of millennials.

 

2. Understanding and Serving Millennials More Effectively

 

This younger demographic born between 1980 and 2000 is replacing baby boomers and generation X when it comes to market influence. It’s worth considering this as a key hospitality trend, particularly because millennials are more prone to travel compared to boomers and GenXers for both business and for pleasure, and sometimes for both on the same trip. Millennials have come to expect businesses to meet them wherever they are when it comes to seamless integration of technology between, say, hotel systems and their smartphones. This is a green light for businesses looking to invest in new technologies that enable this kind of functionality to better serve these customers.

Another important point when it comes to millennials is their relationships with brands in general. Once they find out what they love, they want to participate. They’re on board with loyalty programs more so than any other group. They’re looking to find new brands to love via word of mouth and on social platforms, coming back to brands who actively engage with them and reward them. Millennials want to be courted.

 

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From there, it's easier to see the way forward because this significant market trend points to specific IT projects that will immediately drive the business. This includes better integration with loyalty programs that reward consumers. It points to a greater emphasis on more mobile-friendly capabilities to allow consumers to interact with brands and their properties. It's a good indication that more investment in social media engagement tools to better communicate with brand advocates is a good move, too. It certainly includes adding more ordering options for on-site customers who prefer to use self-serve kiosks and other emerging automation technology. And speaking of automation ...

 

3. Automation

 

Automation is becoming more and more expected by consumers who want to have more control over placing orders and acquiring services without necessary staff intervention. For quick service restaurants, stadium and arena concessions or cafeterias, self-serve kiosk technology allows just that, giving control to consumers and making the order process a far more self-directed experience. Kiosks also reduce errors, which cuts down on waste and the costs associated with it.

When I go to Olive Garden, I use the Ziosk kiosk to place orders myself, add to them when necessary, and to pay for the meals. Orders are faster and more accurate, and payments are more secure, as the credit card never leaves the table. Also, my daughter Elizabeth was a server at Olive Garden and she told me that her tips were better once the new technology was deployed. Automation of this kind is making significant inroads in current business strategy for all of these reasons, becoming a more common sight in all kinds of retail contexts beyond just the hospitality industry.

For the near future, more advanced automation in hotel rooms is also a nascent idea that is starting to warrant discussion. Smart controls for hotel stays is a reality right now; lights, drapes, temperature, entertainment, all controlled centrally and with fewer necessary interventions from the front desk. But how do you feel about robot room service managed centrally though IoT sensors and Wi-Fi? Automation technology of this more advanced kind is already on the radar of business strategists at those companies who are ahead of the game as a result. They've laid the technological groundwork for their platform after conducting the necessary market analysis to know their customers better. They understand that technology must always serve customer expectations, preferences, and comfort.

 

4. Guest  Experience Management

 

To that last point, every business decision companies make, including their IT priorities and investment, should flow from what customers are telling them. With committed long-term investments in the cloud, serving millennials better, and implementing automations, we are reminded that the hospitality industry exists to create memorable guest experiences that keep consumers coming back. But that game has accelerated, with customer expectations and behavior driving that acceleration.

This includes a need for more guest control over the buying process with fewer service interruptions between hospitality locations. That sense of seamlessness is more important than ever to the consumer who is used to having all of their pertinent data at their fingertips and all in one place in other areas of their lives via apps on their mobile phones, between devices, and beyond. With that in mind, the limitations of a technology platform when it comes to service and payments shouldn't be the guest's problem. New technology must be implemented to take that burden. That's the way hospitality businesses move forward as the landscape changes.

 

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Another aspect to this is about intelligence and quality reporting tools. Understanding customer behavior on a more granular level is vital to success. The only way to do that and stay competitive is to have a constant flow of information that can be translated into customized reporting. It is equally vital to provide access to reports wherever management staff happen to be, including reports served up to their mobile devices. The guest's experience happens in real time. The hospitality location's awareness of that guest's experience should be as close to real time as possible, too.

 

Technology Meets Changing Expectations

 

This is the common thread that runs through these hospitality industry trends; that businesses must adapt their technology to make a customer's experience more memorable and rewarding. The drive to achieve that goal, at heart, hasn’t really changed. What's constantly changing is the relationship between customer expectations and the specific tools businesses have on hand to meet them. This is what is separating the winners from the also-rans.

As hospitality and foodservice industry trends continue to shift and change with the expectations of consumers, I think these are important and constant factors to keep in mind. These trends should inform us how technology investments should be planned as the future rushes up to meet us.

In the meantime, I am at heart, a sales guy. So, I submit this: We are Vivonet, providing the “heartbeat of the transaction”. It is with this “heartbeat” that you will keep up with your growing guest experience requirements, along with using cloud technology to help you create a more efficient way to use your data to engage with a growing number of younger consumers as well as existing ones.

With that said, I think you should check out the Vivonet Cloud Platform page to see what the next steps are for you in this rapidly changing hospitality industry.

 

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