Chances are you’ve noticed technology has found a home in the hospitality industry, from the tables at your favorite restaurant to the amenities listed on a hotel welcome email.
The impact of the digital age reaches far beyond the customer experience, however. Technology is affecting how the hospitality industry is conducted from the front to the back of the house – and all the way down to the amount of salt in the next entrée you order.
In the 21st century, problems are being solved courtesy of programs that bring into sharp focus a manager’s view of inventory, sales, food and labor costs, management training, and guest experience.
Whether it’s through innovative software, devices or applications, tech is changing how restaurants get your food to the table and the way hotels accommodate your stay.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the major business challenges technology can address in the hospitality industry and how new innovations are changing the game for hospitality professionals around the world.
Particularly in the restaurant business, the process of determining the cost of supplies versus the price a customer pays for the end product can be a complex calculation.
To simplify and streamline this process, companies such as CostGuard and SimpleOrder have stepped to the forefront of restaurant management software.
Essentially, these all-in-one platforms combine and centralize the data a manager must consider daily in order to provide comprehensive and clear reports that can influence business decisions, big and small.
Analytics data can be used to determine actual usage of bar and prep items and to identify sales trends, while also allowing managers to see which menu items are successful from a cost perspective.
The software can separate bar and food costs, suggest orders, track price fluctuations, calculate overhead and assess staff performance. The result can be a significant trimming of the time and costs eaten up by administrative duties.
The Need for Checklists
Running a restaurant can feel like an exercise in plate spinning. With so many moving parts to consider, keeping a checklist can be a difference-maker for hospitality business professionals.
David Scott Peters is creator of The Restaurant Expert, a web-based coaching, training and software company designed to help independent restaurants maximize their profits.
In a video on the company’s website, Peters says too many restaurateurs “need to stop trying to do everything themselves because they don’t know how to delegate and instead focus on things that will grow and control the business. But they don’t know how.”
Checklists and manager logs increase accountability and ensure that vital functions are fulfilled daily.
Improved Point-of-Sale Systems
A robust point-of-sale (POS) system is a key component in the modern hospitality industry.
Efficiency, ease of use and the ability to integrate data into other software programs are factors to consider when weighing which POS system to implement.
The benefits of an effective POS systems are numerous. Among other functions, they can: track transactions; create hourly and daily sales reports; record employee work hours; calculate payroll data; and monitor menu items sold.
And that’s in addition to serving as a credit card terminal and receipt printer.
The implementation of tabletop technology allows customers to do everything from browsing the menu to ordering and paying for their meal.
For some chain restaurants, this has led to a boost in customer satisfaction and improvement in table turnover rates.
Chili’s, Uno and Olive Garden are among the eatery chains using tablets developed by Ziosk. The Dallas-based company says its 7-inch ordering, entertainment and pay-at-the-table devices serve about 30 million diners monthly at 1,500 restaurants nationwide.
With games such as trivia installed on tabletop tablets, customers can do more than just order a drink or add a dessert.
And, with the ability to pay using the device’s credit card reader, diners can wrap up their meal at their own pace, leaving restaurant staff to tend to the needs of other tables.
The pay-at-the-table factor can also cut down on the risk of credit card fraud by keeping the payment card in the hands of the customer.
According to the American Hotel & Lodging Association, 55% of credit card fraud cases in 2012 originated in the hospitality sector.
Check-In and Self-Service Amenities
At hotels and restaurants alike, automated check-in or reservation devices are becoming the norm.
Hotels are implementing self-service initiatives that increase convenience for guests, while popular restaurants are using apps like OpenTable to encourage diners to make reservations before arrival, minimizing wait times.
Starwood Hotels is attempting to build membership in its Preferred Guest (SPG) loyalty program by offering mobile check-in and keyless-entry features as part of its SPG app.
With their smartphones, guests can skip the front desk by uploading their credit card information and downloading a virtual room key.
By enhancing the digital options for their increasingly tech-savvy diners and guests, restaurants and hotels can nurture brand loyalty and build repeat business.
According to a 2014 study by digital agency Magnani Caruso Dutton, 70% of travelers say hotel websites, apps, and other digital tools influence their decision to book with a hotel.
Author Bio: This article was written by Joe Schembri who works with Michigan State University’s hospitality management programs. Joe is interested in all things technology and has a knack for using technology to solve tough problems.