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A look at the Hospitality industry, one year on from the onset of COVID-19 pandemic

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COVID-19 accelerated and practically forced the digital transformation of the hospitality industry due to our new consumer needs of contactless, convenience and on-demand.

The adoption of digitisation just doesn’t stop at restaurants and cafes though. It has reached anywhere food and beverage is sold including stadiums and theme parks.

The hotel industry has also had to completely rethink how they offer services as well with hefty restrictions in place. The pandemic has really put digital technology on the map for the hospitality industry.

Before the pandemic, QR codes were a forgotten breed of technology. Now, QR codes have saved the hospitality industry with contactless ordering and personalised service offerings.

With self-serve ordering at cafes and restaurants, we have become DIY waiters and waitresses as self-serve orders become the new supermarket self-serve checkout option.

Whilst this isn’t good for wait staff in keeping their jobs, it does solve the problem of dealing with split bills and reduction in food order errors – no more “the waiter took my order down wrong” or “I thought I ordered….”

The necessity in the rise of digitised menus is not just good for the environment, it has given restaurants and cafes extra flexibility over their menu.

Menu items and prices can now be changed more readily without having to wait for the next print run of their menu.

Consumer expectations have changed.

As we are aware of contaminated surfaces and virus transference, consumers don’t expect to see physical menus or hotel compendiums.

They want to feel safe and know their café / restaurant / hotel is virus free and safe.

Google has also advanced their technology for the hospitality industry, where we can now order take-away food directly through Google Search and Google maps.

A new food ordering experience with Google allows customers searching on Google for a restaurant by name, or even searching terms like “pizza near me” or “Thai food in Sydney,” to discover restaurants and directly place an order in just a few clicks.

One year on from the onset of COVID, has seen contactless ordering become the new online food delivery advancement. Theme park and hotel poolside ordering, and stadium tap and order food ordering is now part of the customer experience norm.

Contactless delivery is also now an expected norm. No more physically being handed packages or food home delivery, signing for packages, sharing pens and physically transferring paperwork.

Covid has digitally transformed our delivery systems with photos now being sent directly from delivery drivers of where they have left your package at the time of your delivery.

With consumers acceptance and adoption of touchless and contactless services, expectations of the hospitality industry have changed, and the future of food is digital.

What are the next steps for technology in the hospitality industry and how can we improve on what’s already out there?

We already have tap and order table technology, QR codes, contactless delivery, Google Food Ordering, drive thru food courts, theme parks and hotel poolside ordering, stadium tap and order food ordering, drive thru food courts and contactless room service in hotels.

What’s next for food and beverage in the hospitality industry?

COVID has accelerated digital trends and out of necessity has created opportunities. And I’m not just talking front of house technologies, but back of house technologies too.

Artificial intelligence (AI) is becoming increasingly significant in the hospitality industry in enhancing the ever-important customer experience.

With the heart of the hospitality industry based around a customer experience that signifies luxury, social engagement, celebration, relaxation, leisure and an overall gratifying experience, the industry faces a tough challenge of providing an expected customer experience through now personal disconnection.

Whilst AI is nothing new, AI is helping to increase the customer experience through personalisation of guest experiences whilst face-to-face interactions decrease.

With some hotels doing away with their personalised check-in desk and moving towards kiosks, AI is being used by hotels to get acquainted with their guests, learn their preferences and habits and automatically offer suitable services.

By utilising AI, businesses are remembering previous orders, bookings and analysing the data to increase a personalised experience and guest satisfaction.

Internet of Things (IoT) is another digitisation that is increasing in the hospitality industry to assist with increasing personalised services and contactless technology.

The Internet of Things, commonly abbreviated to IoT, refers to the ability to connect any device to the internet or to another device.

Whilst many of us are already familiar with loT in our homes, the hospitality industry is increasingly utilising this technology to anticipate guests needs using personalised data.

For example, occupancy sensors can tell housekeeping when a room has been vacated and is ready for cleaning or a seamless check-in which enables a guest to use their smart device as a mobile room key.

Other hotel-based technologies which has been accelerated due to COVID are virtual remote controls and paperless compendiums.

The virtual remote controls reduce exposure to potentially contaminated surface areas and encourages the use of in-room interactive services.

The guest simply uses their smart device to scan a unique QR code which launches an online remote control on their phone or tablet. QR codes are also being utilised to access online versions of in-room compendiums.

With all the extra services now being run off our smart devices, perhaps the hospitality industry will need to look at adding charging stations to their list of services too.

With continuing COVID compliance monitoring and temperature taking protocols or thermal screening, I have no doubt that this market will continue to dramatically and aggressively grow by the day and in twelve months’ time I will be writing another article on what digital transformations have taken place in the hospital industry.

What digital transformations do you think will take place in the hospitality industry over the next twelve months?

John Saadie, Founder & CEO – Order Up Group
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