4 Tech Trends Affecting Hotels & Restaurants in 2018
Restaurant and hotel managers will be under a lot of pressure in 2018 as they face a rapidly changing U.S. business, consumer and technology landscape. For instance, uncertain healthcare and wage regulations, competition for customers and increasing operating costs will all combine to affect the hospitality industry. Many operators will look to streamline their internal processes and increase information transparency in order to improve profitable revenue growth and operational efficiencies.
As 2018 begins, this article from Fourth predicts what will impact the hospitality industry the most including the need to leverage new technology and to build efficient and sustainable operational processes.
1. Machine learning will play a more important role across the industry. The cost of operating a hotel or restaurant is increasing rapidly, as food and drink prices rise, and some states and cities opt to raise the minimum wage. High competition for customers means that service levels need to be consistently high, so these same businesses cannot afford to operate with a smaller front-line staff. Deploying machine learning enables companies to increase efficiencies and decrease costs.
Machine learning helps streamline and automate correct demand forecasting so the right inventory and labor are in the right place at the right time to meet demand. Legacy systems base demand forecast only on sales figures from comparable periods a week, month or year ago. However new technology developments mean smart algorithms overlay past sales performance with local weather and local events like sports or roadwork to provide more accurate forecasts.
Additionally, the impact of machine learning won’t just be felt behind the scenes, as customers will feel its presence as well. It will also drive an improved customer experience, because correct demand forecasting technology will keep popular dishes on the menu and restaurants adequately staffed to give guests proper attention.
2. Restaurants and hotels will become more transparent about potential allergens. Approximately 15 million Americans have food allergies, and even more have dietary restrictions, so restaurant operators will need to accommodate the guests’ need for accurate nutritional and allergen information, and dishes that cater to those with dietary restrictions. Potential allergens need to be outlined on the menu, not just shared on request. While some states already require that outlets provide nutrition transparency, operators at establishments of all sizes will need to share information accurately and reliably for greater customer loyalty and trust.
Moreover, in future years, restaurants will use hand-held allergen testers, providing an option for tableside testing of food. While this technology (and others like it) are still in the works, they could be potentially life-saving.
3. Waste reduction will be a top priority. While the “green” movement has been gaining traction for a few years, 2018 will see customers put unprecedented levels of pressure on businesses to improve sustainability efforts. Consumers will want to better understand the specific actions business are taking to stay green. This means doing more than putting a note in the bathroom of their hotel room touting water conservation efforts. Guests and patrons will want to see efforts via visible technology like solar panels, for example.
However, this commitment to sustainability can’t just be for show. Utilizing green technology and systems that reduce food waste and energy usage is also key to maximizing long-term profitability. For example, the amount of food wasted every day translates into millions of lost dollars, so leveraging technology to understand what a business is — and is not — using will be vital both for genuinely sustainable business practices and the bottom line.
4. Security concerns will inspire action. Data breaches are far more common than we care to admit. In 2017 alone, Chipotle, Sonic, Hard Rock Hotels and InterContinental Hotels Group were all victims of data breaches, and on average, each breach costs a company $4 million. As such, businesses need to be proactive about customer and personal data security. Next year will be the year of identity authentication technology, which will be central to ensuring business data is better protected. To prepare, restaurants and hotels should begin properly vetting third-party vendors and understanding exactly how their data is used and protected.
Despite the cost pressures bearing down on the restaurant industry, operators have not turned to technology solutions to the extent that many other industries have in the U.S. market. According to a study by the National Restaurant Association, 32 percent of restaurant operators consider their operations to be lagging when it comes to technology use while only 12 percent consider their operations to be leading-edge. The perfect storm of growing regulatory, wage and food price impacts, not to mention restaurant over-building that has intensified competition, will make 2018 a tipping point year for adopting technology solutions to deliver profitable growth in an expanding economy.