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Cellular Revolution

We've been hearing for several months - if not years - about the importance of the Millennial Generation (currently, the current tweens, teens and 20-somethings) to the hospitality industry. But it looks like this group's penchant for personalized, sophisticated technology has made its way into their parents' generations, and certainly to their older brothers and sisters.

Nowhere is this more obvious than in consumers' love of their personal cellular telephones. From the recent buzz surrounding the iPhone, to the general proliferation of devices that are cell phones, web browsers, MP3 players, and cameras all in one, it's clear that sophisticated personal technology is popular amongst the U.S. consumer masses. And even more clear that such personal devices are the future of marketing to and communicating with your guests.

This trend begs the question: are you looking at technology options that tap into this opportunity, showing your guests that your company is ready to communicate with them on their own terms? For restaurants, these options are increasingly coming in the form of new ways to make reservations, place orders, and pay for food. Pizza Hut, for one, recently rolled out technology that allows pizza lovers to order up a pie via cell phone text messaging or mobile Web. At the recent National Retail Federation Big Show in New York City, the show floor was buzzing with talk of near field communications technology (NFC), and solutions that will allow guests to download gift cards, coupons, and other communication onto their cell phones, on an opt-in basis. While deployment of these systems is still probably a few years out, when NFC-enabled phones are in greater numbers in the general public, it's clear that tapping into some of these trends can bring opportunities in how you market and build loyalty with your customers.

As with any new technology that touches the guest, it will be imperative not to overdo it by communicating with them more than they want, or in ways that they feel are invasive. And of course, the more targeted the outgoing communication, the better. It's a trend we'll certainly be watching at HT. In the mean time, I've got to go answer my cell phone.

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