Hotel & Restaurant CIOs ID Top Tech Trends
In Hospitality Technology magazine’s August cover story, CIOs from top restaurant and hotel companies shared their secrets for success and leadership strategies. The technology leaders also revealed what technology they feel is having the biggest impact on their respective industries. Here we share their never-before published answers, exclusively for our online readers!
Delivery drives restaurant industry toward smarter use of tech
For restaurants, the elephant in the room so to speak, is delivery. As one CIO from a 200+ location restaurant chain noted, “I think delivery is the shiny object that everyone is excited about.”
Jeffrey Kent, CIO of American Blue Ribbon Holdings, agrees that “dining outside the restaurant,” is the biggest trend impacting the restaurant space. With that said, the pressure for restaurant concepts of all types and sizes to figure out how to offer delivery, has put increased focus on how to implement technology to facilitate, whether in-house or through the use of third party partners, not only for the actual delivery, but for digital, omni-channel ordering as well.
“Without a doubt, the biggest trend is off-premises sales,” Joe Tenczar, CIO of Sonny’s BBQ, says. “The explosion of delivery services has heightened an already established online ordering offering. Restaurants must prepare for guests to potentially never interact their own staff members, but with drivers that are loosely vetted by a third party. Because these services are currently non-integrated into the POS system, new manual workflows and imports need to be created along with tender types, house accounts, and order modes.”
Being so dependent upon third-parties has its risks, Tenczar admits, but with consumer demand reaching a fever pitch, he believes that solutions providers are in control when it comes to how much this service costs the restaurant.
“I predict that this will level out as more services enter the market and some of the ‘newness’ wears off,” Tenczar says.
One CIO who preferred to remain anonymous, cautions that he doesn’t believe the margins for delivery always “make sense.”
“The economics the delivery players are looking for don't pencil out,” he says. “If the consumer absorbs all the cost, then sure, delivery is great.”
This same CIO, highlights that delivery is indicative of the bigger picture which is that guests want convenience. This highlights the importance of how restaurants are handling and addressing mobile/online ordering, drive-thrus, server tablets and kiosks.
“Digital and mobile technologies are having the biggest impact on the restaurant space right now and for the future,” Scott Scherer, CIO, Jersey Mike’s Franchise Systems, says.
“There will be more focus on mobile -- geofencing targeted pickup times, throughput initiatives -- everything comes back to how the new consumer wants to interact with the brand,” the anonymous CIO says.
Connected guests and operations drive hotel tech strategies
Hotels continue to grapple with how to provide the best experiences to guests that are constantly connected and demand service at the push of a button anywhere on property. To add to the complexity, guests want that “button” to be on their own mobile device and not something tethered to the property or guestroom.
As one CIO from a hotel chain whose decisions impact about 1200 locations says, “mobile just keeps growing and changing our industry.”
Another CIO from a major hotel company admits that mobile technology has revolutionized how hotels interact with customers. “Our customers can now search, purchase, and engage with us all on their own terms,” he says. “This presents a tremendous opportunity and challenge to continually evolve and improve all customer touch points to meet their expectations from a technical and service perspective.”
This constantly connected guest naturally is impacting the network needs of properties. “Growth of WiFi within each hotel property in terms of bandwidth consumed, infrastructure required to support more guest and hotel associate devices, apps and functionality is having a major impact,” hotes Ames Flynn, EVP & CIO, Extended Stay America. “I think WiFi and related capabilities (for the price/value proposition) is beginning to more highly influence hotel selection, loyalty and shaping a guest stay.”
What hotels must not lose sight of is that with this constant connectivity, comes the potential for more datapoints on guests than ever before. As one CIO from a 6000+ property hotel company, noted, “Anything to do with data management and insights that will help drive our business is what will have the biggest ability to affect change. Real-time analytics will play a role in every transaction we execute within our environment and leveraged in some way to drive revenues for our franchisees.”