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Reinventing the On-Property Dining Experience

Courtney Walton
Courtney Walton, Sr. Solutions Manager, Oracle Hospitality

As hotel managers analyze every aspect of their operations to enhance the guest experience, one frequently overlooked component is the on-property dining experience. Too often, hotel guests look to venture outside the hotel to nearby fast-food and alternative restaurant options, not willing to give the hotel’s dining experience a chance.

Successful hoteliers today need to transform the dining experience at their hotels into a highlight for their guests, so as to keep them — and their dollars — on site. In fact, the opportunity exists for hotel restaurants to even attract non-guest customers from their local communities, creating buzz for the entire property as a local hotspot.

But how can hotels transform often-forgotten spots into revenue-generators, especially as they juggle other upgrades across the property? From swapping out outdated ordering tools to better utilizing data to personalize dining for each customer, the right technology can make a world of difference, from the back to the front of the house.

Tech It Out  

While it may be a force of habit, using kitchen printers to capture patron orders doesn’t make sense in today’s hotel kitchen, especially when these can actually hurt overall restaurant performance. Updating to a kitchen display system (KDS) eliminates the potential for lost order tickets and saves money on unnecessary paper and ink costs. Most importantly, this upgrade can transform kitchen efficiency. In lieu of editing orders with paper and pencil, a KDS gives staff the ability to immediately modify changes on-the-fly.  

KDSs immediately show order details, accurately measuring timing for meal preparation by the chef and delivery to the customer. Additionally, a KDS can account for real-time customer feedback, like order adjustments or unhappiness with a meal, so kitchen staff can immediately attend to the issue, bumping a replacement meal to top priority. Smart systems in the kitchen also work with tools built for waitstaff, such as mobile devices and tablets, to instantaneously process orders and send to the kitchen and chef, helping increase table turn during the dinner rush. Most importantly, this technology offers reporting capabilities, processing data like elapsed time from order to completion and helping operators identify which stations are performing best or struggling the most.

Dig Into New Revenue Opportunities

While uncovering new revenue opportunities is never easy, hotel operators can increase return visits by making the most of all opportunities they have with their current guests. Specifically, hoteliers must learn how to effectively cross and up-sell their current customer base. A hotel restaurant’s performance needs to be reviewed regularly in light of changing customer preferences as well as sales data and guest feedback. Understanding data trends from orders based on time of day, season and other factors will allow hotel restaurants to retool menus as needed so they can get the most ‘bang for buck’ in customer sales. Data science analytics tools can track the huge volume of orders that flow through a restaurant’s point-of-sale (POS), delivering easy-to-understand upsell and cross-sell suggestions directly to staff taking orders via tablets, like a wine pairing for the guest’s entree.

When revamping restaurant operations on property, hotel operators should also consider moving to cloud-based POS solutions. Cloud services offer a new approach to the restaurant guest experience, minimizing IT costs from frequent software updates and on-site servers at every location, while also reducing the costs of frequent IT support and maintenance. Hoteliers should also consider industry-specific hardware over one-size-fits-all solutions, as these can offer lower day-to-day restaurant costs while providing enhanced efficiencies.

Serve Up Smarter Staffing

For restaurant operators looking to offer exceptional service to hotel guests and local customers alike, there’s nothing worse than going back to a happy customer to say that what they ordered is sold out. Fortunately, operators can avoid this front of the house challenge while saving time in the back office. A recent Oracle study showed that 34% of restaurants spend 2 to 3 hours per week managing stock. As part of this, many spend costly staff time on in-house programming for menu and pricing updates, but menu management tools, rooted in accurate inventory data, can help avoid shortages and minimize waste, resulting in happier customers and a better bottom line. Menu management solutions can also handle updates for seasonal items or special events, saving employee time so staff can focus on service.

The Bottom Line

In today’s uber competitive hotel industry, hoteliers need to explore ways to differentiate that will keep customers coming back. An improved hotel dining strategy that emphasizes technology and empowers hotel dining staff can help your hotel stand out from the pack, and transform the property from a lodging option to a social haven for guests and locals alike.

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