Before Robots, Hotels Should Implement Tech that Improves BOH Functions
According to the United States Department of Labor and the Bureau of Labor Statistics the hospitality industry represents about 873,535 establishments and employees close to 17 million full-time employees. More than 70 percent of all hotel rooms carry a recognized brand, according to a recent article in Hotel Management Magazine, and the others are independent.
The hospitality industry has certainly become more complex over the years. It used to be that when you stayed in a branded hotel, such as a Marriott® for example, that hotel was owned and operated by Marriott. Now, only a few are actually owned by the company and the others are either managed by a hotel management company, franchised, or licensed.
Regardless of the ownership and management structure, hotels are usually operated in groups. Sometimes the invoice and payment processing (AP) function happens on site at each property, and sometimes, like with restaurants, documents are processed in a central location.
As we learned from Tim Carter, CFO Salsarita’s Fresh Mexican Grill restaurant chain, “The struggle with most franchisors”—and this applies to hotel franchises as well —“is controlling overhead. You find yourself constantly asking, ‘How do you leverage and make efficient the human resources that you have?’ You don’t want to keep hiring additional people.” This can be particularly challenging with a manual AP process—as the volume of invoices increase you have no choice but to add staff to keep up.
He advises: “Instead, give your existing staff the automation tools to make their roles multi-faceted. Your finance—all departments for that matter—can run lean and take on other, more strategic, duties.”
Hotel technology trends that we are paying attention to are typically guest facing, such as “smart hotels,” service automation, chatbots, and robots. But technology that enables back of the house functions such as accounts payable (AP) to be more efficient can free resources to focus on more creative ways to make the guest experience even better.
Solutions that leverage advanced technologies like A.I. can be found in accounting, marketing, and P.R. There are several impacts:
- Accounting: Digitizing the invoice and payment processing workflow frees AP staff to focus on more value-added tasks such as building supplier relationships. Money saved on processing costs can be applied to things that directly impact the guest experience.
- Marketing: When marketers have visibility into guest data that is captured by automation solutions, they can create custom campaigns according to guest preferences. Their stories become more relevant and personalized when the guest feels like the property or brand is speaking to them directly.
- P.R.: Use of A.I. allows the ability to proactively determine the efficacy of publicity campaigns.
Back of the house departments can make as much of an impact on the guest experience as front of the house functions. All helping to make the hospitality industry more…well…hospitable!