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03/31/2020
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Strategies for Managing Disruption without Compromise

With the lodging industry facing increasing competition, a rapid pace of technological change, and externalities beyond our control, such as the COVID-19 crisis, operators may overlook essential capabilities in their Point of Sale system that can allow them to understand their business better and maintain revenue. Particularly for Food & Beverage services, the Point of Sale can be strategic in supporting online ordering, alternative payment solutions, and customer loyalty tools.

When faced with a crisis, most businesses begin by responding directly to the problem areas. This can mean switching service models, restructuring staff priorities, and changing workflows to respond to consumer demand. Here are some guiding principles for managing disruption and positioning for the future.

Plan for Success.

The last several years have introduced a significant number of changes in the way customers interact with hotels and food and beverage operators. More recently, the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on hospitality has shown the need for organizations to have an agile platform to support timely shifts in operations.  Online reservation and booking systems, take-out or delivery Food & Beverage solutions, contactless payment systems, and expanded loyalty offerings are rapidly being added or enhanced in almost every segment of the industry.

Developing a strategy to ensure that customers can engage via these channels requires the capability to be present in your POS and Property Management systems. When done correctly, it provides a flexible platform for developing new technologies and service capabilities, supports the various revenue centers core to the business, and does so without significant additional effort or cost. Proprietors should be looking to work with vendors who have a proven network of partners in the hospitality space and the technical capabilities required to integrate with systems that provide functionality in the online, loyalty, and mobile markets.

It’s also vital to keep scale in mind and balance the need to act quickly with the longer-term requirements of the organization. In many cases, triaging the needs of the business and implementing solutions in a phased approach may allow operators to get up and running quickly with a solution – say online ordering for takeout/pickup or delivery – while developing the requirements for a more strategic and in-depth plan.

Remember the experience.

While the short-term response to disruption focusses on ensuring the business can operate and maintain revenue, it’s crucial to remember why guests patronize the business in the first place.

Regardless of the type of establishment, the expectations of guests should be considered when looking at offering new services or delivering existing products differently. An example of this is transitioning to off-premise dining that includes online ordering, take-out, and delivery for restaurants. Tailoring the menu to determine that the meals available are ones well suited to take-out or delivery can ensure that even in a different model, guests are receiving the quality of product and service they’ve come to expect.

Similarly, it may make sense to change the product altogether rather than compromise the brand promise. For instance, a fine dining establishment may not be able to offer dishes for take-out that meet their quality requirements but could spin off a different brand offering that was more suited to the model. Think of a restaurant specializing in French haute cuisine operating a take-out bistro that provides more travel-ready fare such as baguette sandwiches.

Lastly, it’s important to keep the lessons learned from a disruption in mind when planning the future. In many instances, there is a shift in consumer behavior and expectations. In the aftermath of COVID-19, for example, many guests will potentially prefer contactless or NFC-based payment methods. Ensuring those capabilities are in place and well understood by the business can be done now with an eye to what that means for service in the future.

It’s an unprecedented time for this inspiring industry, and most organizations are looking for ways to meet the challenges in both the short and the long term. Hopefully, the approach outlined here assists in discovering where opportunities are also to be found.