When it comes to technology in the hospitality industry, the three most important factors are suitability for purpose, integration and innovation.
We can be driven to embrace new technology for a variety of reasons including compliance, legislation, the activity of competitors or by a perceived business opportunity. The choice of technology is an important and quite often, an expensive one. And my goodness – we are spoilt for choice, aren’t we?
Before making a purchase, here are some questions you may wish to consider:
- How does your marketing strategy need to connect and integrate with your systems and technology in order to deliver the greatest benefit?
- What type of data and information would be useful for you to collect about your guests?
- What are the privacy considerations you need to take into account?
- What systems do you already have in place and where do you see the greatest opportunity for integration?
- What is your budget?
- What is the cost of expanding the capability of the system if you wish to in the future?
- Should you buy or lease the technology?
- What warranty is available and what are the potential future costs of upgrades?
How do I make the most of the technology that I have?
To make the most of technology (and in an ideal world), our technology systems would be perfectly integrated. Whether it be reservation systems in accommodation venues, electronic point of sale (EPOS) processes, stock management or HR functions – true and comprehensive integration delivers significant business and cost benefits to the organisation.
Those venues with significant levels of system integration receive a significant competitive advantage in cost management and guest satisfaction as well as significant value-add opportunities. By building system capability real opportunities also exist for building brand.
Of course utilising the full capability of each of the components of any technology within the system is a very important pre-requisite for effective system integration and business benefit.
EPOS systems – a great example
The modern EPOS system has a vast range of capability which can include inventory management, cellar operations (in a bar context); customer relationship management (or CRM) and more. In the past, each of these processes may have required completely different systems each of which may have had their own operating system or proprietary platform. Drawing information and data from one component system and linking it with data from another system to inform strategic decision making was a time consuming and often clumsy task. The result was sub-optimal and inefficient. Today’s EPOS systems have all the capability of the previously separate processes integrated into one.
The innovation in EPOS in recent years has been significant:
- In restaurants, the front of house interface technology communicates with the kitchen and back of house staff to communicate orders
- Table-based credit card capability syncs with the back of house and front of house operations to automatically generate reports to manage stock and costs
- (For restaurants within accommodation venues) Integrating restaurant technology with other venue systems allows the transfer of food, drink and other outlet sales to a guest room account
- Integrating these systems with property management systems allows venues to monitor guest arrival and departure times and configure hotel services to increase sales
- Expenditure and facility use patterns can be tracked to monitor the expenditure habits of guests
- Connecting these functions to the reservation system, housekeeping and front desk systems allows an enhanced customer experience at every point of contact with the venue.
EPOS systems also offer item tracking opportunities from your menu so you can monitor which items are the most popular and which ones aren’t selling, helping you to make informed decisions in regards to menu modifications.
Generating and targeting reward programs for returning clientele and promoting your business at those times when the venue is typically quiet are activities that can be far better executed when the data from your EPOS system is harvested and correctly analysed. In regards to busier periods, including promotional activities like Happy Hours, managing price adjustments can be a real difficulty in the absence of an effective EPOS system.
Inventory management capability can also be used to highlight any variance in stock levels with recorded sales – this has proven very powerful in reducing instances of staff fraud. EPOS systems can also assist in monitoring staff performance by tracking transactions made by individual staff members, transaction times and average sales made.
Much to the relief of today’s time-poor population, take away processes can be automated with guests pre-ordering their selections online via a mobile device, enabling quick pick-up and payment when they arrive at your venue.
So often when it comes to new technology we purchase the best system but only use it to half of its potential. If you are not utilising the capabilities of your EPOS system, you have just bought yourself a very expensive cash register.
For many organisations, breaking old habits and moving to new technolgies can be one of the greatest barriers to success. Staff can feel threatened that the new technology may do them out of a job; the new systems may be threatening because staff may not feel that they have the skills to use it. The introduction of new technology should be managed in the same way as any other significant change – it needs a plan. On the other side of the change management plan lies a business model that maximises the capability of the system and therefore the benefit.
The possibilities and opportunities are endless
EPOS technology is one example of the variety of new technologies available for hospitality businesses today. These new technologies, when fully utilised, allow a rethinking of the entire guest experience in ways not considered before.
Loyalty programs are made more manageable through such technologies - data can be accessed and retrieved quickly and accurately allowing for personalised targeting of incentives and services.
Online booking systems are becoming more and more popular amongst consumers, and regardless of whether it be for restaurants or hotels, the majority of online bookings are made via mobile devices. Extending your systems’ capability to connect with theses mobile devices presents some very interesting opportunities particularly as the use of social media becomes increasingly prevalent. Significant marketing opportunities exist through processes that connect with people’s profiles on social media platforms to generate referrals and reviews.
Technology presents new frontiers for any organisation of any size in the ever-changing hospitality industry. Applying the right technology to your business and utilising it to its full potential can deliver significant growth and business benefit as well as new ways of working and delivering better customer experiences. Embrace change and have a go!
Tim McNevin has more than 20 years of experience in management and training, with a specific emphasis on the hospitality industry. He holds formal qualifications in hospitality, life coaching, management, human resource development, training and career development. Contact Tim atTIMM@MarketingPlanCoaching.com