The Changing Face of Technology in the Hospitality Industry

CLH News talks with Richard Cox, managing director of Langley Business Systems (www.langleybusinesssystems.co.uk)

HOW HAS THE PANDEMIC CHANGED THE UPTAKE OF TECHNOLOGY IN THE HOSPITALITY INDUSTRY? DO YOU THINK MORE BUSINESSES ARE OPEN TO IMPLEMENTING NEW TECHNOLOGY AS A RESULT?

“Far more businesses are choosing to introduce new technology because of the pandemic. It not only enables them to enhance their customers’ experience – crucially, it helps keep all visitors to their premises safe.

“There has been a huge increase in the use of technologies such as mobile Point of Sale (PoS) and payment terminals which can be fully integrated into a business’ current EPoS solution and allow staff to take payments at the table, meaning customers no longer have to go up to the bar to order and pay.These technologies have been extremely important for businesses to ensure they are following COVID guidelines when serving customers, and to prevent guests coming into close con- tact with others, aiding social distancing.

“Over the past 12 months, the movement towards becoming a cash- less society has also accelerated, with many hospitality businesses choosing to become completely cashless to help prevent the spread of the virus through the physical exchange of money.This, alongside the increase in the contactless limit, has only pushed us further towards cash becoming obsolete, especially within hospitality.

“With card and device payments (such as Apple Pay) now becoming many customers’ preferred payment method, many businesses have started to implement new technologies that offer their guests more ways to order and pay, whether through a server’s handheld Mobile PoS, or mobile apps that the guest can download and use on their own device.”

HAS THE PANDEMIC SPED UP THE DEVELOP- MENT OF TECHNOLOGY WITHIN THE INDUSTRY?

“We have witnessed a move away from older technologies, such as traditional static terminals that would be used at bars to take orders.The pandemic has sped up the development of handheld ordering solutions within the industry, like mobile PoS and app ordering.These technologies were available to business owners before the pandemic but have developed dramatically due to an increased focus on ensuring both staff and guests come into as little contact with other people as possible.

“Another development we have seen in the industry during the pandemic is the use of new technologies by businesses to understand customer spend trends and preferences, allowing for focused and targeted marketing.This has been extremely important for businesses to retain customers and offer exclusive offers to encourage them back through their doors once they are able to re-open.”

WHAT ARE THE MAIN TECHNOLOGY SOLUTIONS HOSPITALITY BUSINESSES HAVE IMPLE- MENTED THROUGHOUT THE PANDEMIC?

“As many hospitality businesses have had to adapt to restrictions to try to keep pace and generate income, technology has played a massive helping hand in allowing them to do so. Mobile ordering apps, pre-order- ing, e-commerce solutions such as takeaway menus, loyalty and market- ing platforms have all been extremely popular.”

ARE CUSTOMERS MORE OPEN TO USING TECHNOLOGY AS PART OF THEIR EXPERIENCE AT HOSPITALITY VENUES AS A RESULT OF THE PANDEMIC?

“The majority of hospitality business owners I have spoken to have found that throughout the pandemic their customers have been far more open to using new technologies as part of their experience.

“I think many customers, especially those who may have been reluctant to engage with technologies such as mobile app ordering before, have taken to it much quicker than expected.This seems to be down to the convenience and extra level of safety it provides customers when visiting hospitality venues during the pandemic.”

HOW CAN BUSINESSES IN THE SECTOR TAKE ADVANTAGE OF TECHNOLOGY NOW TO PRE- PARE FOR REOPENING POST-LOCKDOWN?

“Now is the time for business owners to look at the technology they currently have in place to see if there are better, more efficient and COVID-secure ways of doing things. For example, if a business is just using an EPoS till, they may benefit from installing another form of PoS, such as mobile, to enable servers to take and process orders quickly and efficiently.

“My advice is that businesses should plan ahead and not leave implementing new technology to the last minute, as this can cause problems when re-opening.”

HOW CAN IMPLEMENTING TECHNOLOGY HELP HOSPITALITY FIRMS RETAIN CUSTOMERS AND PROMOTE LOYALTY?

“EPoS solutions can now be integrated with digital marketing software which allows businesses to interact, reward and increase the number of returning customers through personalised marketing campaigns.

“Implementing such technology allows businesses to offer a tailored, well-aligned experience which can promote customer loyalty as it creates a sense of belonging through personalised messages, gamification and compelling incentives based on their preferences and purchase his- tory.”

HOW CAN BUSINESSES CONTINUE TO PROVIDE A PERSONAL SERVICE AS PART OF THE NEW TECHNOLOGY-LED CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE?

“It is always important for businesses to operate through the ‘customer is key’ mentality and provide a personalised service by gaining information in a non-intrusive way and using it to better their experience.

“For example, businesses can use AI technology to gain an understanding of specific customers’ regular orders and how often they visit, to ensure they have their favourite items available to avoid disappointment. Another example is if a customer hasn’t visited the hospitality venue in a while, the business can send tailored deals to them to entice them back.”

DO YOU BELIEVE THE DESIRE FOR TECHNOLOGY-ENHANCED HOSPITALITY EXPERIENCES IS HERE TO STAY POST-PANDEMIC? IF SO, WHAT TECHNOLOGY TRENDS ARE WE LIKELY TO SEE?

“Yes, most definitely. Many businesses and customers have experienced the positive impact of technology-enhanced hospitality experiences, and there will continue to be a demand for new, more personalised experiences as a result.

“I think, over the next few years, technology trends within the industry will include BI and AI automations and integrations, and this will be the key for any business looking for tech-solutions post-pandemic.”