By Andrew Gibbon, head of growth at ePOS Hybrid (www.eposhybrid.com)
As the hospitality sector continues on its roadmap to fully reopening, it’s important for venues to look to the future and the opportunities available to open up new revenue streams, while also considering what consumers want out of their hospitality experience.
There’s a wealth of technology emerging across the sector to not only elevate the consumer experience, but to drive automation, increase effi- ciency and grow profits. However, while digital transformation has accelerated substantially across the industry over the past year, many venues have been much slower to adopt technologies that could be supporting them long-term.
Research we commissioned recently revealed 40% of consumers welcome the technological evolution of the hospitality industry and think it’s important the sector adapts to survive.Although when it comes to exactly which technologies should be embraced and which should be avoided, there are various factors to consider with half (48%) admitting it’s important that experiences remain social and not convoluted by technology.
DRIVING EFFICIENCY OF DELIVERIES WITH ROBOTICS
One notable technology which is growing in popularity in other parts of the world and has started to emerge here in the UK is robotics. From robot servers to self-driving robots and drone delivery services, robotics is significantly changing the way the hospitality industry operates.
Our research confirmed consumers are receptive to having robots implemented when it comes to improving the efficiency of deliveries – something we’ve already seen in some parts of the UK with Starship, a self-driving robot delivery service which recently started operating in Milton Keynes.
In fact, on being asked their thoughts on this technology, 39% of those surveyed admitted they would be happy for a robot to deliver takeaways to their house if it meant a more efficient process and lower fees. Further to this, 36% would be happy for a self-driving robot or drone to deliver food/drinks to their home.
In addition to greater efficiency, it’s also worth noting that robot delivery services eliminate human contact which has been vital in recent months and has enabled operators to protect their employees from customer contact amidst the pandemic.
IMPLEMENTING ROBOTICS INTO THE CONSUMER EXPERIENCE
When it comes to robotics and the role they could play within venues, there are countless opportunities – some of which we’ve seen rollout in other parts of the world. In China for instance, restaurants have been using robot waiting staff for years now, while Netherlands-based eatery, Dadawan, introduced them as a way to reduce human-to-human contact amidst the pandemic. Further to this, Japan’s Dawn Avatar Robot Café is striving to create more job opportunities for disabled workers by using robots that are operated by employees remotely to serve food and drink to patrons.
However, our research signaled that UK consumers may not be quite ready to have a robot greet them on arrival, cook their food or serve them in a bar/restaurant. In fact, 61% think it is important food continues to be cooked by a chef as opposed to a robot, while one-quarter (24%) are scared chefs will be replaced by robots, potentially impacting quality. In addition, 53% think robot servers in the hospitality sector are a fad and half (50%) think it’s important to be greeted by a host as opposed to a robot.
On the contrary, some consumers are receptive to welcoming robots into their hospitality experience as 30% would be happy for a robot to serve them food/drinks. 24% also admit they would trust a robot to cook a meal for them in a restaurant signaling, while it’s currently small, there is a market for robotic restaurants amongst UK consumers.
While the research suggested the vast majority of UK consumers aren’t yet ready for their food to be cooked or served by a robot, we know in other parts of the world it’s a very different story so, this may well be due to the fear of the unknown.With this in mind, it’s worth noting that as technology continues to evolve, consumer perception shifts and while it may be too big a leap right now, this technology could well become mainstream in the not-too-distant future.