Screenshot from ChatGPT
Technology and automation are words that most businesses are always keen to hear more about. Most business owners are actively seeking ways to streamline their processes, reduce their working hours, and grow their business through the use of technology, automation, and artificial intelligence.
For some reason though, most hospitality business owners switch off when you talk about these three things. Hospitality is still built on the predication that working harder, or working longer hours will give you a greater reward “in the end”. Very few people are able to pinpoint what the “end” is though, or they believe that the end is an early retirement, at which point they’ll have all of the money that they need to live their best life. In my opinion, this is a complete load of shite. Working harder doesn’t necessarily mean being efficient, and being efficient most certainly does not mean being effective.
Being efficient means carrying out a task in a well-organised and competent way. Efficiency is all about the task that you’re doing. Being effective, however, is being successful in producing a desired result. There are obvious cross-overs in this case (it’s much easier to gain an effective outcome with efficient processes), but the two measures are very, very different from one another. You can be highly efficient at completing tasks, but if the tasks that you’re completing are unnecessary, or are a result of procrastination, then you can’t be effective, but you can be effective without necessarily being the most efficient person possible.
Efficient and effective can be used as synonyms for functional and vital. A system is functional if it is efficient, and a person can be vital if they are effective, but they can’t be vital if they are only efficient.
Technology, automation, and artificial intelligence are improving at a rapid pace, and only those businesses that are able to leverage them will survive the next 15–20 years. (It’s getting a little tedious typing out technology, automation, and artificial intelligence, so from now on I’ll use TAA as an acronym). TAA is able to run systems and processes much more efficiently than any individual. These systems are able to do in seconds what it takes people hours, or days to do, so it makes perfect sense that we should be utilising them and making them work to our advantage.
There will always be a need for hospitality in the hospitality industry (goes without saying), so why are so many hospitality business owners scared of using TAA in their business? Most of it comes from a lack of understanding in how TAA can help their business, and this often comes across as “I’m not using that”, or “We’re just one step closer to the robots taking over”, or some other nonsensical reason for not offloading a fair proportion of their grunt work.
Integrating TAA into your business can be cost effective, but it can also be incredibly expensive, and so I’ve listed out some options that fall under the former, below.
Digital Menu Boards:
These aren’t a new thing; they’ve been around for yonks. Not many businesses use this kind of static advertising (other than doctors and dentists) though, and I’ve never been sure why. A run of 10,000 printed paper menus can set you back several hundred pounds, and you’ll still need them reprinting after a couple of months when you run out, or when the menu changes. You’ll still need separate POS (Point of Sale) displays for any specials that you’re putting on, or any price reductions or discounts that you’re offering at the time.
Buying a television that you can cast your PC to can realistically cost less than a run of printed menus. Digital menu boards can be used to display menu items, specials, and promotions in an engaging way. Digital menu boards allow businesses to make quick changes to the menu, such as price adjustments, item availability, and other updates, without the need for reprinting menus constantly. I have personally used them in some of the venues that I have worked at to showcase new/ seasonal menu items and to help in solidifying the venue’s brand. The environmental impact of running an A+ grade television is likely to be much lower than printing tens of thousands of menus throughout the year too.
Another way to utilize technology in the hospitality industry is by utilizing a reservation system to streamline the booking process and reduce no-shows. Reservation systems allow customers to easily book their desired time and date, reducing the need for phone calls and reducing the chance of errors. Additionally, reservation systems can help businesses better manage table turnover and improve the customer experience by reducing wait times. Businesses can also use reservation systems to track customer preferences and provide a more personalized experience for their guests.
Mobile and QR Code ordering:
With mobile ordering, customers can easily place orders through their mobile devices, reducing the need for standing in lines and reducing the chance of errors. Additionally, mobile ordering can help businesses better manage peak hours and improve the overall customer experience by reducing wait times. Mobile ordering also provides businesses with valuable data on customer preferences and ordering habits. Mobile and QR Code ordering works particularly well in establishments where you’d be expected to order at the bar rather than at the table.
With the rise of ChatGPT, I’d be remiss not to mention artificial intelligence here somewhere. I’ve been using ChatGPT to help get some of my ideas down on paper. The bots haven’t taken over, and this article hasn’t been written by AI. BUT it has definitely helped in generating ideas for content, or things to expand on. ChatGPT is a large language model and it can help with language based tasks using prompts e.g. “write a Facebook post about our new winter menu that includes X, Y, Z menu items. Write it in a friendly and informative tone”, or “optimise this text for SEO base on these keywords”. The output from ChatGPT is fairly decent, but it needs some fine-tuning, and you only get out of it what you put in.
A nifty app that handles the transference of data between two previously unconnected systems i.e. your mobile ordering system and the system that you use for your mailing lists (e.g. Mailchimp or hubspot). Zapier can transfer the data from one system to another and display it in the format that the system receiving it requires it to be shown in. I’ve used Zapier to automate much of our onboarding process:
· I build a proposal in GoProposal and send it to the prospective client.
· GoProposal sends the information to Pixie/ Accountancy Manager
· Pixie/ Accountancy Manager create a new client in their system.
· Pixie/ Accountancy Manager then send this contact information to Dext.
· Dext creates a new account and sends an invite to the client.
The same principles can be applied to Order Management and Mailing lists- a new customer signs up to your order management system, the order management system then sends this contact information to your CRM system, the CRM system in turn sends a welcome email to the customer with your newsletter, or discount codes, or new products etc.
The main reason I’ve mentioned AI and automation isn’t to let you know that I’ve discovered ChatGPT and to tell you that it’s the best thing since sliced bread. I’ve included AI in this article as it directly links to some of the preceding points and it helps to tie them all together- you’ve identified your customer avatar, you’ve used ChatGPT or Chat.ai to generate social media posts or ad copies that are relevant, you’ve then used an automated ordering system which sends information to your CRM system, which in turn helps you to build a better picture of your ideal customer, which helps you to narrow down who you’re advertising to and where you’re displaying your ads, which results in a lower cost per click (or cost per customer) and a higher level of revenue generated for your outlay!
Overall, technology can be a valuable asset for businesses in the hospitality industry. Utilizing digital menu boards, reservation systems, mobile ordering, and contactless payments can help businesses streamline processes, reduce costs, and improve the overall customer experience. By integrating technology into their operations, businesses can stay competitive, meet the changing needs of their customers, and continue to provide excellent service and experiences.