Technology in hospitality

I have a total of 8 different hospitality apps on my phone. All downloaded and used to varying degrees over the last few months. It therefore came as no great surprise when KAM’s most recent research revealed that more than 1-in-2 customers are now getting a little peeved at having to download a new app each time they visit a new pub or restaurant.

That’s not to suggest in any way that customers don’t increasingly want technology in hospitality. The option to order at table, view the menu and book a table etc are all fast becoming an expectation. But with many new apps being launched tech-providers and operators really need to work in harmony. We need to ensure the experience is frictionless and painless for customers.

Growing demand for pay at table

KAM has actually just carried out some eye-opening research with our friends at OrderPay. It shows that without a doubt customers are increasingly expecting (even demanding) a more technology-led experience. This is especially true with regard to ordering and paying at table as well as pre-ordering services. 41% of customers say that over the last 6 months it’s become more important to them that venues offer this.

Communicating digitally

Consumers are more ‘information hungry’ than ever as they remain ‘alert’ to the potential risks from Covid-19. Technology and digital channels can play a role in improving communication and reassuring customers. The research revealed, for example, that 92% want to see clear communication of safety measures via operators websites and apps.

Tech driven Covid-prevention measures feature high on customers’ wish lists. Hospitality is currently re-inventing itself to do something which really goes agains its very ethos. Where the best operators always tried to maximise the contact points with their guests, many are now having to do exactly the opposite and trying to withdraw themselves and limit contact. We have no doubt that in a number of ways technology will form a large part of future service.

An ongoing demand for technology

This desire for technology-enhanced hospitality experiences isn’t new. Many customers, especially Generation Z, have been asking for this for a while. A phenomenal 1-in-2 customers think that pubs and bars in particular are behind other leisure outlets and retail when it comes to their use of tech. Even before Covid-19 hit, 43% of 18-34 year olds had used an app to pay a bill in a pub or restaurant. 28% would have liked the ability to order and pay even before arriving at the venue.

Easing customer pain points

The research also found that two thirds of consumers find it frustrating when waiting to pay their bill at the end of a meal. A similar percentage of consumers often find it annoying when trying to split the bill with friends at the end of a meal. Covid or not, these are “pain points” in the customer journey which have been around for years. I’m not suggesting technology will take away all our troubles but in a multitude of ways it can certainly help minimise them.

Using data to power decisions

Obviously technology is not just about directly improving customer experience either. All these new apps, track and trace, WiFi, additional pre-bookings, increased web visits and guest feedback platforms are all critical ways to get to know your customers so much better (and not just the regulars.)

While discussing our research, Joe Boarder at OrderPay put it succinctly:

“Many operators have data on their customers through a single customer view, but it’s not at a granular level. Imagine the power of knowing their favourite drink or meal, who they dine with, their buying habits, the time of day they visit, how long they stay for and what they typically spend, and then being able to act upon it.”

Indeed, just imagine that.

Other industry figures have been banging the drum on the power of data for a while now. And it’s a drum which is very likely to be worth literally millions to many hospitality businesses.

If there is anything positive to come out of the last 7 months for hospitality, it is this acceleration in the acceptance and use of technology and data to optimise the customer experience. We’re not exactly leading the way as an industry yet, but we’ve at least stepped into the ring and are ready to fight.

You can get a free copy of the research, done in partnership with OrderPay, here or check out our other free whitepapers.

Blake Gladman

Hi, I'm Blake, Strategy & Insight Director at KAM. I look after all our research products and manage the collection and delivery of insight throughout KAM. I love long runs and good food (the perfect life balance).