In many ways, even bringing up the subject of automation as a ‘thing’ in the hospitality sector might feel more than a little jarring. After all, isn’t hospitality the ultimate ‘people-oriented’ industry? So why would the likes of restaurants, takeaways and hotels wish to incorporate automated technologies, even if they had the option to do so, as they increasingly do?
This brings us neatly onto one of the misconceptions about the relationship between automation and hospitality firms – that the use of such tech necessarily means losing a ‘human touch’.
A better way to think of automation in the hospitality sector, is as an enhancement or add-on to the great human service that already exists.
Certain vital processes within hospitality businesses – such as the taking and processing of customer orders – have long been done manually by humans not because this is the desirable or ideal situation, but because there was simply no alternative way of handling them.
That particular situation is changing fast with the emergence and implementation of automation technologies within hospitality businesses, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and online ordering systems. So, let’s take a closer look at their actual impact.
COVID-19 may have been a reference point, but not the entire story
It might be tempting to imagine that up until the coronavirus outbreak – which began to hit Europe in a serious way in the spring of 2020 – hospitality firms such as restaurants, takeaways and hotels were largely continuing to operate by the aforementioned ‘human touch’, and only began to properly embrace automation tech with the onset of lockdowns.
But of course, that would be a great oversimplification of the situation. Automation solutions, such as the ability to place orders online and have them processed and then delivered to the customer’s home, as well as automated guest or customer communications, certainly existed prior to COVID-19 Pandemic.
It is true, though, that the particular pressures of the pandemic – with the enforced lack of in-person contact – accelerated hospitality firms’ embrace of much digital and automated tech, as these businesses battled for their very survival.
Since then, we have seen the continued refinement of the industry-leading hospitality automation solutions, to the extent that the use of such tech has become so much more than a mere ‘COVID-19 fix’.
Arguably, to give just one example, Slerp offer the best online ordering software for takeaway businesses, japanese restaurants and similar firms, with its incorporation of a smart-looking app, click-and-collect functionality, integrations with couriers for fast delivery, and so much more.
Even as the pandemic increasingly recedes into the background, the importance of embracing all possible means of automating previously manually performed, laborious and repetitive tasks will remain hugely pressing and relevant.
So, what are the various impacts automation has already had on hospitality businesses?
The below are just some of the effects that automation tech has had on hospitality firms so far, and will likely continue to have:
- It has allowed businesses to streamline their teams. It has been reported lately that hospitality businesses are continuing to suffer from difficulties in their attempts to recruit suitably skilled staff. The use of automated solutions, such as online ordering systems, is helping such firms put themselves in a position where they are not necessarily so dependent on having so many people available on-site to handle customer orders and undertake other, previously manual tasks.
- It has helped to standardise operational processes. Putting aside humour about old-school hotels with Fawlty Towers standards of service, it really is more important than ever these days for hospitality firms to have standardised and predictable processes. The service that customers receive should not be idiosyncratic and ‘ad hoc’, and automated tech can help ensure less is left to chance as far as many of the finer aspects of service are concerned.
- It has helped provide greater all-round visibility. If the employees of your rooftop restaurant or bakery are still taking customer orders over the phone or with pen and paper, are appropriate records being kept of these orders, so that you can be sure of consistently providing customers with an excellent standard of service? Do you have a predictable way of keeping track of how many orders you have received and are processing at a given time? Do you know which orders or queries have been resolved, and when? At the very least, continuing to depend on manual processes is horrendously inefficient, at a time when the cost-of-doing-business crisis has exerted greater pressure than ever on firms’ margins. The right automated tech can provide the all-round visibility you require of your business’s operations, while bolstering all-round efficiency.
In short, automation is firmly here to stay in the hospitality sector, and by no means requires businesses in this industry to sacrifice the ‘human touch’. Indeed, it could well end up being a more crucial investment than ever for such businesses’ ability to both survive and thrive.