Exploring tech and personalization in hotel F&B
by Joel Montaniel
Competition is at an all-time high for hotel restaurants to win over guests and with total guest spending in hotel restaurants, bars, lounges, banquets, and more totaling $48.7 billion in 2017, it’s never been more important to stand out. From restaurants hiring award-winning sushi chefs to the rise of robot bartenders, buzzworthy experiences that help restaurants stand out have been taking center stage in the press.
While it’s too early to label these experiences as experiments or mainstays, they continue to get attention from consumers. Regardless of your viewpoint on these stunts, it’s clear the most successful hotel operators are focusing on technological advancements for their F&B outlets that will enable them to integrate previously siloed tech and allow them to deliver exceptional service and hospitality to their guests from the hotel room to the dining room. And the opportunities are endless, with brands like Marriott, which recently dedicated much of its recent investor day presentation discussing its F&B strategy, taking notice of the changes in consumer behavior and thoughtfully revamping its food and beverage outlets with a focus on personalized experiences.
Today, the food and beverage industry is leveraging new connected technologies to streamline operations, manage reviews and loyalty, and deliver the personalized offers and dining experiences consumers crave at their properties. Hotel F&B outlets are no different. The hotels integrating this technology are poised to stand out from the competition.
Tech with a Human Touch
While technology continues to play a bigger role in every aspect of consumers’ lives, including restaurant and hotel experiences, operators are learning to focus on what diners really want: personalized, memorable experiences. Restaurants today, and particularly those within hotel properties, are starting to leverage technology for the convenience and personalization it offers without losing sight of delivering a human touch.
Hotels using platforms connected to both their property management system (PMS) and point-of-sale system (POS) are able to collect, store, and analyze important guest data and preferences that enable more proactive hospitality. For example, operators can store a guest’s favorite pinot noir that they ordered at their hotel restaurant in Miami and put a complimentary bottle in the room during their next stay at their sister property in NYC. Similarly, if a guest mentions a peanut allergy at dinner, the hotel can remove peanuts from the mini-bar in their hotel room. By leveraging technology to create a high-touch hospitality experience, hotel operators are staying ahead of the curve on every guest’s experience.
Building Relationships with Reviews
With 91 percent of 18-34-year-old consumers trusting online reviews as much as personal recommendations from friends, and 30 percent of diners looking to online reviews for new recommendations, a bad review can make or break any restaurant, and by association, the hotel property.
While it’s often resource-intensive for hotels to monitor all reviews, recent innovations have made it seamless. New platforms that aggregate reviews across multiple sites like Yelp, Google, TripAdvisor, and social media, allow managers to easily stay on top of responding to each review, whether positive or negative, and grow that customer relationship. They can easily pull reporting of any date range, and get a daily review summary in their inbox so they stay on top of ways to improve their hotel’s restaurant experience.
Each review also contains important information about the guest, which hotels can now automatically pull and add to guest profiles that span across properties. This means if a diner raved about the champagne recommendations, the hotel can see the review and offer them a free glass of a new offering when they check in for their next stay. Alternatively, if a reviewer complained about the vegetarian options at a hotel restaurant in Los Angeles, when they check in to a sister property in Chicago, the front desk can recommend a new vegetarian room-service offering.
Offering Personalized Special Offers
One-size-fits-all marketing is no longer effective today with 58 percent of all revenue generated from emails coming from targeted campaigns and 79 percent of consumers saying they are only likely to engage with an offer if it has been personalized based on a previous interaction.
With the abundance of guest data today, hotels can pull and aggregate data from reviews, reservations, and dining experiences to segment unique audiences and automate personalized email marketing. Whether it’s inviting all guests who frequently order a Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon at the restaurant to an exclusive tasting or selling tickets to a holiday cookie-decorating class for local families, every offer should be tailored to your guests. Restaurants also can manage settings to make sure they aren’t sending an email more than once a week and track ROI on each campaign in real time, ensuring guests are truly benefitting from the offers they receive.
Hey Alexa, What Does the Future Hold for the Food and Beverage Industry?
Amazon spent 2018 making Alexa a staple in homes across the country, with people using the voice technology to do everything from calling an Uber to turning on the lights. A recent study estimates 50 percent of all searches will be voice searches by 2020, so the trend isn’t slowing down.
Voice-powered technology has been huge across all sectors and hotels are no different. While we’ve already seen an Alexa for hospitality partnership that allows guests to order room service, control lighting, and play music from in-room devices, the future will bring the convenience of voice to operators as well.
In fact, Amazon recently made its first foray into restaurant operations in 2018 with an investment in SevenRooms aimed to bring voice-enabled tools to the in-service experience. Think, “Hey Alexa, how many VIP hotel guests do we have dining with us tonight?”, “Is anyone celebrating a birthday or anniversary tonight?”, or “Hey Alexa, do any guests have a shellfish allergy?”
Further down the line, we’ll continue to see personalization play a major role in the industry as hotel restaurants apply emerging technology to deliver new offers and memorable experiences across the hotel, ultimately building deeper guest relationships across the guest journey.
Joel Montaniel is the CEO and co-founder of SevenRooms, a reservation, seating, and guest-engagement platform, where he leads business strategy and sales. Prior to founding SevenRooms in 2011, Montaniel served as the chief of staff at LivePerson, leading strategic, operational, and cultural initiatives. He started his career at Credit Suisse within the Real Estate, Finance & Securitization Group. He graduated with a B.A. from Georgetown University.