Over 20.000 restaurant and hospitality workers have changed away from the industry in Finland alone, since 2019. As we all know, companies are struggling to serve the customers the way they should be.
On the other hand, due to the world events, the costs are rising everywhere, and the people have less and less money to spend. So, whenever they go to a trip, they want to be pampered and not waste any of their time for ill working processes and services.
This is the dilemma the companies in the industry need to overcome. But how? The short answer would be: utilise technology as much as possible. Automatise when you can and remove all extra tasks that require manual labour.
The number one step to take is to be brave. Hoteliers and restaurant owners / managers need to realise and understand, that the world has fundamentally changed in past 3 years. Serving food and providing accommodation is thousand years old industry. That has not changed. But the way we do it, truly has. Tourism took a big step hundred years ago when the trains and airplanes were invented. All the sudden the common folks were able to travel to distant places just for fun and to consume there. Hotels and restaurants needed to adapt. The other big change took place at the end of the century, when everything went online, and people started sending emails and looking info from the webpages. Financial crisis in 2008 was really the birth for online travel agencies, when within couple of years people started to book the trips by themselves. At the same time smart phones became popular and web 2.0 formed into social media with Facebook and Tripadvisor, where you had/must be present in order to be considered by the customers. Again, the industry needed to adapt.
Only 0,01% of the restaurants and hotels can nowadays be successful without webpages, emails, or some kinds of presence in social media, or service in English. I bet you would not question that and all of you reading this are at least in some way considering / covering all of these.
And again, the world has changed further. You need to change with it. You cannot afford to wait. Be brave.
What then exactly?
I am typing this at home, meaning I do remote work. I have already had 2 Teams meetings today and I have sent many emails, but many more other messages in WhatsApp, Linkedin and Teams chat. Soon it is lunch time, and I am already looking options via Wolt. And I am nearly 50, not at my twenties anymore (unfortunately, my knees would say), so I am not even a digi-native.
The pandemic taught people to use different communication methods and to be efficient in different ways. They learned to save time. Covid19 with all the restrictions and vaccines, attack to Ukraine, changing economic situation, and many other world events made people to crave easily available information. Imagine if somebody last winter sent a fax to a hotel asking, ‘are the vaccinations mandatory’. Not likely. Yet, there are far more fax numbers listed on hotels and restaurants’ webpages, than for example a chat function!
So, be brave, utilise tech and reduce the wasted time from your staff and your customers. There are two ways how we at Hotelway, for example can help. And there are plenty of other good companies too.
I already mentioned chat. If your customers want to know about your pet policy or parking spaces, the fastest way to ask – and answer – is via chat. Provide that small envelope icon on the corner of your website, where the customers can ask questions. They do not want to surf around your website, especially if they are using it with their smart phone, like most of them nowadays do. That saves their time, and they become happy.
Now, if you utilise more tech and apply a chatbot to answer the FAQs, it will also save your time. I personally strongly think that no human being should answer the simple, repetitive questions of the customers anymore. If you think, that ‘oh, we are so special, nobody can know the things we do’ think again. It was already 30 years ago, when Artificial Intelligence beat the top chess players. And AI has evolved a LOT in past years. Surely, that can answer to the questions about the pets, parking and booking policy. And if it cannot, the chatbot can always guide the customer question to your human team to give the answer – exactly like you would do now. Do not expect the machine to answer every question, but the most common ones, so you can concentrate on the tough / important ones.
Now, please be careful where you get the chat and chatbot from. You want to save your time, so you want to get it from someone, who is working in the industry. It means, they should build and teach the chatbot, not you. And it should be working in days or weeks, rather than in months.
The other thing where we can help, is the food ordering. When the restaurants were closed during the pandemic, people learned to order in and take away. And that sticked. Nowadays even 30% of the restaurant’s revenue can come from the take away orders. People in the city hotels can easily believe this. There are quite many Wolt, Foodora and other food delivery people running on the corridors. People would like to eat in their rooms, but the process with the current ordering system, is too complex and time consuming. And can be expensive too. People don’t want to download any more apps, but they do not want to call either. And they want to see the pictures of the food. So, a simple web-based ordering tool with clear info and pics, will save your customers’ time.
And it will save your staff’s time too. Answering to a phone (maybe while you are serving another customer) can easily take 5-7 min. 10 orders per day means, that somebody is on the phone over an hour! With a service like this, you can just read the order from the screen and proceed further. Everybody wins. No more printing and delivering the menus in the rooms (or the hassle when your Coke runs out).
And if you are short of waiters, do not offer room service, but take away orders. Many people are happy to make and order, then wait 30 min, and walk to downstairs to get their meal. Plus they can save the delivery fee too.
There are many software and services out there already in use, which can make your life much easier. It is not a distant future, but today. Next time when a sales guy from a vendor calls with a new idea to save time from your staff, please consider what they are saying. I know that when you are working your butt off trying to manage everything, there is not easily head space for new ideas. But investing little time and thought now, can save a lot of time later.
Do you want to read this blog in Finnish, click on the Finnish flag on top of the page.