• Nader Daou

Hospitality of the Future

A sneak-peak into the future of the hospitality industry.

Post-COVID-19. A new world. Social distancing, face-masks, gloves, hand-sanitizers, no hand-shaking. What’s happening? Is this the new normal? Is this what the future looks like?

The answer is yes.

But there’s more to it than that. Let me explain.

Yes. The world has changed (more so to the extreme), especially in these last couple of months moving into the next year. Life as you once knew it will be different, your social life will be more digital, you’ll spend more time at home, businesses will change the way they operate, you’ll go out less, sports games will take place behind closed doors, meetings will be through video and the list goes on.

Though it won’t exactly stay like that forever.

For example, no, you won’t have to wash your hands 15 times a day for the rest of your life, no, you won’t have to wear a face-mask everywhere you go, and no, social distancing two meters away from the next guy in line while getting your morning coffee won’t be the future. The extreme provisions the world is taking today are simply to contain the pandemic and help kick-start economies in a safe manner while minimizing the chances of a second wave (more so, until a vaccine is globally available and accessible to all).

However, at the same time, what we’re seeing right now is actually part of a fast forward “glimpse-into-the-future” way of how life will be, regardless of COVID-19.

Yes, one day the future will soon be filled with self-driving cars and cities on Mars (the way Elon imagines it), but until then, it’ll simply be more video meetings, contact-free businesses, digital healthcare services, decentralized airports and the whole nine yards. The point is, COVID-19 didn’t shift the world into somewhere that it wasn’t already heading into, all it did was merely accelerate it a few years into the future. The power of the digital and technological age was accelerated because of the solutions it was able to provide in these times of crisis.

Take the Hospitality Industry as an example:

In light of this pandemic and its toll on the hospitality industry as a whole (restaurants, beach clubs, bars, clubs, cinemas), serious and permanent changes are being forced on the way these businesses operate.

I mean, it’s pretty hard to imagine anyone wanting to touch a menu anymore, or wanting to interact with the waiting staff as much as they wanted to before. Times have changed and so should businesses if they want to stay afloat.

In this post-COVID world, businesses must adapt and seize the opportunity of moving on with future. Yes, it’s true, change is always hard, especially when it’s being forced onto you. However, businesses must really believe that this forced shift within the way they operate is not for the worse, but rather for the better.

These changes were going to happen at one point in time anyways. The demand for automation and technology is forcing itself onto businesses regardless of COVID-19 or not, the only difference is that it came sooner than later.

Think about it.

We’re not just “entering” a digital or technological world for the first time, this isn’t a “paradigm shift” - we’ve already entered it, and have been doing so for a while. If businesses want to survive, they must understand that customers today require much more. For example, the over popularization of food delivery apps (such as Uber Eats, Deliveroo) or e-commerce apps (such as Amazon, eBay) have created new user habits, defined consumer behavior, and set market trends, that are making it very difficult for traditional businesses to compete with (unless they adapt).

Consumers today, demand instant gratification (they just don’t want to wait anymore), immediate control over their orders and services, convenience at their fingertips, and a fully streamlined experience. Where frankly, typical businesses are struggling to do so, and this is literally why most brick and mortar businesses were actually suffering well before COVID-19.

Not to be cheesy, but Darwin sums it up quite simply:

It is not the strongest of the species that survives, not the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.”

The point is, adapt. Don’t keep doing the same thing you were doing before over and over again, expecting a different outcome.

So, what should businesses do?

This is a two-part answer. First off, changes must be made in order to address the elephant in the room, COVID-19. Second, they must be made in order to address the technological shift in the competitive landscape that these traditional businesses are up against.

In light of the pandemic, popular strategies include “contact-free” services businesses can adopt. Businesses, in the hospitality industry specifically, must find ways to reduce customer contact with anything that someone else would have touched, such as menus and bill books. Not only that, customers will also want to reduce human interaction with the waiting staff as much as possible.

However, the implication with “contact-free” is that these solutions are just temporary in order to solely resolve problems during this pandemic.

“It’s fine, the pandemic will end soon, we’ll return to normal soon enough”.

You’ll probably hear that a lot. People that are afraid to change or adapt will often downplay the problem because it requires them to exit their own comfort zone. The assumption in this case, is that COVID-19 is the only problem threatening their business, but in reality, it’s not, COVID-19 is the trojan horse masking the shift in the competitive landscape.

Adopting these changes today lends the potential to much more impactful things than just resolving the issues arising due to this pandemic. The whole point of digitizing and automating operations, is that it allows for businesses to leverage their services and streamline the physical experiences they provide over their digital counterparts (who are unable to do so).

Businesses must start engaging their customers in personalized ways based on what their customers need. In fact, 80% of shoppers are more likely to make purchases when businesses offer personalized experiences. Therefore, it’s not just about creating a “contact-free” society. It’s more about, how do you engage with your customers on a personal level?

Simply allowing customers to order and pay from their smartphones while at a restaurant is just a piece of the pie, the key takeaway is to understand how to engage with your customers without making them feel “marketed”.

How do you get your customers to keep coming back? How do you create a dynamic loyalty program that’s effective? How do you make use of the data analytics that you’ve gathered in order to adapt and improve?

Most importantly, how do you engage with your customers and provide personalized and unique experiences?

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