Technology Shaping the Future of the Hospitality Industry

Digital transformation and the leverage of technology play an important role in today’s hospitality industry, especially in the post-pandemic era. Facing the challenges of labor shortage, the rising cost of operation, and the changes in consumer needs and behaviors, hospitality businesses need to pivot their services and products with the latest technology in order to keep their competitive edge.

Whether it’s restaurants, hotels, tourism, or senior living services, staying informed of the industry trend and innovating with the help of technology are necessary to thrive.

What Is Hospitality Technology and Why Is It Important?

Hospitality technology is the application of information technology, such as robotics, big data, cloud computing, and virtual reality, with the goal to solve business problems for organizations in the hospitality field.

There are many benefits that technology can bring to the hospitality industry. For example, technologies like artificial intelligence (AI) chatbots can improve guest experience, mobile ordering can increase efficiency, and robots can lower staff workload and minimize costs.

In this article, we will introduce a myriad of technology solutions available to hospitality businesses with real-world examples of the implementation.

Latest Technologies Transforming the Hospitality Industry

Robotics

Robotics has been pivotal to the hospitality industry and it will continue to play a critical role in shaping the future. Service robots such as robot greeters, housekeeping robots, and cooking robots have become more and more common in restaurants and hotels. Robots are making services smoother and faster while lowering the cost of operation.

However, there are also concerns about robotics being the culprit of the decrease in employment opportunities. Facing this concern, the president of SDS Ventures, Sanjeev Shetty, pointed out that robots relieve human employees from dull and repetitive work.

“The human element, the person-centered element of our business which is hospitality, will never go away with robots or AI,” Sanjeev explained. Instead, robots help us create a happier work environment with higher efficiency and enable us to allocate more time to connect with customers.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial Intelligence (AI) refers to the simulation of human intelligence in computers, machines, or systems. It empowers machines to process information and perform tasks by collecting data and learning patterns.

Today’s customers expect timely interactions, personalized services, and seamless processes. To address this emerging demand, AI and machine learning can transform the way we serve customers. For example, AI chatbots enable businesses to communicate with customers 24/7 without any language barrier; computer systems can predict and optimize room occupancy based on data; omnichannel customer services can highly personalize guest experiences through an integrated network.

Video Analytics and Virtual Reality

The adoption of video analytics is also growing in the hospitality industry. In a nutshell, video analytics can process digital videos and analyze movement patterns, track objects and motions, and detect spatial events in real time. Related to video analytics, virtual reality is a technology that can create a simulated environment.

In the hospitality industry, video technologies have been utilized in many areas including security,  virtual booking, and virtual travel experience. Users may even meet and interact with others as if they are in the same room through VR.

Mobile Ordering and Point of Sale (POS) System

Since the COVID-19 pandemic greatly disrupted traditional on-premise dining, online orders and mobile pick-ups have become a norm and will only grow faster in the coming years. According to the NPD group, full-service restaurant digital orders jump by 237% in 2021 and the majority of digital orders come from mobile apps.

Mobile ordering systems like Toast transform the ordering process into a seamless experience for guests and vendors. Instead of waiting in long lines, guests simply scan QR codes to read the menu and place orders right at their fingertips. Restaurants are also able to combat the labor crisis and get more incoming orders even with less staff.

In addition to mobile ordering, Point of Sale (POS) systems are also one of the top technologies to leverage in hospitality. POS systems turn mobile devices into cashiers. Whether it’s dining in, curbside pick-up, or online orders, POS enables seamless, fast, and safe transactions that customers seek nowadays.

Examples of Brands Leveraging Technology and Digital Transformation

Boston University School of Hospitality Administration invites industry leaders to share their experiences at the annual Hospitality Leadership Summit. Focusing on the future of hospitality technology and digital transformation, our speakers, Sanjeev Shetty, President of SDS Ventures, and Daniel Iannucci, SHA’12, a Mid-Market Sales Leader at Toast, give us two examples of the impact of technology.

Robotics and AI in Senior Living: Hello Guard and Temi Robots

At the Leadership Summit, Sanjeev Shetty presents how robotics, AI, and video analytics can redefine the future of hospitality, especially in the senior living sector. He introduces Hello Guard and Temi robots.

Hello Guard is a cloud-based workflow solution that solves labor shortages and staff burnout with the ability to perform real-time data communication. Temi is the world’s first personal assistant robotics platform designed to adapt to any setting to address various operational workflow challenges.

These two technology solutions started off in the senior living sector to address the existing void in the labor market. “Employers were grappling, trying to get staff and employees were leaving.” Sanjeev describes. “The great resignation is real and many of the staff are never going to come back to the workplace. “

Another issue that Hello Guard is trying to solve is the need for real-time data. “We have all these data silos but I can’t just ask using voice—what is my occupancy today, what kind of staffing level do I need, how much time is a caregiver spending with the resident? I need that data at my fingertips and I had no way to get that so that’s how Hello Guard was born.”

Temi robots are virtual assistants that can perform tasks such as screening, hands-free temperature capture, automated building sanitation, and virtual engagement with family members. Temi robots also address the need for telehealth and remote patient monitoring technology.

Although Temi was invented for senior living, it started to be used in many other hospitality verticals such as retail, hotels, and restaurants. For example, Temi robots can act as front desk agents at hotels, as tour guides for room showings, or as shopping assistants at malls.

Digital Ordering Systems for Restaurants: Toast & The Melting Pot

BU School of Hospitality Administration’s alumnus, Daniel Iannucci, who is now a Mid-Market Sales Leader at Toast, shares how restaurants can leverage digital ordering systems with an example of The Melting Pot.

The Melting Pot is a premier fondue restaurant franchise that historically had been dine-in-only for over 40 years. Daniel describes that when you think of Melting Pot, you think of going to anniversaries, Valentine’s Day, and graduation parties and it’s an experience you have together with friends as a group.

However, when COVID-19 happened and indoor dining was closed, the dine-in-only model had a shock and Melting Pot had to pivot very quickly. The Melting Pot team predicted that customers would have to stay home in the foreseeable future and the team had to adopt digital orders and take-out in order to generate revenue amidst the pandemic.

Toast’s online ordering system and POS helped Melting Pot launch its takeout business model “The Melting Pot To-Go”. For the first time in 40 years, customers can order online and enjoy the premium fondue experience at home. Today, while Melting Pot continues to serve as the experiential destination as indoor dining revives in the post-pandemic world, the to-go online order system is here to stay and Melting Pot plans to expand by leveraging more restaurant technologies.

How Can Hospitality Businesses Implement Successful Digital Transformation?

“Successful digital transformation is the process of using digital technology to create new or modify existing business processes, culture, and customer experiences to meet the changing business and market requirements” Daniel Iannucci explains.

To do this right hospitality businesses need to focus on four key areas:

  • Understanding guest behavior: Identify and analyze the patterns and changes in guest behaviors and needs.
  • Clear and measurable strategy: The transformation must tie to a specific business goal that is measurable.
  • Strong change management: Develop a clear change road map and engage staff in the change process.
  • Technical capability: Make sure the technology is implementable and equip staff with the necessary technical skills to use the new technology.

Learn More about the Future of Hospitality Technologies with Boston University SHA

Watch our 2022 Hospitality Leadership Summit and register for our 2023 Leadership Summit to learn from more industry experts. Boston University School of Hospitality Administration (SHA) also offers a Master of Management in Hospitality and a Master of Science in Hospitality Management to support your career and innovation.

Explore BU SHA’s graduate programs today!