Category: RoomOrders

Has corona killed your waiter?

Has corona killed your waiter?

When the vax shores up our collective immunity, allowing the hospitality sector to truly fling open its doors to the world this summer (* looking up into the skies, please God), you will probably notice a 250-year-old mainstay of restaurant dining gone missing.

You may look around, and call out: Garçon!

And to no avail.

Nobody will be around to hear you.

Or serve you.

Just like clicking your fingers and voila!

The COVID-19 pandemic could well have killed your waiter – only figuratively speaking, I hope of course – and replaced them with your phone (most probably already powered by 5G).

Disposed of contaminated paper menus, like rubbing a genie bottle or clicking your fingers, you will simply scan a QR code, or tap an NFC tag, and order what you wish. And it will appear out of thin air: voilà!

It won’t matter where you are; in a hotel room, a rooftop bar, pool or beachside deckchair, a golf course or casino, your food or drink will find you. It’s likely that the genie will be in the form of a drone.

Seamless ordering and payment

From the first day a French proprietor of a humble soup shop invented the menu in the early 1800s, waiters have been at our beck and call, greeting us upon arrival, recommending dishes, taking and delivering our orders, filling our drinks, clearing our tables, processing our checks…

They have survived all manner of automation, including vending machines, self-service canteens, walk-through cafeterias, BYO, take-away trucks, hotel smorgasbords, bicycle deliveries and teppanyaki as well as sushi trains.

Video killed the radio star and it seems digital is killing our waiters.

But is it really? And if so, how? Or why?

While I don’t think waiters are on the verge of extinction, I’m sure their numbers will dwindle considerably in the next five years. At the end of the day, waiters cost a lot to keep and hospitality is exiting its biggest ever crisis in history since World War II.

Rather than serve, waiters that endure will probably become more like exotic, endangered creatures. They will primarily welcome or entertain – in some way or another, they will be tasked to improve the guest or customer experience.

A niche audience may pine for the past, when hospitality was a comfort, when it had a human touch.

I blame Netflix.

Everything has become on-demand.

While we grew up hanging on suspense, prolonging our desires for almost everything, like a letter in the mail or our favourite TV show every Sunday afternoon, the new generation wants everything now!

Waiters, err sorry, I mean waiting. Waiting is for losers.

Yes, waiting. Not waiters.

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We care about guest experience. Yeah, but really?

Every hotel and resort decision-maker would tell you that the most important thing in hospitality is guest experience. Yeah, but do they really think that?

Trying to run the show at RoomOrders – a guest self-service ordering and payment solution, this question has often kept me up at night.

RoomOrders is used in over 200 leading hotel brands around the world, so you can imagine I’ve gotten to know a lot of hotel owners, GMs, operations, food and beverage and IT managers. RoomOrders is also used in a lot of restaurants and bars, including chains like Burger King, so the notion I get is the same for hospitality at large.

On the other hand, I am also a glutton. I love to indulge in hotels and eat out every chance I get. So I pretty much have a good handle on what guests want too.

Honestly, I think hospitality providers do really think guest experience is foremost. The only problem is that they seem to have lost touch with what today’s guest considers a truly good experience.

Sure, contactless ordering and payment is no longer just a craze, it’s a necessity – ‘the new norm.’ And sure, everyone in hospitality is keen to digitalise, or as we like to say, bring hospitality into the new Low-Touch Economy.

Hospitality providers know this. Guests know this. Everyone knows this. And for those who don’t, the corona virus has hammered the message home loud and clear.

So what’s the catch?

The catch is that they don’t get what constitutes a great touchless experience?

It’s hard to blame hotel professionals, so many leading hospitality vendors find it easier to sell hotel-centric, rather than guest-centric solutions. Ironically, it’s the hotel-centric solutions that cost the big bucks.

A case in point, a sturdy POS system is expensive. It’s procured through arduous processes requiring negotiation and rubber stamping. And if you want to integrate cloud payment solutions for example, that would run up costs like licences, implementation, configuration, as well as staff training. But hey, this will ultimately save you cash; it should streamline operations and make management much easier.

Alternatively, you could just download an off-the-shelf solution and make life easier for the guest to order and pay on their own devices. They would even receive receipts in the mail.

It seems the secret is to strike the right balance. Not too clunky and fairly priced.

But, back to my thoughts. If guest experience is really paramount, what is the gold standard in guest experience?

I like to think that the best guest experience in the world would be something like sitting or lying down anywhere – a busy downtown restaurant, a remote sandy beach – and I could order whatever I conjured up, with just the click of my fingers. And voila! It would appear before my eyes, and I wouldn’t have to rummage through my pants or towel to find my wallet, to pay for it.

Ok, you are right, RoomOrders has not invented a genie in a bottle. But I think we’ve created the next best thing.

If you are a hospitality decision-maker, and you really care about guest experience, I would suggest you put yourself in the shoes of the guest yourself. The guest-centric solutions out there are low or even zero CAPEX. They do not disrupt usual operations, they do not require training and they vastly improve your business.

I won’t mention the bottom line. It’s astonishing what a difference digitalization makes to revenues, whether it be streamlined processes, easy monitoring, analytics and management or more than double the previous average check values.

All this sounds awesome, I know. But that’s so last year’s model for us at RoomOrders, we are not just digitalising operations for individual hospitality providers, we are already building digital ecosystems, interconnecting accommodation providers with entire communities of vendors, from food to leisure and experiences.

Imagine staying in a hotel or Airbnb in a foreign place and scanning a QR code that opens entire communities of local vendors at the touch of your phone. It doesn’t matter where you are, Brisbane, Boston or Barcelona, the same seamless guest experience – without downloading an app.

The trick is that people love technology. They just don’t love other people’s technology. They demand instant gratification and their preferred method is via their smart phone devices that they carry with them everywhere they go.

Did I mention busy downtown restaurants and remote sandy beaches?


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