Hospitality has had a perfect storm of harassment over the last 18 months as we all know. But now that we are coming out of the pandemic in the UK, what are the long-standing issues affecting this sector in the months and years to come?
I have worked with a host of different hospitality businesses from GRH and sketch London to other restaurants, spas and leisure activities, and the issues and challenges are pretty much the same across the board at the moment.
For those that are not in the sector, the major issues are focussed around supply and service. From rising prices in the food supply chain as well as the rise in cost of employment and shortage of staff that run the business.
The great positive story behind all this is that fact that demand is going through the roof, especially in tourist destinations that’s for sure.
The season is looking a little longer this year and anecdotally talking to the people on the ground serving in pubs, restaurants and any venue, they are already frazzled.
So most food and leisure venues have very similar challenges and they are based around;
Ok there are lots of others, but if you can get these right the rest is easy! Wow that was a sweeping statement!
Well, these are the particularly sticky points at the moment when the whole industry is under pressure and if you are in the thick of this, then I am sure I am preaching to the converted.
A lot of these pressures are based around the team you have in the business from what I have seen and been told.
It is looking like over 20 hours a day are being saved to the team by having this in place.
At the top of this article I talked about the teams being one of the major challenges from expense to availability and if we can release the squeeze on your existing team in real terms, then that has got to be a gamechanger across the board.
Getting your technology in line is going to be your best friend and to be honest it can be so much easier than you think.
I had a disaster this weekend with what should have been a straight forward restaurant booking that sets this up so simply.
We wanted dinner overlooking the sea on Friday, I know cool right? But guess what they are rammed busy and out of about six restaurants, only one had a table. I found all this out online, on my phone through the irrespective booking engines. So, for five of those they are sorted and full and good luck to them in that, it was my fault for being last minute (ie booking it within 7 days of wanting to eat! Good grief..)
My only available restaurant was not a bad choice, their food is great and I grabbed the table using their Res Diary booking engine. Fab all smooth and nothing to see here.
Sat back as smug as you like, looking forward to eating there.
So it rolls on to Thursday and a friend says “what time did you book that table for?”. Well I can’t remember details like that! I expected the email confirmation to pop into my Calendar, but no nothing. So ok dig out the confirmation email, hold on, nothing. Ok, bit worried about this now, it was up to me to book the table and it is Thursday, we are going to be eating pizza in a minute perched on a wall!
So, I email them from their website to ask if I was supposed to get an email confirmation and have I got a table.
Now I am a busy bunny and gave them some time to come back, but nothing so I phoned them on Friday. No answer on the first attempt and then an answer on the second attempt and a hurried confirmation and big apology and yes we do have your table and I know it is a pain when you do not get any confirmation and see you later. Oh I also got an email from my query later to say I had the table!
Now I said this was a disaster, well it wasn’t for me. It was a bit of a pain as I have things to do rather than chase a table, but for the restaurant maybe it was? They were rammed busy like everyone else and they had to take my call, I could have been cranky (I wasn’t.. honest), they were super busy so they could have been serving food and they also emailed me in some quiet time that should have been spent preparing for the next service.
Like I said, not a problem for me really, but when I spoke to the people in the business, they were flat out (like all their competitors)but with the ongoing phone going in the background for all sorts of queries.
My problem was from one email going missing, from their ResDiary not being setup as it should be. This is not anything against ResDiary as they seem to be gaining some traction and with all the other systems around it could have been the same story with them.
I estimated that they lost 20 minutes to my query, taking the call, looking up the booking, crafting a little email and replying to me duplicating the effort.
They managed and we happily had a nice table in the window overlooking the marina and all was good, we were in no rush and food was really good and the staff were pretty friendly. They were struggling with some slow service here and there and had a couple of grumbles around us and guess what? The manager comes over and says, “yes we are short staffed, cannot get them!”
Automation was the key requirement here and it needs to be right. One of our restaurant clients are getting 100 enquiries a day being dealt with via a chatbot. Saving calls and emails into the business. Signposting bookings so that is done online rather than a call and a whole host of questions and answers that are the common inbound queries that the team would normally field.
Now from their stats it is looking like over 20 hours a day are being saved to the team – that is amazing and of course means that the team can get on with looking after people in the location as a human should do.
We are talking about a high quality operation here, so the chatbot has to be tip top and accurate and he is. Fully trained from day one and taking more that his fair share of the load.
So, in this space there are couple of paramount rules to adhere to that are going to make or break you as the season hots up. Get the right automation in place for your bookings and enquiries AND make sure it is setup correctly so that is does the job neatly and efficiently in a way that our audiences are now expecting, else you are in for a fright and you just might not survive the journey.
You might think you do not have the time to put this in place, but honestly it does not take long to do any of these things with the right partner.
Our chatbots are built by us, so you do not have to take any hand in that if you do not want to. Just train us like a new member of the team and hey presto, we will train the chatbot likewise and do the heavy lifting. Automating queries your team would have to normally field.
Getting a booking partner is the same, SevenRooms seems to be a strong one at the moment, but if Res Diary is more your space, then it works but just make sure you set it up properly!
If you cannot get the people, then why are the ones in your team doing work a bot or automation can do?
We have our podcast about a variety of subjects including chatbots, voicebots as well as customer service or self service automation, we discuss how these impact business and some specific challenges or sector stories to help anyone looking to engage with this technology.