New year. New challenges?

Written by: Andrew Levey

New year. New challenges? Looking ahead to the hospitality sector in 2018.
It’s fair to say that 2017 has been a difficult year for the hospitality industry with rising food and labour costs, uncertainty around Brexit and an ever demanding customer base. In amongst this, however, many hospitality businesses have found a way to thrive – driving efficiencies in their organisations to reduce costs and increase sales. So what do we think 2018 will bring, and how can you ready yourself for what’s to come?

Technology

In terms of technology, we’re expecting to see a lot more in terms of online ordering, table ordering, social media and promotions on the consumer-facing side as businesses look to increase competitiveness and drive the customer experience. We also expect more technology to be used to get instant feedback from guests at the end of their visit. Key to this will be back-end solutions to really enable the business strategy, and get the manager out of the back-office.

And with more technology comes more data, which is crucial to truly understanding business performance and making better decisions quicker. The organisations that can truly harness the power of their data while keeping things streamlined, will be better placed for success.

The other important element from a technology standpoint will be to ensure that systems are fully integrated. As already mentioned, it’s important to have a technology strategy that aligns with your business strategy, and with a wide range of solutions available for the industry you need to make sure you have the right technology partners in place to meet your goals.

Without this strategy alignment, you end up being reactionary – quickly choosing specific point solutions to meet specific needs. This results in systems that don’t talk to each other (or so many integration points that upgrades or tweaks become nearly impossible), and managers having different user names and passwords for different systems. Next year will be an important time to make sure that your technology infrastructure is simplified, and that you have a small number of best-of-breed solutions that are fully integrated.

Customers

We’ve talked briefly about technology and the customer experience above in terms of ordering and getting customer feedback above, but of equal importance will be attracting the right people to your business. Google maps, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and other social platforms and review sites will be important to reach new audiences, and drive customer loyalty as followers and influencers become more and more important.

Of course once you’ve got more and more people coming through the door, you need to make sure you have the basics covered like having enough staff to satisfy demand, and full menu availability. You can have all the snazzy new tools in the world, but at the end of the day if guests have to wait ages to get their food or can’t order their favourite meal, then the experience won’t be a good one.

Accurate forecasting will be absolutely fundamental to delivering great service, and will need to look at multiple different factors to make your business as predictable as possible. Looking at the last months’ worth of sales won’t be enough anymore. You’ll need to look at year-on-year and recent trends, as well as local and national events and the weather to know exactly who and what you need where and when.

There’s also a big trend on nutrition and calories, and this can really influence where customers are going. Being able to provide this information, along with allergens, on websites and apps will be increasingly important to attract customers, as will the ability for staff to have this knowledge readily available in an easy to understand format.

Brexit

We couldn’t really talk about 2018 without mentioning the B word. The good news is that we should see more certainty around Brexit now that negotiations have moved on to the second phase. The bad news is that we might get it until October according to EU Brexit negotiator, Michel Barnier. Any clarity will be welcome so that businesses can understand what a trade deal might look like, what regulations will be in place when the UK leaves, and whether EU citizens will be available to hire post-Brexit.

With clarity will also come more movement in the value of the pound, although exactly which direction will depend on the details as they unfold. If negotiations go well and a good deal looks likely then that should strengthen the pound, which in turn could help reduce the cost of food and beverages.

Key takeaways

We’d love to say that 2018 will be free of the challenges the industry has faced this year, but the reality is that it's likely to be more of the same for the most part. We’d therefore encourage all businesses to do the following in 2018 (if you haven’t already!):

  • Make sure your technology strategy is aligned with your business strategy, so that you can simplify where possible and implement a small number of best-of-breed solutions that are fully integrated. Our recent webinar on simplifying your technology infrastructure will give you some pointers in this area.
  • Take a look at what you can do with data today. Getting all your data in a single place, and using graphical dashboards to quickly make sense of it means you can quickly react to market changes and business performance, and identify and capitalise on opportunities. Take a look at our Big Data in Hospitality White Paper for more information on what’s possible.
  • Make your business as predictable as possible with detailed, accurate and multi-layered forecasts. See how this can help optimise your workforce in our Science of Scheduling White Paper.

Fourth is completely dedicated to helping hospitality organisations meet industry challenges head on. That’s why we only serve this unique and complex vertical. If you’d like to arrange time to discuss your business objectives, and see how we might be able to help please do get in touch.

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