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  • Writer's picturePhilip Marchant

A to Z of 2021 Home Schooling for Business (Part 1, A-D)

During 2020 a major pandemic changed the world. And now in 2021 it is still affecting our lives whether you are furloughed, have been made redundant and started your own business, your business has been forced to close during the lockdowns or just the economic impact on your business has been severe. If you are at home with the children or loved ones consider this alphabet to get you back on track!

A -Automation/AI

This broad, sweeping category speaks to the technological developments that have been seen to reduce waiting times, “outsource” menial tasks to robots and use big data to optimize processes.

Hotel operations more generally are increasingly shaped by the use of management systems to monitor and optimize revenues, customer relationships, property, channels and reputation. Mobile, cloud-based and integrated solutions are especially sought-after.

It seems what has undeniably been a very challenging situation for many an industry in 2020 has yielded benefits that will be felt for years to come. May 2021 bring more of the same innovative spirit!

Robots in the hotel setting, have been used to offer room service and perform cleaning and other housekeeping chores. Meanwhile, restaurants can potentially use robots to carry out aspects of foodservice. This can be especially useful when dealing with restaurant customers who are trying to reduce close contact with people as much as possible.

Chatbots are another of the major hospitality trends linked with customer service and can be especially useful for delivering swift responses to questions, even when human staff are unavailable. In many cases, this can lead to first contact resolutions, but the chatbot can also gather information and pass it on to a human rep if required.

Those in the hospitality industry need to get to grips with the increased number of questions customers will have about coronavirus and restrictions within accommodation and restaurants too. Chatbots will be able to answer the most fundamental questions in this area within seconds, helping to reduce stress levels for all involved.

Artificial Intelligence

Artificial intelligence plays a number of different roles within the hospitality industry, but the main one is to improve customer service. One example of this is AI-powered chatbots, which can be used for online customer interactions, removing lengthy waiting times and providing swift, intelligent responses to questions.

However, there are additional uses for artificial intelligence technology too. For instance, some hotels have introduced AI and voice-controlled customer service or tourist information hubs within their hotels. Meanwhile, AI can also be used to sort through data, automatically make adjustments to processes, and so on.

In simple terms, a smart hotel is a hotel that makes use of internet-enabled devices, which are capable of sending data to one another.

A smart hotel might, for example, allow guests to control the heating or air conditioning from their phone, or turn on the TV by giving a voice command to a smart speaker. In many cases, smart rooms also automatically adjust things like the brightness of light bulbs, or the temperature of a radiator, in order to maintain optimal conditions. Smart systems can even remember your guests preferences in these areas and others and offer solutions before problems even arise. They can offer tailored solutions, promotions and offers to your guests.

B – Branding

Due to the Pandemic lockdowns and social restrictions around on-premises dining, many have turned to alternative revenue sources to keep their businesses running.

One revenue stream that gained popularity throughout the year and will likely continue to grow in 2021 is the creation of branded products. While some restaurants already included merchandise like t-shirts, hats or even spices and salad dressings as part of their strategy, it’s now becoming a more important piece of their revenue as their regular source of income decreases.

Moving forward, people will have to turn to other revenue sources.

Whether that’s “Selling cookbooks, products, hats, etc.

The reality is that you can’t run your same restaurant the same way as before.

If you are looking to add a restaurant merchandise to your strategy, just make sure to build it with omnichannel in mind. Offer products in-store and online and make it easier for customers to find what they’re looking for and fall in love with your products.

Establishing an online presence is a critical component of building an omnichannel strategy, is creating an online presence that integrates seamlessly with its physical counterpart. According to Roper, business now more than ever need to start thinking about the digital hub for their business. Customers are trying to find a business like yours and if they can’t find good information, you’ve lost them, because there’s so much competition.

Having an online presence including touchpoints, will provide you with a good-looking site where you can have all your information in one place and connect to all other delivery platforms including third party delivery sites and your social media accounts.

Even for restaurants that are just opening, or looking for new customers, the way people look for places to order from or dine in has completely changed, making omnichannel touchpoints all the more important.

People won’t be strolling down the street seeing a new restaurant open up, so it’ll be about the online presence – social media platforms, third party delivery sites, blogs and vlogs, review sites, influencers, and of course your website.

But what will omnichannel mean for restaurants in 2021? It means connecting with customers across all the channels they interact with you. This might be having touchpoints, online ordering and reservations, or a physical location that all work seamlessly with each other.

C – Costs and Cleaning

With the Lockdowns, Furlough, redundancies, and cutbacks due to the pandemic, many will be facing limited travel budgets in 2021 so properties will need to appeal to value travellers who will be in search of low rates but also willing to spend a little bit more if it means an improved quality of stay, safer experience and increased flexibility or benefits.

But costs also apply to your own costs. Check out various suppliers against your current ones. Can you get a better deal – a cheaper price, better quality, more favourable terms, are a few ways to not only cut costs but also improve cash flow which is vital to any business.

Hotels offering “cost only” (which just covers the cost of the room) deals during the quiet periods can easily increase the spend by offering upgrades or great food and drink or entertainment/experiences to their guests. Spa deals or treatments included or at a discount rate or even offer great package deals which include all of these with the savings displayed for regular customers. Beware of mass marketing these deals as it can be perceived as desperate.

A taster session can be a great way to entice people in. hotels with Spas or Gyms can offer a taster special package deal which gives the hotel a chance to show off all of its areas and offerings to potential customers.

These deals not only are a great marketing tool, but also help with cash flow as well as keeping your staff engaged during the quieter times.

The hospitality industry was quick to implement increased safety, social distancing and hygiene procedures in the weeks and months after the COVID-19 pandemic was first declared in March 2020 but companies are likely to continue building on and improving their various healthy stay programs and partnerships in the new year as they look to not only assure guests but separate themselves from the competition.

There are several hospitality trends that can be broadly described as being related to safety and hygiene and these have become especially important with the emergence of COVID, as the world adjusts to the virus and efforts to contain the spread. It is essential that these concepts are a priority for hotels, restaurants, bars and cafes.

Measures here must include the provision of hand gel, increased cleaning of areas where customers will be, implementing policies related to wearing masks or other protective equipment, and ensuring social distancing rules are respected. Any special rules need to be made clear ahead of time and need to be enforced to make people feel safe.

Moreover, your hospitality marketing efforts also need to emphasise the safety and hygiene steps you are taking.

Of course, we can’t forget the importance of health and safety as a means of staying open during a pandemic.

Now that most countries have had time to set up certain standard regulations and protocols, restaurants have also been able to finalize their own health and safety processes.

Even include a health and safety video on your website, pictures and clips on your social media showcasing all the detailed steps you’ve taken to reduce risks and keep customers safe.

In 2021, these protocols will continue to be important and a regular part of day-to-day activities. Customers will expect businesses to have clear processes that they’ve been holding up for the past year.

Everything from wearing masks to constant disinfection of surfaces has to be nailed down as part of regular operations. Doing as much as possible to help ensure customer safety and food safety will be key for businesses hoping to remain open and curb the spread around the globe.

D – Delivery

Many restaurants and establishments offering food have adapted to the COVID situation by increasing food and beverage deliveries, allowing customers to enjoy something akin to the restaurant experience at home. Often, this means accepting telephone and online orders, delivering quickly and offering contactless payment and deliveries. This will probably mean adjusting your menu, maybe even creating new dishes and making your food delivery friendly.

Packaging is an important consideration not only for the viable transport but also for your branding, the environment and of course cost.

In most cities around the world, on-premises dining has taken a major hit. This hit has steered the increase of delivery orders, takeout and online ordering. And with 92% of restaurant traffic being off-premise, restaurants that want to stay relevant need to find a way to change the way they serve their customers.

While some restaurants proceeded to package and send out their dishes with minimal changes, others sought to embrace the shift, change their menus and get inventive with new offerings that would help replicate the experience of eating out, or even allow you to produce their dishes yourself, in the guise of meal kits.

As restaurants remain partially closed, and restrictions increase due to the second wave of the pandemic, ordering in and eating at home will likely remain a major player in the months to come. Restaurants that want to stay competitive need to adapt their offering to be better suited for consumption outside the restaurant. Adding items like home cooking kits and even wine tastings to your menu can help lure in customers that are looking to combine the convenience of eating in with interesting new options and food that travels well.

Some made the best of in-house dining closures by getting creative with their menus.

They differentiated their menus by adding items like specialist picnic sets with food and drink pairings.

Adapting and changing your menu on a regular basis and offering interesting options and seasonal variations, including healthy options and considerations for the different dietary requirements that go well with eating at home will help you stay ahead of the ever-growing competition.

Early on in 2020, restaurants realized that delivery and takeout were becoming a big part of serving convenience to a changing customer. Those that already offered it, started revisiting their strategies to add resources to delivery and takeout, while those who didn’t, hurried to add it to their offering. In 2021, delivery and takeout will continue being essential to running any restaurant.

The way restaurants choose to manage delivery, however, is beginning to change.

As restaurants worldwide endured rolling closures of their dining rooms with more possibly to come, an online presence and frictionless delivery and takeout experience have provided a crucial lifeline for many businesses.

Due to the increased logistics and costs associated with creating an in-house delivery system, many restaurants resorted to working with third-party players like Uber Eats and DoorDash. While this is a great and easy way to get access to a huge network of customers quickly, it also comes at a cost with third-party platforms charging high commissions that can eat up the bottom line for many restaurants.

With delivery continuing to grow as an important part of a restaurant’s livelihood, many are looking to take more ownership and control of the process by bringing it in house.

Restaurants might start managing the delivery themselves. They can hire a delivery person in addition to working with their usual third-party orders. That way they don’t miss out on making bigger margins if someone orders directly from them, even offering special offers or discounts to customers to entice them to use their own service, while still having the income from other platforms.

Having a mix of options can be ideal for businesses that are looking to not only grow but also manage their costs and develop their brand.

While the hospitality industry is known for its creativity and culinary innovations, many restaurants have lagged behind when it comes to bridging the gap between their physical space and the opportunities of the digital world.

The growing necessity of adding digital customer-facing options became very clear in 2020 and will continue to be critical for restaurants that want to succeed in 2021 and beyond.

Some of the perks of having your own online ordering system? Having control over the entire process, from the look and feel of your ordering system to the margins while having it feed directly into your system with minimal changes (if any) to your existing operational process.

An integrated online ordering system means customers can easily order ahead for takeout, curb side pickup or a self-managed delivery service. These platforms work with the restaurant’s existing workflows and provides them with more control by allowing them to adjust prep times for peak hours.

These systems can also help build a database of customers their habits and can aid in not only marketing but also in purchasing, menu development and preparation.

While there’s no one way to manage alternative revenue streams for your restaurant, as always, it’s all about providing a safe, quality and cost-efficient experience for your customers.

Don't forget to look out for the next instalment of A to Z of 2021 Home Schooling for Business - Part 2, E-J

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