To enhance productivity in both back- and front-of-house F&B operations, hoteliers are turning to technology solutions such as automated taps and enhanced payment systems.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—When technology and food-and-beverage operations converge, great efficiencies can occur.
This is especially helpful in high-volume areas such as hotel bars, said Sean Kreiman, VP of asset management company CHMWarnick. His company recently did a full repositioning of the W Washington D.C., which included improvements to its rooftop lounge POV, he said.
The hotel’s high volume called for streamlining and improving operations, with a focus on efficiencies such as batching cocktails to improve consistency of drinks and free up bartenders, as well as automated taps for beer, wine and some cocktails.
He said the automated taps are designed to limit waste and over-pouring of drinks, as well as keep the alcohol at the right temperature.
In addition to speeding things up and controling the pour of 16-ounce drinks, the automated taps provide data on which drinks are selling most and at what time of day, Kreiman said.
“In time, (that) should allow us to make decisions as asset managers to improve overall profitability and inventory management,” he said.
Kreiman admits the automated taps are pricey, and there were issues at first with installation and added costs, but the return on investment is getting the perfect pour and more efficiency to serve more customers during high-volume times.
For smaller venues with less volume, this might not be the best fit, Kreiman said. He suggests a self-serve or pay-per-beverage automation concept instead, as long as the proper restrictions are in place.
Ken Taylor, VP of strategic development at Las Vegas-based MarkeTeam, said some in the industry are turning to decentralized or cloud-based POS systems to retain information on guest preferences.
“It’s taken us a long time to get to this point,” he said. “Any hotel operator will tell you, even at the corporate level or at the unique and boutique level, their point of sale is one of the (slowest) to become modern.”
He’s also seeing a greater push from the brands in enhancing their mobile apps. Those apps now are being designed to allow guests to order room service.
Kimpton Hotels and Restaurants’ SVP of restaurants & bars Scott Gingerich, said convenience-based tech is the biggest trend right now.
“Whether it’s delivery services and apps or tablets for in-room dining, guests want a seamless, integrated experience across the board,” he said in an email interview.
He said Kimpton is looking to improve its reservation management system; its current one is about 20 years old.
Investing in an intelligent reservation management system allows for better table management algorithms that help restaurant hosts “make optimal seating decisions—as opposed to educated guesses—on who to seat where and when,” he said.
Kimpton is also looking into services that will allow guests to pay at the table with their own device.
“Waiting for the check and paying the check is commonly a pain point,” he said. “This allow guests to view their check and pay at their convenience.”
Kimpton is currently piloting is a guest feedback/survey system, via a tablet-based check presenter, that gives guests the opportunity to pay a check and also leave feedback on their dining experience, “thereby increasing capture of feedback and providing more timely feedback,” Gingerich said.
Increased labor costs are eroding profitability for everyone across the industry, and no operator is immune to it, Gingerich said. Thoughtful and selective technology is key, he said, but it should be less ostentatious and serve as a way to support the human side of F&B, not replace it.
“Although there are many ways to increase labor efficiencies overall, at the end of the day, a truly memorable dining experience requires heartfelt hospitality and service that cannot be achieved without human interaction,” he said.
However, with the shrinking labor force and growing costs, he said he expects more automated technology in the F&B space, such as automated espresso machines and kitchen robots.
“I don’t think we’ll ever see the complete elimination of human contact from the dining experience except for novelty concepts. It’s an experience-hungry world out there, and those need to be delivered by people,” he added.
Kreiman said the intention of implementing automation at the W Washington D.C. rooftop lounge wasn’t to replace the bartenders, but to allow them to interact with more guests during peak hours.
Gingerich said he hopes that any tech implemented in the future at Kimpton will “pull triple duty: enhance the guest experience, improve sales performances and benefit the employees themselves.”
Anything that enhances Kimpton’s vision while creating memorable experiences for guests remains a high priority, he said.