F&B Drives Hospitality and Human Interaction in the Digital Age

By Adrian Kurre Global Head, Homewood Suites & Home2 Suites by Hilton | August 27, 2017

Many hotel guests enthusiastically book rooms online, bypass a front desk check-in with their digital room key, and choose to receive their bill via e-mail in an effort to streamline and control their own experience – and at Hilton we support ( and have led the charge on! ) many of these innovations. At the same time, human interaction remains the crux of hospitality. And hospitality is, after all, a main driver of guest satisfaction and repeat business in our industry. Year after year the J.D. Power North America Hotel Guest Satisfaction Index StudySM has shown that the number of interactions guests have with hotel staff has a direct impact on how they rate customer service, even when mistakes are made during their stay. How can we continue offering the cutting-edge technology and the control that comes with it that our guests love, while not losing sight of the basic human need to feel acknowledged and welcome? I’ll summarize it in three words – Food and Beverage ( F&B ).

Kurt Vonnegut’s Predictions Ring True Today

One of the most influential things I’ve read in my life, a novel even more relevant in this digital age, is Player Piano by Kurt Vonnegut. Written in 1952, it describes a future where machines conduct all business transactions and perform all jobs, with the notable exception of bartending. More than 60 years ago, Kurt Vonnegut recognized the importance of human interaction in hospitality. Future humans did not want a machine to deliver their cocktails with cold precision.
Now, fast forward to today’s digital world where technology streamlines many of our transactions. We make bank deposits, check home security and book hotel rooms on our smartphones. However, humans are always going to want the person-to-person relationship during a hotel stay, especially when staying for extended periods. This fact elevates the importance of F&B hospitality – a trend I expect to grow even more in the future.

F&B is Key to Hospitality

I started my career in hospitality focusing on F&B, first working for Stuart Anderson’s Restaurants and then as regional director of F&B for Courtyard by Marriott, and I have always placed a high value on a hotel brand’s delivery of F&B offerings. But this is even more true today because F&B remains an essential way to provide hospitality and humanity in the digital hotel age. And while this applies to all industry segments, it’s especially true in the extended stay space. As Global head of Hilton’s extended stay hotels, Homewood Suites by Hilton and Home2 Suites by Hilton, which have a focused set of services, I know how important it is to maximize the customer touch points we do have.

Just consider our breakfast. More than 80 percent of our guests at Homewood Suites and Home2 Suites join us every day for our complimentary breakfast. It’s one of just two F&B offerings at Homewood Suites, and the only complimentary meal we offer at Home2 Suites, so we need to nail it.

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Coming up in January 2018...

Mobile Technology: Relentless Innovation

Technology has become a crucial component in attracting and retaining hotel guests, and the need to enhance a guest’s technology experience is driving a relentless pace of innovation. To meet and exceed guest expectations, 54% of hotels will spend more on technology in 2018, and mobile solutions in particular will top the list of capital investments. Many hotels are integrating mobile booking, mobile keys, mobile payments and mobile check-in into their operations. Other hotels are emphasizing the in-room experience, boosting bandwidth and upgrading flat screen TVs to more easily interface with guest mobile devices. And though not yet mainstream, there are many exciting technology developments on the near horizon. The Internet of Things (loT) is taking form in some places, and can be found in guest room control systems, voice activation systems, and in wearable sensors that can be used for access and payment options. Virtual reality headsets are available at some hotels so guests can enjoy virtual trips to exotic locations or if off-property, preview conference facilities and guest rooms. How long will it be before a hotel employs a fleet of robots for room service, or utilizes a hologram as a concierge, or installs gesture-controlled walls that feature interactive digital displays? Some hotels are already using augmented reality for translation services, or interactive wall maps, or even virtual décor. This pace of innovation is challenging property owners and brands to stay on top of the latest technology trends while still addressing current projects. The January Hotel Business Review will explore what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in the mobile technology space.