Using Smartphone Technology to Streamline Food and Beverage Operations

By Tina Stehle Senior Vice President & General Manager, Agilysys Hospitality Solutions Group | October 17, 2010

When hotel executives think of smartphone and other mobile technology, guest self-service applications are most likely to come to mind. After all, consumers increasingly use mobile applications to check in and check out, order room service, schedule wake-up calls, make restaurant reservations, request luggage pick-up and confirm car rentals. Guests also routinely view promotional deals, such as restaurant coupons and tourist attraction discounts, while on the move via their smartphones. It offers the ultimate in convenience, ease-of-use and efficiency.

Yet, this same technology can also be employed by hotel staff to boost productivity and streamline operations. Hospitality-specific applications enable properties to manage housekeeping duties, track inventory, facilitate employee communication, monitor key hotel metrics and respond more quickly to guest service requests.

One of the most intriguing smartphone applications in the hotel environment is as an extension of the point-of-sale system in the food and beverage area. Here, it can be used as an order-taking device, offering a practical and cost-effective alternative to tablet PCs and traditional handheld POS devices.

Market growth exploding

A smartphone is simply a handheld device that integrates mobile phone capabilities with the more common features of a handheld computer or personal digital assistant. More than just a cell phone, a smartphone runs complete operating system software and provides a platform that supports third-party or browser-based programs that can perform a variety of specific functions. Many smartphones also offer practical tools like calculators, built-in GPS and map applications.

Recently, the smartphone market has witnessed explosive growth. This is due to a number of factors, including lower production costs, improved handset design, expansion of global mobile e-mail and browsing services, the emergence of 3G and 4G network technologies, increased competition among mobile carriers and standardization and upgrades of operating systems. According to a recent study by global marketing research firm comScore, Inc., more than 49 million people in the United States now own smartphones, and it is the fast-growing segment of the mobile phone market. The Nielsen Company further predicts that there will be more smartphones than traditional mobile phones in the U.S. market by the end of 2011.

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Hotel Spa: Oasis Unplugged

The driving force in current hotel spa trends is the effort to manage unprecedented levels of stress experienced by their clients. Feeling increasingly overwhelmed by demanding careers and technology overload, people are craving places where they can go to momentarily escape the rigors of their daily lives. As a result, spas are positioning themselves as oases of unplugged human connection, where mindfulness and contemplation activities are becoming increasingly important. One leading hotel spa offers their clients the option to experience their treatments in total silence - no music, no talking, and no advice from the therapist - just pure unadulterated silence. Another leading hotel spa is working with a reputable medical clinic to develop a “digital detox” initiative, in which clients will be encouraged to unplug from their devices and engage in mindfulness activities to alleviate the stresses of excessive technology use. Similarly, other spas are counseling clients to resist allowing technology to monopolize their lives, and to engage in meditation and gratitude exercises in its place. The goal is to provide clients with a warm, inviting and tranquil sanctuary from the outside world, in addition to also providing genuine solutions for better sleep, proper nutrition, stress management and natural self-care. To accomplish this, some spas are incorporating a variety of new approaches - cryotherapy, Himalayan salt therapy and ayurveda treatments are becoming increasingly popular. Other spas are growing their own herbs and performing their treatments in lush outdoor gardens. Some spa therapists are being trained to assess a client's individual movement patterns to determine the most beneficial treatment specifically for them. The July issue of the Hotel Business Review will report on these trends and developments and examine how some hotel spas are integrating them into their operations.