Hospitality technology: Behind the scenes of the hotels, restaurants and pubs of the future

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In the final part of our series of special articles on technology in hospitality, BigHospitality paid a visit to three of the most high-tech restaurants, hotels and pubs to investigate the business benefits for a special video report.

All this week, technology companies have extolled the benefits to the customer experience of operators keeping on the pulse of new systems and gadgets, but many businesses are still dubious about the potential boost to the bottom line.

Three businesses that have bought into the brave new world are The May Fair hotel, which incorporated the Cardola iPad technology to its rooms last year, The Thirsty Bear, run by the directors of revolutionary firm The Robot Pub Group, and Inamo and Inamo St James - two restaurants using the E-Table technology.

Inamo St James

What? E-Table

When? Technology in operation for two years since the restaurant opened

How? Interactive ordering system which transforms the table into a food and drinks menu using an overhead projector

Why? Noel Hunwick, co-owner of Inamo St James, said: "You can dynamically alter the menu from our content management system in the back of the restaurant so taking dishes on or off the menu without the guest realising it, also reordering the dishes. We find that the first five dishes on the menu typically sell between 20 per cent and up to 50 per cent more than the rest. There are multiple ways of potentially gently upselling to the guest."

Top tips? "As a rough estimate, I would say six months to one year is a reasonable length of time to expect to see a return on your investment.

"Across the technology industry, companies are working to make things cheaper. We know that the cost of this system (E-Table) as a percentage of the average interior design spend of a restaurant is quite reasonable - it is not that much more than the amount some restaurants spend on lighting," Hunwick said.

The Thirsty Bear

What? The Robot Pub Group system.

When? Technology in operation for one year.

How? The group's technology offers a range of options including food and drink ordering, jukebox and entertainment on an iPad as well as serve-your-own beer pumps.

Why? Mark Beckett, director of The Robot Pub Group, said: "Our spend per head is about £28 per person - a lot higher than the industry average.

"You have access to the jukebox and YouTube which is probably used most. Usually you would stay in a pub until you have nothing to talk about and you decide to go to another pub.

"We also run off of 18 per cent labour which is reasonably low."

Top tips? "Don’t be afraid to adopt technology – people are increasingly comfortable using mobile and tablet devices, it would be naïve to think technology isn’t going to impact your business. Young people have grown up with it, will expect it and, as potential employees, will enjoy working with it too," Beckett said.

The May Fair 

What? Cardola system.

When? Technology in operation for three months.

How? The 'virtual concierge' technology combines a hotel's communication and revenue channels in an in-room iPad system.

Why? Anthony Lee, general manager of The May Fair hotel, said: "You can have it loaded anywhere, you can download it anywhere in the world. If you are coming in from the airport you can upload the app, have a look at it and actually make an order in the car on the way in - that is a wow.

"It helps upsell, it makes suggestions to you which is great for revenue and it also interfaces directly to our front office system and to the kitchen."

Top tips? "Simplicity is absolutely key - too much has gone into gadgets and technology which is more 'nice to have' and so complicated that you don't even bother to use it. If a customer can't check-in to a room and use the system straight away - you have a problem. You can see a huge improvement to our business because people actually enjoy using the system," Lee said.

To read all our articles on hospitality in technology, click here.

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