Most people imagine the future to be more futuristic than it actually is. At Momada, a newly opened restaurant in Graz that serves its guests a mix of teppanyaki buffet and Brazilian rodizio, a robot delivers drinks to the table. It’s more of a marketing gimmick than a real service asset. As Thomas Liu, chef at Momada, says, “Robots can’t replace the staff. Without staff, a place like this just doesn’t work.”
At Katzwanger Strasse 150 in Nuremberg, they have a different opinion (at least partially). This is where Resmio is based, which claims to be the leading provider of reservation and management systems. The company already boasts more than 10,000 restaurants in over 150 countries among its customers. For example, they benefit from tools such as digitized menus, which also enable an automated ordering function. “We have seen a doubling of requests to our systems since the pandemic,” says Managing Director Christian Bauer in an interview with PROFI. “The current situation has boosted digitization in the gastronomy sector to an extreme degree. Restaurateurs are now realizing the value of these systems. But what’s happening now is just the beginning.” Ultimately, the goal is to have fully automated processes where technology delivers the highest possible level of efficiency in guest contact, taking over aspects such as reservations, assigning tables, ordering, payment, data entry and sending newsletters automatically.
“Developments like this are currently taking place in almost all sectors,” agrees Juan Sanmiguel, founder and CEO of the technology company Hotelbird, which is the market leader in Germany in the field of digital and, as a result, contactless check-in/out services. “The digital transformation has long been overdue in the entire hotel industry. The question is no longer if, but rather when digital technology will find its way into a hotel. This is true not only for the chain hotel industry, but also for smaller individual hotels,” says Sanmiguel, whose company now has more than 40 international hotel chains under contract.
All the necessary formalities, from check-in, including the digital registration form, to supplying the digital room key, to payment and check-out, can be simply taken over by software. Hotel guests enjoy more freedom thanks to a convenient and digital hotel experience. At the same time, by using smart technology, hotels save time and money and reduce the workload of their front desk staff. Sanmiguel says, “The pandemic has definitely increased the urgency to digitize. It has clearly pointed out where we are currently at and has driven digital transformation in the hospitality industry forward.”
“In 2021, it makes no sense at all for us to have guests write data on a piece of paper at the front desk and maybe even have them stand in line to do so,” says Bruno Marti, Chief Brand Officer at 25hours Hotels.
This innovative hotel group is currently testing out the AeroGuest system at three locations. The app, which was developed in Scandinavia, makes the entire guest journey possible over a cell phone. This means it takes care of everything from check-in to unlocking the door, automatically filling out the registration form to the individual selection of a room based on the floor plan and, of course, the entire the payment process.”Personal guest contact remains an essential part of our philosophy. We want to use digitization carefully and only in those areas where it creates added value for our guests. However, human contact is and remains important for us,” says Marti. These systems are particularly attractive for regular customers. “For new customers, the amount of technical effort involved is too great, so they are happy to receive personal assistance,” says Marti.
Luxury hotel brands such as Hyatt, Kempinski and Atlantis the Palm in Dubai are also increasingly relying on contactless communication with guests. They are all among the customers served by the Austrian Andreas Krobath and his IT company AT-Visions, which specializes in the hotel industry. “Communication with guests is more important than ever. However, it no longer has to be exclusively face-to-face. Today, it is important to keep driving this communication at as many touchpoints as possible. This ranges from the WiFi login and the hotel app to the hotel TV,” says Krobath. The important thing is that such solutions come from a single source and are compatible with the technology.
One thing they all agree on is that digitalization is no longer a far-off prospect in the industry. “It is the present,” says Hotelbird CEO Sanmiguel. Those who wisely adopt the contactless strategy can also increasingly shift their focus to the (indispensable) human interactions, which can in turn take on a whole new quality. Last but not least, the hotel that became known as the world’s first robot hotel a few years ago had to take note of this as well. Meanwhile, however, most of the 200 robot employees at Henn na hotel in Japan have been “laid off.”
The humanoid robots couldn’t answer guests’ questions, the in-room voice assistant woke up snoring guests, and the luggage carriers could only access level corridors – which meant they couldn’t enter most of the rooms at all. Most people imagine the future to be more futuristic than it actually is. In reality, however, it has long been underway.
Interview with Bruno Marti, 25 hours Hotel
“We have to avoid overwhelming guests with new technology.”
One test that went south was a pilot project in the summer of 2020. For the project, the 25hour set out to eliminate cash payments at their Hamburger Hafen City location. This move came too soon, says Bruno Marti, Chief Brand Officer.
The goal was to introduce contactless-only payments. However, after a trial period, you chose not to continue the project. What happened?
We had to acknowledge that the cash-free concept has not yet been truly embraced by our guests. This was less a question of the hotel industry in particular, but rather our gastronomy services. Today, it almost goes without saying that you no longer pay for a room in cash. But when it came to having a drink at the bar, our guests wanted to be able to pay in cash. It was also difficult for our employees because they were worried about their tips.
Have you now completely scrapped putting this idea into practice or are you likely to revisit it in the future?
First and foremost, we want to introduce such innovations for our guests. That’s why it’s also absolutely clear that we will steer back if the guests aren’t yet on board. From an economic point of view, however, we have to take into account that handling cash also costs money. I personally stopped using cash a year ago. Many Scandinavian countries are leading the way in this regard. However, we have observed that countries behave very differently when it comes to this. We are currently opening a hotel in Florence, where there is even a rule that tips cannot be charged to a card at all.