Instead of having to wait in line at the front desk to check in, some hotels are moving to facial recognition scans to get guests in their rooms. Marriott is testing the technology at its hotels in China, which shorten check-in time from three minutes or more to less than one minute. Guests simply approach a kiosk, scan their face to verify their identity and scan their ID to get their room key.
Many hotels are rolling out smart rooms, which combine AI and voice recognition technology to integrate virtual assistants into the room. InterContinental Hotels Group is creating AI smart rooms in its hotel s in China. The rooms allow guests to use voice control technology and speak naturally to get personalized assistance for both business and personal travel.
Robots can play a number of roles in hotels, from cleaning rooms to staffing the front desk. Aloft Hotels uses Botlr, a robot butler, to deliver items to guests around the clock. If someone calls the front desk needing a toothbrush or extra towels, Botlr will likely be the one bringing the items to their room. Guests at New York’s Yotel can have their bags stored with Yobot, a robotic luggage concierge
More hotels are moving away from traditional room keys to leverage RFID technology through guest wristbands. The technology is popular at resorts like Disney World and Great Wolf Lodge. Instead of having to carry a room key and their wallets, guests are given a wristband loaded with their room information, credit card and tickets, which can be scanned to gain access to their rooms and other areas and to make payments. The simplified wristband makes it easy for guests to have everything with them and keep their hands free.
Chatbots give guests instant access to information without having to wait for the front desk. The Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas has Rose, an AI concierge, who can help guests book spa services and restaurants and offers insider information like secret menu items at the hotel bar. Four Seasons Hotels uses Four Seasons Chat for 24/7 chat service that is powered by humans, not AI, for a more personal touch and responds to messages in 90 seconds or less.
Mobile Room Keys
Combining the ideas in self check-in and simpler room keys, a number of hotels are moving to mobile room keys. Guests simply check in using the hotel’s app and are notified when their room is ready. Instead of waiting in line at the front desk, guests can go straight to their rooms and use their smart phones or smart watches to unlock the door. Hilton Hotels has introduced mobile check in for rewards guests to seamlessly check in, choose their room and unlock the door through an app.
Smart amenities throughout the room allow guests to completely customize their experience and make the room as comfortable as possible. Each room at the CitizenM Hotel in Amsterdam comes equipped with a MoodPad tablet, which allows guests to change the temperature, TV, window blinds, alarm and lighting in one place. Some Marriott hotels have smart shower doors where guests can jot down their ideas while in the shower and then email the image to themselves for future use.
Imagine being able to step into a hotel room on the other side of the world to see the exact layout, views and amenities. Virtual reality allows guests to tour a hotel, choose a room and book it seamlessly online. They can also experience local attractions and feel confident in their travel choices before they arrive. A number of hotels and resorts, including Radisson and Omni, offer the service and have seen improved customer satisfaction and online booking rates.
Modern hotels can locate guests and employees, which allows them to offer more personalized service. If a guest is in the hotel bar, they could receive a push notification about a deal on drinks. Hotel staff could be alerted to guests’ preferences based on where they spend their time. Hilton uses location-based services at some of its resorts to alert guests to events and activities that might interest them based on where they are on the property.
The ability to overlay information onto guests’ surroundings has opened new doors for hotels. AR can be used to take guests on a tour of the hotel, showcase the property’s amenities and share information about the area. The wall of each room at Hub by Premier Inn in the U.K. includes an AR map of the local area. When guests point a smartphone at the map, they can learn about local attractions and get recommendations for the best things to do and see.
Artificial intelligence (AI)
Repetitive tasks that can be automated through kiosks and robots give restaurants the freedom to focus on customer experience. Before adding any type of autonomous tech, restaurants should take into consideration two things: First, the customer experience, designing services and processes around the needs and expectations of today’s customers, and second, how workforce and workflow will change and plan accordingly.
Technology at the Table
The dine-in experience is being transformed with technology at the table. When it comes to tableside ordering and payment technologies, 14% and 10% of restaurants offer them and 21% and 30% plan to add them, respectively, according to HT’s 2019 Customer Engagement Technology Study.
Applebee’s began using self-ordering solutions at the table in 2014. And for several years, the fast-casual chain has used the PrestoPrime EMV tabletop device, which lets customers self-order and pay at the table with EMV and mobile payment technologies.
According to research conducted by Cornell University and Presto, 75% of guests that used the Presto System said it improved their dining experience and 81% of guests said the Presto System increased their likelihood to return to the restaurant.
“We’ve been on the forefront of using technology,” says Scott Gladstone, vice president of strategy, off-premise and development at Applebee’s. “We continue to find ways to add tech into our guest experience. It continues to evolve.”
The worst part of going out, for any customer, is a long wait time. Modern technology and the rise of off-premise dining have given customers an unprecedented number of options in when, where and how they enjoy their food. Restaurant operators need to keep up! An automated solution, like a kitchen display system (KDS) that’s fully integrated with all the devices, will reduce these long waits. They implement software features like meal pacing and order tracking which ensures food is coursed for delivery (to table or off-premise) at the proper time. Furthermore, solutions that utilize real-time smart data (i.e., the actual activity in your restaurant) to generate customer quote times will keep your off-premise and in-store customer traffic perfectly blended, so one doesn’t crowd out the other.
With 60% of US diners ordering takeout or delivery at least once a week and 31% using online ordering or a mobile app, it’s no wonder that ghost kitchens have continued to pop up. Ghost kitchens—also known as dark kitchens, virtual kitchens, cloud kitchens, or headless restaurants—don’t have a storefront or seating for dine-in customers or takeout orders. They simply exist to fulfill online orders for delivery through a third-party service, and sometimes a single ghost kitchen can contain multiple “restaurants” in one. Additionally, a brick-and-mortar operation could run a second concept as a ghost restaurant out of their existing kitchen space.
We already use our fingerprints and faces to unlock our phones, why not use them for payments as well? While this is another restaurant technology trend that has a way to go, especially due to security concerns, it is already being tested in certain venues, like at Safeco Field in Seattle.
But payments processing isn’t the only place biometrics will come into play in the restaurant industry; there are a number of BOH and restaurant management applications for it as well. Biometrics technology can be used for having employees clock in (preventing others from clocking in for them ahead of time), controlling who has access to computers or cash registers, and more.