Automation's Impact on Hospitality
Automation has spread across industries, promoting efficient work environments and helping businesses accommodate worker shortages. But one industry that’s really seen an uptick in automation is the hospitality industry. Automation in the hospitality industry is significantly increasing in order to boost agility, address worker shortages, and heal businesses after a tough few years.
How is this ever-changing industry using AI and smart technology to do this? We’ll dive into the most recent examples of hospitality automation and how it’s having a huge impact on both workers and consumers alike.
The Changing Definition of Automation
The simplest definition of automation is “the creation and application of technologies to produce and deliver goods and services with minimal human intervention.” Artificial intelligence has greatly advanced, and as this happens, the opportunities for what can be automated has increased. But automated technology is not only about simply flicking on and off a switch or programming a robot to do simple tasks humans no longer want to do. Automation is a complex process that requires an advanced understanding of AI and robotics. It now refers to machines making autonomous decisions by analyzing massive data sets and performing actions based on that data. This is more than just a series of robotic arms repeating mundane tasks. We’re now talking about machines reading data, understanding it, and completing tasks, just like how our human brains function. The definition of automation has expanded beyond how it was perceived in the past, and now encompasses a world in which machines and people not only work together, but collaborate.
In some people’s minds, automation is synonymous with job loss or robots taking over our lives. However, in reality, automation is an incredibly beneficial and necessary part of our world. It allows humans to spend more time focusing on less repetitive tasks, it boosts efficiency, and in some cases even creates jobs. Let’s take a look at how automation has impacted specific hospitality sectors, from restaurants, to hotels, and travel.
The Impact of Automation on Restaurants
An industry that has taken a huge hit ever since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic is the food industry. Restaurants had to close indoor dining services and many workers were laid off. Even after indoor dining was reopened, many workers chose to not return due to fair concerns about compensation and workplace safety. This has caused many restaurants, particularly big brands, to consider automation technology in order to mitigate revenue loss and to continue providing their services.
By implementing automation and robotics into their restaurant’s front and back-of-house, owners are able to circumvent many of the challenges posed by staff shortages. Examples of automation in these areas include self-serve ordering kiosks or tablets available at tables or at the counter. In the back-of-house, automation is being used to take over repetitive tasks, such as rolling out pizza dough, flipping burgers, and even plating food. This results in reduced labour costs, reduced human error, and less food waste as automation can control food portions.
While perfecting automation technology still has a long way to go, it’s becoming more accessible, particularly in the food delivery game. For example, one startup, Starship Technologies, is testing robots that can deliver food from restaurants directly to a customer's house. Their robots have an insulated interior which protects the food, and they use GPS and cameras to navigate the sidewalks. The robots are intelligent enough to recognize street signs, crosswalk signals, and traffic lights —even pedestrians. Once the robot arrives, it can be unlocked with a phone app, allowing customers to retrieve their food.
How Is Automation Changing Hotels & Spas?
Automation is also making its mark on hotels and spas, taking over such things as hotel task management and guest communications. In the past, hotels have been reluctant to introduce automation into their businesses, but more recently have been forced to adjust and introduce things like artificial Intelligence. Hotels have to rely on leaner teams and have fewer resources, meaning companies have to do more with less while still being as efficient as possible. Due to this pressure, the need for hotel automation has become greater.
Automation in hotels, (or any hospitality sector for that matter) doesn’t mean that “human touch” will be lost. In fact if anything, it will enhance it! Automation within hotels and spas means that people can streamline their teams by setting automated alerts and rules upgrading their existing processes. Instead of management tasks dragging on because no one knows who is responsible, employees can now tackle their tasks faster and more efficiently.
Hotel automation can also help ensure that internal service standards are being met across the board by having clear guidelines and processes in place. This means that individual workers and management can be notified when mechanical or system errors are happening, allowing teams to correct mistakes and keep their facilities in high standards. Hotel automation offers visibility, efficiency, and lets workers understand where to improve their internal performance. They can gain deeper insight into operational bottlenecks or the causes of certain issues. All of this data can be used to improve their future decisions, keeping employees happy and ridding the workplace of frustrations.
Automation in hotels and spas is not only beneficial for businesses themselves, but for the guests as well. When guests travel, they want a stress-free and frictionless experience, so a fast and smooth exchange of information or resolution of a complaint will improve their mood, before, during, and after their stay. Automation introduces machine-level reliability, which in turn boosts trust between staff and guests, improving communication and enticing guests to return.
A More Automated Future
Automation is growing within the hospitality industry, improving efficiency and addressing issues around worker shortages. While automation is far from taking over people’s jobs, it can take over certain tasks that are repetitive or even dangerous, leaving human workers able to focus on more engaging tasks. The rise in automation also means that there’s a growing demand for people who are skilled in this area.
If you’re interested in automation and want to learn more about how you can engage with this fascinating field, check out our Automation Technician Program.