The Rise of Technology-Based Hospitality Brands

By Glenn Withiam, Director of Publications, Cornell Center for Hospitality Research | October 08, 2010

Every so often you might have heard the claim, "the hospitality industry is slow to adopt technology." While some may agree with this statement, others are not so convinced. The truth of the matter is that the hospitality industry was ready to use technology long before the equipment was sophisticated enough to support our operations. As just one example, the New York Hilton opened in 1965 with a computerized front desk. Unfortunately, the computers of that day were batch-process card readers, and they couldn't keep up with the demands of a busy front office. Hilton (and the rest of the industry) had to wait nearly two decades for computers to catch up.
 
Since that abortive effort, we've seen both hotels and restaurants do their utmost to extend their concepts and operations using technology. A recent report from Cornell University's Center for Hospitality Research that focused on industry innovations found a number of intriguing developments based on technology. The full report, "Cases in Innovative Practices in Hospitality and Related Services, Set 4," by Cathy Enz, Rohit Verma, Kate Walsh, Sheryl Kimes, and Judy Siguaw, can be downloaded from the Center for Hospitality Research (www.chr.cornell.edu) at no charge. What these researchers found is this: not only does technology help you to extend your concept, but often technology is the concept. Here are just a few of the technology-based hotel ideas.

The Netherlands also hosts Qbic Hotels (www.qbichotels.com), which feature an efficient cubic living space (called "Cubi") that has upscale amenities, and allows guests to set the lighting scheme to suit their mood. Like CitizenM, Qbic also uses check-in kiosks in its lobby. The "Cubi" rooms in Amsterdam have been installed in an office building, where the cleaning staff handles both offices and hotel rooms.
 
On the foodservice side, MiWorld (mi-world.co.za), a restaurant in Johannesburg, South Africa, includes social networking on its menu. In fact, MiWorld requires guests to register online, and then they can either meet in person at the restaurant or virtually through the use of tableside touchscreens. The concept of the restaurant is to bridge elements of the virtual space with those of the physical by allowing guests to chat with other diners or visit other networking sites through the touchscreens. Needless to say, the menu of snacks, tapas, and specialty drinks is also on the screens.
 
HR 2.0
Human resources are also subject to technological innovations. Several firms are using virtual technology and social media to engage with their existing and prospective employees. Hilton Garden Inns (www.hiltongardeninn.com) is using Sony Playstations for training "games" in housekeeping, F&B, and the front office. Hilton Garden team members are presented with various guest scenarios in a virtual 3-D property, and results are scored according to Hilton Garden's actual guest satisfaction system.
 
InterContinental Hotels Group (www.ichotelsgroup.com) is using TweetMyJOBS, which is a Twitter-based jobs board. With this technology, a company's prospective employee pool is no longer limited by geography. In just one month (January 2010) IHG posted more than 1,000 jobs globally and received more than 18,000 views from potential applicants. Another use of social media is the "alumni" contact program used by Harrah's (www.harrahs.com), among others. The idea is to keep in touch with former employees as a means to finding new hires, not to mention encourage customers to stop by.
 
These are just a few of the ways that the lodging and foodservice segments are using technology. Industry operators have the imagination and vision; it's just a matter of having the technology to implement that vision.
 

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