What are the big hospitality and catering trends for 2020 and how can digital networks help companies deliver?
In addition to service, hotels used to compete on aspects such as room décor, food and beverage offering and fitness facilities, but now a key differentiator is technology. Customers are accustomed to having great Wi-Fi, a smart TV, voice assistants and wireless charging at home and now they want that same level of tech — if not better — when they stay at a hotel. The issue here is that there’s a huge proliferation of Internet of Things (IoT) devices which increases the risk of cybercrime, so hospitality firms need a robust IoT security strategy to keep their networks safe. A recent STR study shows the global supply of hotel rooms has increased by 18% in the last decade while revenue is dropping, so hoteliers need to differentiate themselves now more than ever and technology is the answer.
Another big trend for 2020 will be customer demand for wireless charging points. A recent survey of 2,000 hotel and catering customers by Chargifi shows that two-thirds of customers want access to charging facilities and half of those people would stay longer on premises if they could charge their phone. 17% would buy something so they can use a charger and 15% would leave if a hospitality business didn’t offer charging. McDonalds was among the first foodservice companies to provide free customer charging but in their first iteration, there was a poor user experience due to be a lack of visibility of which points were working or broken. Charging stations need to be networked, so that problems can be identified and fixed quickly.
What are the most important things companies should do this cyber security month?
To put things into perspective, a recent Trustwave report stated that Hotels are targeted by 20% of all cyberattacks. According to the UK Information Commissioner’s Office the biggest cyber threats at the moment are phishing, unauthorised network access, malware and ransomware — in that order. Phishing is the biggest threat, but it is also, arguably, one of the easiest to prevent because it involves raising staff awareness. The biggest thing companies can do this cyber security month is to educate their people, whether they’re full-time, part-time or temporary, about the risks of opening suspicious emails, clicking on links and opening attachments. The best training is interactive, involves gamification and can be very cost effective when you consider the risks.
How can networks help UK hospitality and catering firms expand overseas?
Overseas expansion has traditionally been loaded with risk — it’s been a slow and expensive business. Software-defined networks (SD WAN) however provide an attractive alternative to existing MPLS connectivity when growing abroad. For a start new premises overseas only need a fibre connection to link to cloud services and this also means that overseas networks can be managed from the UK. SD WAN has granular end-to-end encryption built in, it’s agile and scalable, easier to integrate new premises and is much more cost-effective outside the UK. What’s not to like? Vodat used SD WAN to great effect when we helped roll out 60 new Poundland stores in Europe. We developed a store network template that could be repeated quickly and relatively cheaply giving Poundland the agility they needed.
How are hospitality and catering firms changing the way they do business following the Marriott cyberattack and resulting GDPR fine?
The Marriott attack was huge with personal data belonging to 380 million customers being stolen. The biggest change is that cybersecurity is now a board-level issue and we’re seeing this in the creation of new board roles such as the Chief Information Risk Officer, when previously this job may have been covered off by the company secretary. This is great news, because it means there are regular board-level discussions, more effective management of risk and greater visibility.
What steps are hospitality companies taking to remove customer experience friction?
The check-in process can be a huge source of inconvenience and frustration for hard-working business guests who travel frequently and want to minimise waiting and admin. Leading hotel chains such as Hilton are tackling this challenge with mobile phone apps that can help customers complete the check-in process online, pick the exact room they want, enable them to double check it meets their required spec, store a credit card against their account and use NFC technology in the customer’s mobile phone to unlock their room. It’s a perfect example of tech making the customer experience better!
H&C News: We would like to thank Vodat and Bim Jinadasa for the insights to hospitality and catering technology trends 2020.