In an Era of Evolving Customer Needs, Doubling Down on Digital will Transform the Hospitality Space

Gabriel Weisz

Summer is winding down, students are preparing to head back to school, and consumers are searching for ways to feel comfortable in the context of our “new normal.” Of the many lessons we’ve learned since the onset of the pandemic, one has a particularly direct impact on the hospitality industry. Customer needs have changed dramatically in the last six months, and unless we’re able to respond appropriately and effectively, re-opening will prove to be much more challenging than it should be.

Forced to adapt to an uncertain reality almost overnight, restaurant and hotel operators faced myriad struggles while attempting to provide safe, reliable service to their clients. As everyone hunkered down at home, the days of buzzing dining rooms packed to the gills were suddenly a distant memory. At the height of lockdown, some even wondered if people would ever want to visit restaurants again. 

Luckily, according to a survey conducted by BlackBox and Snagajob, 87% of consumers reported dining out as the activity they miss the most from pre-pandemic days. But before we take a collective sigh of relief, it’s important to understand the implications of what has changed since March. The primary focus and concern for diners today is their own health and safety. Sure, nice ambiance or a cool chef are definite perks, but if a restaurant isn’t committed to prioritizing protocols that minimize the risk of contagion, they can expect to see their clientele move elsewhere.

It’s the evolution of customer service; diners want an easy, seamless, and quality experience, and hospitality operators can still provide that - and then some. Businesses have had a chance to regroup and modify their offerings, with consumers responding in kind, seeking out comforting experiences that tap into pampering indulgence or solutions that make life easier (like meal kits, to-go cocktails, and shareable portions). 

What’s encouraging is the positive response to these pivots. Though 48% of survey respondents have scaled back ordering from restaurants (delivery, dine-in, or take-away), 40% had already visited a restaurant in the re-opening phase, with 28% ready to do so in the near future. What can we learn from this? Customers haven’t gone anywhere; in fact, they’re receptive to new menu items, presentations, and ways of purchasing. Ultimately, the businesses that adapt and evolve quickly will fare best overall. 

The increased costs of dining in — due to social distancing, more complex cleaning protocols, and fewer customers in general — kick the pressure into high gear. Doubling down on digital is the best way to both respond to the economic stressors and new customer demands for accessibility and safety. The wide array of tech solutions, primarily those that implement QR codes, are a promising means to bridging the gap between necessity and an enhanced guest experience.

Giving clients the option to peruse a digital menu, make their selection, and complete a purchase through a contactless, web-based interface will be a game changer for hospitality operators and restaurant owners everywhere. It lends enough flexibility to encourage universal adoption, generating more revenue opportunities for business owners without sacrificing health or hygiene protocols. 

When our customers are happy, we’re happy. It’s as simple as that. Rather than remain hung up on how things used to be, it’s time to look ahead to the future. At Kontactless, we’re energized by the opportunities on the horizon. After all, finding innovative solutions to tough problems is what we do.

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