Many people get queasy just hearing the word “technology.” All the options can give you the spins. In the hospitality business, we’re all about real life experiences and relationships – and, of course, the success of our businesses and lives. But the right kinds of technologies can enhance those experiences and relationships, help you make/save more money, and even free up more time to enjoy yourself.
Even if the words “social media” or “app” normally prompt you to run for the door, please pull up a chair and read on. I’ll keep things practical and simple!
1. Although social media has not quite hit adulthood, it has reached a stage of maturity and integration, with many tools and systems available to make content generation and deployment and results tracking easier than ever before. Digital content is rich with images and video. Despite the fact video tool Vine just died a quick death, visual digital apps like Snap (formerly Snapchat), Instagram, and live video integrated into Facebook and Twitter are alive and well. Here is who is using each of the media forms, so you can target your marketing plan to your customer base. (Be sure to check stats often, because the landscape is always shifting!)
2. By next year, 223 million people will own smartphones. Make sure your content (website and other online communications) are mobile-friendly. Consider charging stations as a way of generating new revenue and utilize text-based permission-based marketing programs.
3. Because those phones also track location, geo-marketing and beacons allow you to reach potential patrons where they are. A little creepy, but super effective! On a basic level, be sure that your Google listing is always up to date so that when patrons are looking for places to go, they can easily find you.
4. Don’t forget how the “real world” can impact your online reputation. A whopping 88% of people now trust recommendations from people they don’t even know. Make sure you deliver an exceptional customer experience every time, and that you’re monitoring and responding to customer complaints quickly and professionally. (You can find some Yelp tips here.)
Management & Team Building
Make a 2017 resolution (starting today) to ditch the pencil, the spreadsheet, and the piles of paper. Cloud-based systems will not only save you time, but they will save you money in the long run – and result in better record keeping.
5. Inventory and pour systems enable you to keep on top of how much money is being washed down the drain each night. Millennials now comprise the largest segment of the workforce. These employees will not only be comfortable using technology on the job, they will expect it!
6. Shift management, vacation scheduling, and payroll can all be simplified and made “pocket sized.” Employees are now using their smartphones to clock in and out (and time-stamping and location tracking can ensure that honesty is the best policy). When I Work is just one such system; your staff manages their hours on their phones, and you manage their hours from wherever you are – even on vacation.
7. Having trouble finding the right staff? Turn to social media. Although we tend to think of Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter primarily as marketing tools, they can be great recruitment tools too. Good people you know will turn you on to other good people.
8. Your team meetings can become much more collaborative and memorable (literally) if you integrate technology. Operate a chain? Be sure you get your team together regularly via online chats or brainstorming via Google Docs. Encourage them to dial into training webinars and learn new bartending schools via video. For larger companies, the new Google Jamboard is a great way to doodle and save when you get a team together.
The Customer Experience
9. Your food, beverages, music, and service are the core of your bar or nightclub experience. How can you enhance it without becoming cold and sterile? (Although a venue staffed exclusively by robots would definitely draw media buzz!) Look for technologies that enable guests to:
• Get their food/drinks quicker and cut down on errors.
• Customize their orders – whether they are selecting food or music (via jukebox technologies).
• Share their experiences with prospective customers through social media-friendly photo and video booths and message walls.
Be sure to shop the show! Are you confused about what technologies might be right for your venue? Please get in touch with me before March and I’ll take you on a “guided tour” of some of my faves on the floor…in plain English!
Stay Tuned: What’s Next, New and Higher Tech?
10. Once you’ve mastered the 9 “basics” outlined above, think about some of the new and cool technologies that will impact our industry. They are here today…not science fiction. Although you don’t need to jump on every tech trend, having something your competitors don’t will keep you one step (or light year) ahead!
• 3D and digital printing enable you to create unique, customized (and even personalized) small batch products and collateral quickly and cost-effectively.
• Augmented reality and virtual reality. Pokémon Go anyone? Virtual reality technology involves real-life simulations, so you feel as if you are actually experiencing the environment. Augmented reality simply layers on sensory experiences to a real image – enhancing the viewer’s perception. Here are some ways they are currently being applied by big brands.
• Re-engineer your mood and live longer. Is the stress of your job killing you? You can use apps to unplug, relax, and track your exercise...even if you’re running around the bar and not the gym.
• Service with a smile is making a comeback! Think about ways you can use your customer data to make your best customers feel valued. Personalize your offerings and communications: , send birthday cards and thank you gifts, and even use 3D or digital printing to create one-of-a-kind place cards and swag for your fans.
Speaking of going “old school,” my readers often reach out to me for advice, to make suggestions, or just to say hello. Everyone gets a free 20-minute consultation. And be sure to meet me IRL (in real life) at the show! Human connection will never be replaced by technology, just enhanced!