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Creating a Better Hospitality Experience for Your Guests

Now more than ever, restaurants, hotels, and event venues need to find new ways to create meaningful connections with their guests. This may include expanding beyond your business’s physical space or adapting your resources and skills to new types of service.

With ongoing uncertainty about comfortable access to public spaces, people are more selective about committing to an evening out.

Let’s take a look at what you can consider to entice and delight your guests.

Keep It Personal

You’re likely accustomed to receiving marketing emails that call you by name or seeing web ads that target what you’ve been shopping for. While you want to select methods and messages that enhance your brand, marketing and communications that speak more personally can boost your customer connection. Consider:

  • Personalization – Personalized emails that include both a name and some indication that you know who the recipient is and what they want. This may be an update on loyalty program points, mention of a recent visit, or promoting a product or service that is selected for them. Birthday emails with special offers are a great example.
  • Retargeting – If a customer has visited your website, you can tempt them with web ads on other sites for a specific product or service offer based on what pages.
  • In-person custom messages – Imagine being able to tell an arriving guest with a reservation “I see you loved the zucchini last time you were here; we’ve got a moussaka special tonight you might enjoy” based on a quick check of their transaction and rating history. Being recognized and remembered starts the guest experience at 5 stars before they’ve even ordered!

The Pandemic Effect on Hospitality

Retaining current customers is a key goal for most. People are creatures of habit who look for comfort and security in their choices, and it’s much more expensive to gain a new customer than to secure an ongoing relationship. But if your business relied on a tight network of repeat customers in the past, you may have to court them all over again.

The COVID-19 outbreak created a screeching halt and reshuffling of daily living habits. While many businesses are returning to pre-pandemic offerings and availability, we’re still in a state of reaction, adaptation, and interruption.

But in addition to challenges, the last year and a half has seen a pedal-to-the-metal level of development in new business models and technology. Where habitual behavior has been broken, opportunities have flowered, such as the explosion in ghost kitchens or businesses that have no physical business space.

Have you considered how to move beyond adapting and reacting, to grow and flourish based on new business technology, models, and practices? This could include:

  • At-home experience integration such as custom restaurant meal kits to cook at home
  • Ecommerce platforms that blend virtual and delivery models with on-site experience
  • Virtual gatherings such as trivia night with a special offer on take-out food or drink
  • Classes or clubs around your unique skills, such as specialty cuisine cooking
  • New catering packages or options for holidays or special occasions

These methods serve not just to enhance your current business but to build and strengthen connections with future guests who are currently still limiting socializing outside of the home.

Safety as an Integral Part of Hospitality

Wherever you may be on the science, policy, and politics of the pandemic, you know that safety is top of mind for many potential guests. You’ve always had to consider your guests’ safety (security staff, maintained walkways, parking lot lights, kitchen practices, etc.) but now it’s a lot more visible.

You’ve likely made physical and procedural changes covering safety such as the frequency and method of sanitizing physical spaces, the installation of plexiglass, and integrating social distancing in table or other spacing.

But when people are checking your safety policies as much as your products and prices, going the extra mile can help guests feel heard and comfortable. Consider:

  • Extending polling to your customers around some aspects of your policies
  • Making your COVID-19 easy to find and respond to both in person and online
  • Including how you’re keeping staff safe as part of your policy statements

Before feeling welcome, at home, or entertained, your guests need to feel safe.

The Rise of At-Home Entertainment

Despite the economic hit of the pandemic and the tsunami of job losses that resulted, the U.S. has at the same time seen a record-level rush on home upgrades and homeowners trading up to larger homes. People adapted to a home life that encompassed entertainment and limited socializing as well as work and school.

This means your target customers are now:

  • Living with more entertainment and socializing spaces and features in their homes.
  • Familiar and comfortable with virtual platforms to connect, particularly Zoom.
  • Socializing through shared streaming content, such as an Amazon Prime Watch Party.

Rather than seeing your guests themselves as your new competition for their entertainment time and dollar, think about how these shifts provide the opportunity to grow. How can your hospitality stretch to connect with customers who are less frequently in your physical venue? Consider:

  • What makes your offerings unique and worth a visit to you?
  • How to partner with your guests to provide experiences that incorporate their space?
  • What would make it easier for guests to order and accept products or services to go?

Guests as Unlimited Data

Businesses that invent tangible consumer products pay thousands of dollars to tempt a dozen random people into a room to offer up that most valuable of market tools: direct feedback.

While ill-humored or challenging customers can be a source of stress for hospitality businesses, on the whole, remember that you’re ahead of the doodad inventors by virtue of having the opportunity to interact directly with your customers in real time.

When you blend in-person connection with an effective ecommerce hospitality platform, you multiply your ability to create success through agility and responsiveness. You’ll have both anecdotal and behavioral information to pull from. This can help you:

  • Identify trends that help improve the success of menu and service offerings.
  • Find common denominators: is it a certain entree, room, or team member?
  • Gather detail-rich customer feedback at any time of complaint or compliment.

If a complaint is heard, addressed with care, and resolved immediately, you could prevent a bad online review and earn a loyal customer who recommends your business to others.

Improve Skills to Create Meaningful Experiences

Nothing beats experienced staff who know your business and their customers, but when you’re in the market for team and skills building, you may want to add in some unusual training.

If you’ve been to comedy improv, you’ve seen how the show itself is guided by the audience. The audience provides suggestions, votes on outcomes, and sometimes even fills out a suggestion box with a completely new scene or character to integrate.

How does your staff roll with new situations, needs, or ideas? While they probably know the boundaries of how much menu customization can be asked of the kitchen, thinking on their toes can help:

  • Create an efficient and comfortable experience for guests with various disabilities.
  • Welcome guests outside of your usual demographics and make them feel at home.
  • Make a special occasion personalized and memorable.

How Do You Balance Technology and Human Connection?

Did you know that the design of the flip phone was inspired by a Star Trek prop? We’re in a time of extremely rapid tech development that can make it feel like we’ve slipped into science fiction, but it’s never been so exciting to explore how technology can enhance the guest experience.

Developments include:

  • Ecommerce platforms that allow guests to request service from their table
  • Virtual reality previews of venue spaces and hotel rooms
  • Smart rooms or spaces with voice-activated controls
  • Tech including smart hubs that recognize and address guests by name

The best hospitality managers will understand that integrating efficient technology can allow for more meaningful human connection rather than replace it. For instance, rather than servers hovering and managing troublesome POS transactions, having guests handle their ordering and payment directly could allow for a table visit by a sommelier or Cicerone.

Better tech can free up resources to design a more boutique experience—but if you’re looking for a fully robot-staffed hotel, you can check it out at the Henn-Na Hotel in Nagasaki, Japan.

Ready to Improve Your Guests’ Reviews? Go with GoTab

One of the top methods to up your hospitality game is to ditch the clunky POS or glitchy app for a commerce platform that’ll help your venue communicate more easily and fully with guests. When you have efficient ecommerce in play, your staffing can focus on how to provide the human connection with value-added interactions and services.

Started as a passion project in one brewery, GoTab now leads the pack in a blended on- and off-site ecommerce platform for restaurants, events, pop-ups, and hotels. GoTab operators gain better Yelp reviews (average ½ star higher), see a significant increase in customer spend, and process more transactions than traditional POS operators.

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