I, you, we robot

Less than halfway through the first month go 2024 and the sector is already back on its favourite topic; what hospitality is and how the sector can deliver it (*cough* as cheaply as possible).

This latest iteration of the debate we all love to indulge in was triggered by a post from Mews CEO Matthijs Welle and you can join in here. Welle started his thoughts with ‘Is hospitality getting worse, or am I just getting old?’ and described a phenomenal holiday experience which led with thought, consideration, all those hospitality tells we like to discuss.

This is usually the time people like to quote Danny Meyer and we’re no exception. Meyer said: “Service is the technical delivery of a product. Hospitality is how the delivery of that product makes its recipient feel. Service is a monologue – we decide how we want to do things and set our own standards for service. Hospitality, on the other hand, is a dialogue. To be on a guest’s side requires listening to that person with every sense, and following up with a thoughtful, gracious, appropriate response.”

The latter, Welle’s post illustrated, was rare. The games then began and the old familiars of ‘more training’ and ‘it’s a calling’ were well represented in the comments.

‘More training’ does sound appealing. It speaks to attempts to turn hospitality into a career and we’re all for that. However, when staff turnover is at the levels it is (still better than pubs and restaurants though, if you want consoling) training loses its appeal. In the pub and restaurant sector, high turnover on the floor has largely been accepted and instead staff are retained through flexible work and payment strategies.

‘It’s a calling’ is generally seen as a way to do people out of a fair wage and, in any case, is not scalable. Hospitality is a calling for a very tiny number of people and that’s great. It’s just that we have a fair few hotels out there now and making money out of them relies on a basic level of service being delivered at them.

Post pandemic, the sector has been forced to realise that ‘more pay’ is perhaps the more motivating factor in service delivery, but this is an issue for multiple reasons, not least that hotels are phenomenally complicated operating beasts and there are plenty of participants who want to make a profit.

This takes us back to Welle and his day job, which is, in part, to introduce hotels to the idea of automation. Companies such as Mews and Alliants are helping hotels to deliver services such as checkin in a reliable and automated fashion, freeing hotel team members up to deliver that exhilarating service which makes for memorable stays.

And they are on their way to achieving that, but we are still at the difficult point in hotel evolution between doing the basics and realising that what is on top can also be automated. And that, for the majority of hotels’ business models, it has to be.

This is hard for us in the sector, because it distills down what hospitality is and, for many of us, that is intangible and is something which Just Shouldn’t Be Known. Possibly we would go blind if we were to look directly upon its majesty. Possibly it shares some space with the Ark of the Covenant in Raiders of the Lost Ark, which, of course, did not end well for a significant number of participants.

Of course, there are some service experiences which cannot be check boxed. Human inspiration, when it comes, has yet to be synthesised. But given the state of play in hotels at the moment, it really wouldn’t hurt to give it a go.

So your challenge for this week is to come up with three or four things which need to be checked off after checkin to improve everyone’s lot (and we’d certainly be interested in AI taking this off our hands) and could be programmed into a Magic Service App gamified into a rewards structure which can be afforded by any hotel investor.

Do get in touch. We’re certainly not coming up with them ourselves. Do you want our faces to melt off?

Image: Christmas dinner pasty

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