Restaurants and hotels are run by intuition. You put items on a menu that you thought (and hoped) your customers would like. Using last year’s numbers, you try to guess the number of guests that will walk through your door each week. You try to estimate how many bartenders and dishwashers you will need on any given night, without staffing too many. Occasionally, you may get a hunch that tells you that bourbon may be the next trending beverage. Or you may suffer from the crisis, of being understaffed (it certainly is a crisis). Hunches and crisis are what provide the basis for the majority of your decisions as a restaurant or hotel manager. Sometimes guest comments (or complaints) help you to guide your decisions. Sometimes you might notice trends regarding customer flow and service times. But is it an actual trend, or is it just a coincidence that you happened to notice? While intuition is certainly not out in the hospitality industry, there is a new element added: analytics. Make Your Restaurant or Hotel Smarter The old method of collecting customer feedback? Distributing and collecting comment cards. Realistically, most customers lost or threw these away. Those that responded, tended to be the outliers- outrageously thrilled, or ridiculously angry. There were/are also telephone and online surveys…but ask yourself, “Who actually fills those out?” Because no one took the time to fill them out, response rates are under 10 percent. You also don’t receive information from the responses in a timely manner. Finally, the sample sizes are so low, and most of the surveyed were outliers anyway. Finally, as a manager, you probably lack the time to actually sit down, and go through all of the individual surveys. So did you really gain any insight from these traditional methods? My guess is that your answer is, “No.” So, it is a good thing that we now have an updated method. Consumers love our digital world. Hand them a pen and paper, and they are likely to pass on the survey. But if you drop a tablet off at the table, they are far more intrigued, and much more likely to pick up a device that is “cool” and they enjoy using. Especially if the questions are geared toward their own, personal experience. The wealth of data that can be extracted from this digital method is astounding. This allows managers to determine in real-time, if the quality and services are meeting customers’ expectations. You can find out if customers are actually enjoying the special, holiday menu this year, or if it was “so last year.” Instant feedback also means that you can immediately address a guests’ concerns, rather than after the fact. They will never have to leave the establishment with a poor opinion. Finally, you can identify trends you would not have detected otherwise. Chances are, if you work in a restaurant or hotel, you don’t know all of your employees, and you certainly cannot keep track of all of their work performance. Real time data, and data analytics help you answer questions like: Which customer service representatives get the most negative feedback? Who tends to be cooking when there are complaints about the food? What is the most popular item on the specialty menu? Guest Management Tools on Steroids When it comes to generating a wait, most hosts do their best to guess. Often times, they actually tend to be somewhat right, but certainly not all the time. Furthermore, the front is still congested by “hangry” people. Guest management tools help predict more accurate weight times, and more. If the data they produce is analyzed, it can provide actionable intelligence to managers. Analytics help answer the questions that management has always traditionally tried to answer with guesses. What is the best time to offer happy hour? When is the best time to offer off-season deals? Do these specials actually increase the guest count? What is the optimal configuration of the hotel or restaurant? Are there too many two-tops seated at six-person booths? Do more people request king beds than two doubles? Are your services operating efficiently? If you added additional kitchen staff or waiters, would it reduce your weight time? If you hired more maids, could you lessen room turnover time during the busy season? Would this make your customers happier, or would they even notice a difference? What special requests do guests have? Are people willing to pay much more for a room with a view? How much more? Are they celebrating a special occasion? All of these questions were once pondered by mangers until the headaches turned into migraines. Now, they can all be answered by consulting the right set of data. Provided with these insights, restaurants and hotels can make decisions to ensure profitability, increase operational efficiency, and improve customers’ perceptions of their establishments. When you hear the buzz word term, “Big Data,” this is what people are talking about. Analytics remove the guessing games from intuition. If you aren’t utilizing this in your restaurant or hotel, chances are that your competitors will soon be using it against you.
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