Eye on Hospitality: Apps are Where it’s at for Hotels and Restaurants

Eye on Hospitality: Apps are Where it’s at for Hotels and Restaurants https://wahospitality.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/mobileapp0317.jpg

By Paul Schlienz

Apps are everywhere.

This is true throughout the business world, and the hospitality industry is no exception.

“Today’s guests expect to be able to use their smartphones to do almost everything,” said George Corbin, senior vice president of digital at Marriott International. “They’re more mobile than ever and consider technology to be a central part of their lifestyle. We want to change the way people travel at our hotels.”

The numbers bear out Corbin’s observations. Seventy-six percent of leisure travelers choose hotel booking sites and travel apps for lower prices and better deals. Meanwhile, travelers are less inclined to book via branded hotels sites. In fact, 13 percent of travelers quit using brand sites and apps altogether due to a poor mobile experience.

Hotels are not taking this sitting down. Indeed, they are hard at work developing their own apps that can compete in this environment.

Marriott’s own app allows users check in any time after 4 p.m., the day before arrival. Guests can then can pick up a pre-programmed key-card at a special expedited mobile check-in desk.  And if a guest arrives before their room is ready, they will receive an automatic notification from the app when the room is ready.

Hilton Worldwide’s ConradConcierge app fulfills all the functions of a full-service concierge, enabling users to order room service, book hotel spa treatments, choose bath amenities they want stocked in their bathrooms or arrange transportation to the airport.

In the meantime, restaurants are developing apps, too.

In the wake of several other chains like Starbucks, McDonald’s is now in the process of a major West Coast rollout testing a mobile app that will allow users to place orders, pay for meals and even select where they want to pick it up, all via cellphone before even reaching the store.

McDonald’s waited as long as it did to develop and unveil its app because it wanted to be sure it got it right.

“It’s better to be right than to be first to market,” McDonald’s CEO Steve Easterbrook said. “We are building a better McDonald’s, one that makes delicious feel-good moments easy for everyone. And I believe the moves we are making will reassert McDonald’s like the global leader in the informal eating out category.”

As for Starbucks, 7 million Starbucks customers per month, on an average, ordered through the company’s mobile app. And Starbucks is now predicting that in the near future, as much as 50 percent of its ordering will be done via smartphone.

No wonder Howard Schultz, Starbucks’ CEO, is describing Starbucks as a technology company.

Next on Starbucks’ tech menu is voice ordering. Testing of this new feature on Starbucks’ is already under way, having started a few months ago. As of now, however, the company has only rolled it out to a trial run of 100,000 customers.

“It only takes a little imagination to think about where conversational ordering will go next,” said Starbucks CTO Gerri Martin-Flickinger said.