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Does Technology Enhance or Deter the Experience?
Does Technology Enhance or Deter the Experience?

Human interaction and hospitality go hand in hand.  It’s always been that way. It’s the cornerstone of success in the hospitality industry…the ability to offer guests a positive, human, interactive experience.  Haven’t we all experienced the warm hospitality of a restaurant captain who instinctively knew what to suggest or what service touches to provide to make our dining experience more memorable than imagined?

The question is, do today’s incredible technological strides enhance or deter a positive hospitality experience?

Caution – Potential Risks Ahead

Innovative technology is exciting, constantly inching the bar closer to a perfect balance between efficiency and experience.  But with it, we run the risk of replacing the human interaction experience with impersonal technology.  The trends toward self-ordering and paying at the table, robot order delivery, self-check-out, and pre-ordering via phone or computer are examples that come to mind. But the fact remains, while virtually everyone has a smart phone of some type, with many people considering it indispensable for their daily lives, humans crave direct human interaction for their well-being.  Various scientific studies underscore the necessity of human interaction in our lives.  One study, led by Rebecca Saxe, neuroscientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and published in Nature Neuroscience, reported that “social interaction is a basic human need, just like food and water.”Thus, the key to hospitality success is integrating technology into hospitality without losing the personal, human element that creates a positive experience.

Meshing Technology with Human Interaction

Technological innovations do offer many benefits, the primary advantage being efficiency in service and reduction in labor expense.  However, most often one effect is the reduction in human interaction.  The hospitality industry must maintain the correct balance between efficiencies brought in via technology with the human interaction essential for a truly memorable hospitality experience.  Technology must be implemented to enhance the overall experience, inclusive of interpersonal interaction.

The New Kids on the Block – AR and AI

The key to maximizing synergy with human interaction and technology is personalization.  According to Food Navigator Europe, 2024 food and beverage technology will be driven by the convenience offered by Augmented Reality (AR) and Artificial Intelligence (AI).2  AR can be applied to enhance a customer’s experience via technology while increasing the individualized consumer experience.  For example, AR-assisted menus offer additional information such as nutrition content, calories, and ingredient lists to assist customers with informed purchases.  This is a marked improvement in time and efficiency over operators printing and displaying information in serveries and on menus, or customers researching menu item information on websites.  The AR information is available in real time in customers’ personal electronic devices. Forbes states that one major 2024 food and beverage industry trend is personalization, thus leading to a better customer experience, via AI.3  This may include menu personalization and suggestions for menu items to purchase based on past customer history.

A Foodservice Consultant Can Help

Foodservice consultants approach new technology similarly when determining recommended foodservice concepts, menu types, and design for clients.  They apply the latest technology available to meet each client’s individual cultural, programmatic, and financial goals.  Designs include the latest technology allowing for increased menu variety, while simultaneously maximizing the guest hospitality experience.  Some examples include compact, ventless cooking equipment and the latest barista-free coffee house machines allowing for maximization of made-to-order options at low expense.  These innovations are coming quicker than ever, due in part to the dearth of foodservice employees in the post-pandemic era.

Based on these customer personalization preferences, hospitality professionals should wisely keep them in mind when adopting new technology.  According to customer research, the best technology offers increased efficiency, while simultaneously facilitating the enhancement of the human-to-human hospitality experience. This special human dynamic has been the foundation of successful hospitality for decades.

By:  Tim O’Mara | Management Advisory Services


1 https://www.drugdiscoverynews.com/social-interaction-a-basic-human-need-15564
Tomova, L., et al. Acute social isolation evokes midbrain craving responses similar to hunger. Nat Neurosci  23(12), 1597-1605 (2020)
2 https://www.foodnavigator.com/Article/2024/01/16/advancing-food-tech-in-2024-the-year-of-convenience#
3 https://www.forbes.com/sites/garyocchiogrosso/2024/01/20/trends-shaping-the-ever-changing-restaurant-business-in-2024/?sh=73d9ac774bfe




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