Artificial intelligence is changing the way we live and run our businesses. the hospitality industry is no exception. but what are the advantages and drawbacks? F&B specialist Pia Bøgeskov, partner of TN concept & design, lends her thoughts on AI adaptation.

By Kim Wyon

Hotels and restaurants have always registered guest preferences. What advantage does Artificial Intelligence (AI) add? 

“AI delivers better optimisation and bottom-line benefits. It’s also empowering for a businessperson to be able to rely on AI-generated business intelligence rather than simply base decisions on past experiences.

“Skilled professionals have always analysed data, but not only is this time consuming, the data provided is less accurate and therefore less valuable than business intelligence generated by AI. Supported by AI analytics, culinary professionals can also concentrate on the creative and guest-centric aspect of their hospitality business and leave the number-crunching to AI.”

F&B specialist Pia Bøgeskov, partner of TN Concept & Design

Pioneering tech-driven restaurants, such as 1889 in Stockholm, have demonstrated that Artificial Intelligence and automation are ready to change the industry. What kind of hospitality businesses are most likely to benefit from early adaptation?

“The short answer is ALL hospitality businesses! This is regardless of the restaurant concept, and it also applies to hotels seeking to develop their lobby areas in enterprising ways. All restaurants would benefit from greater insights into how to adapt the sensory design – lighting, music playlists and scents – at any given time. Controlling the ambiance can make a place feel fantastic. And when people feel comfortable and the experience feels unique they are more likely to return.

There are benefits to AI-assisted operations, no matter whether the restaurant is high-end and requires insight into individual guest preferences and no-show management, or whether the restaurant concept is more casual and requires a high level of efficiency, which is likely to become an increasingly important competitive parameter since convenience is what such restaurants are all about. No matter your restaurant concept, you will benefit from using AI tools.”

Artificial Intelligence is used to identify consumer habits and predict consumer behaviour based on previous purchases. But luckily, consumers are sometimes open to breaking their habits. How can hotels or restaurants use guest profile data to encourage customers to discover new experiences?

“AI offers very incisive and sharable insights that can guide the individual employee to bet ter pursue unique sales opportunities. To most of us, the best guest experience is when a waiter or receptionist ‘reads’ our needs and preferences before we are actually aware of them ourselves. This is when we as guests are truly impressed.

AI facilitates this by empowering employees to conduct personalised upselling or cross-selling, such as tempting a guest by recommending a specific wine made with what a guest profile tells you is the guest’s favourite grape. There are countless opportunities to give the guest a unique and surprising experience they had not expected – and boost revenues at the same time.”

Customer contact is becoming increasingly mobile-driven. Hotels are likely to embrace chatbot functions that help automate communication. Does Artificial Intelligence risk causing confusion and alienation?

“The aim of AI chatbots is to eliminate repetitive tasks by responding to standard queries and repetitive actions. Younger consumers expect short response times on queries and would rather text a chatbot or person online to resolve issues and gain information. But naturally, real human contact can never be entirely replaced by chatbots.”

Customer feedback is a valuable tool for companies. Do we risk feedback fatigue among consumers – and how do we encourage users to leave feedback?

“Clearly, if surveys always ask the same old questions, most guests and consumers will grow tired of them. Punching smiley push buttons in stores might not appeal to the youngest consumers – Generation Z – since they instinctively know that this isn’t really giving meaningful feedback.

“I believe that we will see many more opportunities in the future allowing customers to provide valuable feedback, both praise and constructive criticism. Younger generations are aware of the value of this kind of feedback in helping a restaurant or hotel develop their products and services in a meaningful and appealing way.”