Rob Straathof highlights some key hospitality trends to look out for in 2018

Rife with advancements in technology and new waves of thinking, the landscape of modern hospitality is constantly evolving and there are a number of other exciting developments to come which small businesses in the hospitality industry should capitalise on.

With growth high on the agenda for many pubs, bars and restaurants this year, we’ve captured a few top trends which will help you hit the ground running and achieve success:

From Millennials to Generation Z
Generation Z are the next wave of customers to hit all industries and now, it’s time for pubs, bars and restaurants to really take note of them. Born after 1998, this generation grew up with the internet at their fingertips, available anywhere and everywhere at the touch of a button; so, naturally they are more orientated towards digital technologies.

With growing demand for convenience, flexibility and overall speed of service, this creates a world of opportunity for pubs, bars and restaurants who meet these needs and tailor their sales strategy accordingly. Larger players such as Just Eat and Domino’s Pizza are already capitalising on this, as seen by the increase in technology investment and recent drone delivery trials.

Despite the omnipotence of ecommerce, 46 per cent of high street business owners believe that trading on the high street still has a positive future, and 61 per cent of businesses believe online presence is complementary to trading on the high street.

So, on a more accessible level with tech, one way to better target Generation Z is by harnessing the power of social media and technology. This boost in convenience and enforcement of your brand will ultimately drive customer loyalty at this vital time; and support your hospitality business in keeping up with this ever-changing trade environment.

Rise of new technologies
Although the use of artificial intelligence (AI) in the hospitality industry is still in its relative infancy, there are a number of opportunities arising with AI. One example of this is the use of AI to deliver in-person customer service. We are already seeing the development of robots with artificial intelligence and the potential for this technology to grow is huge.

The smart technology behind AI can also enable the hospitality industry to utilise large amounts of data to not only perform multiple, repeated tasks efficiently but also to enrich and personalise interactions with customers. With Alexa and Google Home quickly becoming our next family members, their recommendations for which bars, pubs, restaurants to go to based on customer ratings will become significant in customers’ decision-making process.

Review your marketing plan in line with the above and ensure you stay on top of the latest technology trends to gain a competitive edge for your business, and an ease of transaction for your customers.

New regulations
So far, we’ve looked at the benefits of digital transformation within the hospitality industry, but whilst this shiny new tech can be impressive it is also important to be prepared for any potential challenges they might bring.

With a cashless society on the horizon, Open Banking, for instance, could open up a world of opportunity for the hospitality industry, adding convenience to the payment process while simultaneously increasing brand loyalty.

The alternative finance space is also developing rapidly, offering a way to grow your business through collaboration with trusted partners whilst enhancing your business potential and working in line with your needs. Make sure you are familiar with your options when looking to support your business to ensure you’re on the front foot with the latest developments.

It’s an exciting time to build your hospitality business and, in an ever-evolving environment, you can get ahead by capitalising on the above trends and adjusting your strategy accordingly. With new developments always on the horizon, now is the perfect time to get a head start to ensure success.

Rob Straathof is CEO at Liberis, a leading alternative finance provider, offering simple, flexible and transparent funding to help UK SMEs achieve their ambitions. Liberis is backed by the UK Government owned British Business Bank and is part of Blenheim Chalcot, the UK’s leading venture builder. Liberis also works in collaboration with several well-known payment partners, including WorldPay and Sage Pay.