Understanding your customers is the holy grail of business success. You may be thinking that your customers want coffee, food, alcohol, and accommodation. You own a property and provide hotel food and beverage service, so all they need to know is where you are, right? Well, that’s only a small part of understanding your customers.
We asked Joshua Clifton, the author of The Hospitality Survival Guide – How to Survive and Thrive in the Hospitality Industry, to share his observations on hospitality trends and today’s customer behavior. Joshua’s entire hospitality career has been fixated on understanding why customers buy when they buy and why they are loyal to certain businesses and not others. Knowing those things makes it easy for hospitality businesses to meet their guests’ expectations and deliver an unrivaled customer experience.
Read the post to learn from the industry insider and discover what true customer attraction is all about and how to leverage it.
The shift from price- to experience-driven consumer behavior
New trends in the hospitality industry stem from the current state of the market. Nowadays, people are spoilt for choice, starving for attention, and want their needs to be met fast. The hospitality industry has a lot to offer and provides people with plenty of choices. In such circumstances, customers subconsciously become picky and weigh up their options more carefully.
To respond to this trend in hospitality, entrepreneurs should undertake a three-pronged effort to improve: the foundations of their business, internal relations, and external relations. Let’s focus on the former two areas because the foundations of your business are what attracts new customers and your internal relations create sustained customer loyalty.
One of the main restaurant and hotel industry trends is that the modern customer isn’t price-driven anymore. They’re experience-driven. If the price matches the experience, you will draw in customers. If that experience is consistent and seamless, you will turn them into loyal customers.
You aren’t in the hospitality industry anymore, in fact, you never were. You’ve always been in the entertainment industry and your job is to sell tickets to your show.
When trying to catch up with restaurant and hotel trends, the first thing you should understand is that customers want to go to your venue to escape, unwind, or just forget the outside world, even for a little. So your product or service is merely the ticket stub to get in.
The supremacy of emotions in the consumer buying process
Saying that you serve the best coffee or have the best cuisine is not enough to gain customers. Not anymore. What can make people come back is your ‘show’ that differentiates you from other businesses. Your main goal is to connect with your customers on an emotional level: entice, excite, build trust.
Have a strong ‘why’ and build trust
Building trust takes time. Once established it will provide you with the platform to start connecting with customers on a deeper level. You should identify the reason why customers should trust you and choose your product or service. It requires answering three main questions:
What do you do better than your competitors?
What boundaries are you pushing?
Is this enough to make your customers trust your brand?
Customer loyalty stems from their expectations being met time after time. Providing consistently positive emotional experience you’ll finally make them share their positive beliefs about your brand with their social circle. If you know and clearly formulate why you’re doing what you’re doing, you’ll make it easy for your guests to decide:
Should they choose to eat your food or stay at your hotel over someone else’s or not?
If they believe in the message you, your team, and your establishment communicate or not?
Should they recommend your business to their friends or not?
Understand your buyers’ behavior
By studying your customers’ buyer behavior you’ll learn what they buy, why, and when. Knowing this you can influence their buying process by appealing to their emotions. Restaurants and hotels usually establish an emotional connection with people through:
Sharing their passion and vision.
Providing good customer service.
Educating and showing expertise.
Offering a point of difference.
Being incredible entertainers.
Current trends in the hospitality industry make getting the right emotional response to your product crucial for success. To make it happen, you should ask your guests for feedback. Customers love it when you fuss over them. They’ll be more willing to share feedback if you follow the best practices: an eye contact, warm welcome, and a sincere farewell. It all still works wonders. Additionally, let them immerse themselves in your world by openly sharing the story of your company and brand.
The role of authenticity in creating a unique selling proposition
While the older generation still tends to lean towards convenience and reliability, the younger to middle-aged generation behaves the opposite way. Young people are always on the hunt for that next new and stimulating experience. The younger generation defines the future of the hospitality industry. People go here for burgers, go there for an acai bowl, and that other place for their coffee fix. Establishments strive to become specialized and distinguish from mass-market hospitality business models. This is the world we are living in and you should also find out:
What can you offer that no one else can?
What do you do better than anyone else?
What makes your business, your business?
Strive to share your personal values and put your passion in your business. This is how you'll remain authentic and transparent for people to feel it.
One of the global trends in the hospitality industry is that people have more options than ever before. For most businesses, it’s financially or otherwise unfeasible to invent something new and exciting over and over again to promote their services. However, you must have one part of your business you excel at. This element then becomes your ‘edge’ that helps you break through the noize.
More shops -> more choice -> more selective customers -> specific purchasing behaviours.
Think of the last hotel or restaurant you visited where you had an amazing experience. Chances are, it had one or two elements that you loved and remembered. Perhaps they did something you have never seen. This is an example of this venue having an ‘edge’.
After you have researched your target audience and identified what they want, you should define what will sweeten the deal for them. Your ‘edge’ idea should be in-line with your ‘why’. It should convince people to choose your business over someone else’s and spend their money with you. Let’s formulate an example ‘why’, ‘how’, ‘what’ and ‘edge’ for a restaurant serving fried chicken:
Why: We simply love chicken for the diversity it has in meals. It has a place in every culture’s food and is loved by millions.
How: We are scouring the globe looking for secret recipes and cooking techniques to serve authentic chicken dishes. We use locally sourced produce to ensure our food has good quality and this way we support the local community.
What: We serve authentic fried chicken recipes from all over the world in one location.
Edge: We have the largest chicken menu in Australia. We keep our recipes well-guarded and our restaurant is the only place where people can try those unique dishes.
Future edge ideas could be introducing the perfect beer and chicken combination with a new beer list. Or it can be introducing new flavors on a monthly rotation, which means each month you can advertise a new and unique flavor.
The process of discovering your edge is never-ending and your team should participate in it. Don't ever feel like you must come up with all the marketing ideas on your own. Your front-of-house team will always have more interaction with customers than you as an owner. They understand who comes in, when they come in, and what they usually order and why. Communicate with your waiters, baristas, and bartenders to get invaluable insights.
The importance of building the right team to deliver on your goals
After you have established a foundation of your business the time comes to focus on the efficiency of your operations. Having a restaurant or hotel with a strong backstory and goals is one part, having a team to deliver on it is another.
It’s about your employees’ soft and hard skills. Say, to deliver an exceptional service a waiter in a hotel should know how to treat customers, get along with the kitchen staff, and have the right tools at hand. Hospitality industry technology trends require using cutting-edge software. The implementation of the right restaurant POS system and property management system can make a difference for your team efficiency. For example, you can check Cloudbeds and Poster POS integration to learn how those two pieces of software can play together. Future trends in the hotel industry as well as in restaurants will have a closer and closer connection with technology.
Without a passionate and knowledgeable team, your venue will never become incredible. You, your chef, cleaning team, cake supplier, and everyone else contribute to the reputation of your business. When recruiting every team member simply ask yourself: Will this person take care of my customers as I do, create unrivaled experiences, and attract more people like them? Service and skills are checklists while connecting with people is the winning formula.
I follow the idea that I should never ask my team to do anything that I wouldn't do myself. To truly unlock your team's most productive efforts you should identify people's core values and find a personal match.
Once you develop the right ecosystem for a powerful team and get strong foundations in place, meeting customer expectations and latest hospitality industry trends will be a natural part of your everyday operations to grow a business that you and your customer love.