As cities restart, how important will robotics and digitalisation be? Are we at the start of a major evolution in services?

The Hospitality industry faces a number of major challenges in terms of people and talent post pandemic which is of major concern to operators but could this serve to open the door for a stronger discussion on robotics as well as greater advancement in digitalisation?

The industry faces a perfect storm created by a number of major factors which include Brexit, and the pandemic but also that consumers are seeking stronger, enhanced personalised experiences which they have become accustomed to from the retail sector. Can hospitality respond?

• The sector lost an estimated 355,000 paid employees through the pandemic of which 75% were below the age of 35
• There will be an estimated shortage of 188,000 workers
• The shortages will see a potential 25-30% rise in the salaries of lower level employees

This does make for an unpredictable landscape; one where costs could well constantly increase – so there is a strong argument unfolding for the implementation and employment of robots as well as for increased services through digitalisation.

At the same time, there is genuine uncertainty in city centres as to the future:

• What will the numbers be for returning employees – the present estimate is 55% by the end of the year, rising to 70%
• International travel will not fully recover until 2025
• Business travel will naturally fall by 25% even once recovery has been achieved.
• Commuter density will fall by 30% in city centres.
• Overall spend to decrease by 30%

All these uncertainties do ask hotels and food service operators to seek new solutions which can provide new service levels, manage cost effectively and create stability in planning.

It is not beyond reason to start seeing:
• Evermore enhanced service levels through digitalisation which can lead to more personal service levels
• Robot playing roles in delivering dishes and drinks within restaurants
• Creating new approaches to Room Service
• Covering many repetitive roles within kitchens
• Supporting greater cleaning
• Playing roles in lobby areas

It has become a common phrase which notes that the pandemic has fast forwarded evolution. Could it be that robots do start to challenge for more less skilled roles?