As one of the world’s leading cultural cities, London’s hospitality industry has historically been
big business. Prior to the pandemic, the sector accounted for around 3% of national economic
output, with the nation’s capital responsible for a significant chunk of that.
Few industries suffered the effects of the pandemic quite like hospitality, and consequently it has
spent the last few years more concerned with survival than growth. With life back to normal
though, the sector is not only rapidly recovering, it is now improving its services via the
integration of modern technology.
This can be witnessed at all levels of operations, but it’s at the customer level – critical to the
performance of any hospitality business – where tech is having the most significant impact.
Here are some of the more notable developments within the industry that are making for a
improved customer experience:
Contactless Ordering & Payments in Restaurants
There were few good things to emerge as a result of the pandemic, but the switch by many
restaurants to a contactless ordering and payment service might be one of them.
Initially introduced as a way of preventing the spread of infection, the contactless method – that
is enabling customers to order and pay for their meal using their own phone – means customers
are no longer at the mercy of the (likely overworked) wait staff, and can therefore order at their
Admittedly there has been a teething period – this new system still causes issues for those
customers who are unfamiliar with the new practice, or simply not tech savvy. However this is
always usually going to be the case when introducing new tech, and it’s often just a matter of
allowing time for adoption. On the whole, changing to a contactless order and payment system
appears to be a favourable decision. It has benefited tech-adapted customers, who if they aren’t
already, will soon be in the majority
Smart Hotel Rooms
Smart technology is now fairly ubiquitous, to the point might even be considered a standard
feature in homes across the country. For a variety of reasons – such as cost and interruption to
business – London’s hotels have been slow to integrate such technology, but are now starting to
In many cases this has simply meant the implementation of smart lighting or automatic
temperature control into rooms. On the far end of the spectrum however, there are hotels that
are taking tech integration to the next level, even identifying themselves as “smart hotels”.
A prime example of this was Eccleston Square Hotel in SW1, an establishment that has left no
stone unturned in its adoption of technology. While maintaining its traditional design and decor,
the hotel has converted rooms to include features such as electric massage beds, sound bars,
voice assistants, tablets, bathroom TVs (hidden behind the mirror, no less), and even smart
glass walls that frost with the touch of a button.
It’s not just the rooms themselves, either. Hotels like the CitizenM chain are providing mobile
and keyless check-in, enabling guests to bypass the front desk (along with the inevitable queue)
and go straight to their room. Perfect for anyone tired, arriving late, or wishing to avoid all
There are several other London hotels that have taken a similar “all-in” approach to smart tech,
with a simple purpose: increasing customer comfort and convenience. There is always the
danger of having too much tech in hotels, but for now at its current level, the addition of tech
seems to be making for a much improved customer experience
Virtual Reality (VR) and Augmented Reality (AR) Experiences
Even though Virtual Reality is still in its infancy, the technology offers an unparalleled “out of this
world” experience for users, and as such is already being utilised within the hospitality sector.
VR has a host of potential uses, but it has mainly been popularised through a booming gaming
industry. This has given rise to a number of VR establishments across London, that are
combining the interactivity of a VR experience with the excitement of gaming. A good example
is MeetSpace VR in Wembley’s Box Park, which offers a range of multiplayer VR games that
allow users to participate in zombie outbreaks and shoot killer robots. If that sounds too
stressful, Otherworld in Victoria allows for a more “traditional” VR experience, in which you can
travel to a virtual island and go to a beach rave.
Along with Augmented Reality (another promising form of interactive technology) VR is being
used to provide potential customers with previews of real-life experiences they might be
interested in. Several of London’s hotels now offer virtual tours on their website, enabling
customers to “scope out” the place before deciding where to book. Similarly, it is possible to do
VR and AR tours of museums and historical landmarks without ever leaving your seat. The
British Museum has a range of virtual tours online, meaning you can view the museum whether
you plan to later visit in person or not. These tours have become especially useful to schools,
who can provide their students with educational museum experiences without venturing classes
all the way into central London.
Social Media Engagement and Data Analytics
For hospitality businesses, social media has become an important means of not just generating
new customers, but maintaining relationships with current ones.
This is most apparent in the competitive London hotel and restaurant industries, where having a
strong social media presence involves actively engaging with customers ,and building a
community around the business. With people of all ages spending an inordinate amount of time
on social platforms, a lot of customer service and general interaction (likes, comments, sharing
user-generated content) is now performed on them.
When you consider that 30% of millennial diners avoid restaurants with a weak Instagram
presence, it’s really a non-negotiable for establishments to not only be active on social media,
but be using them to help foster a great experience for their clientele. The reality is that many
patrons treat hotel stays and eating out as an event in their personal online story or brand – what
happens on Instagram or TikTok is as much a part of their experience as the visit itself. Helping
promote their visit and demonstrating great hospitality on the socials feeds into this, and
typically improves how the customer perceives the service provided.
Social media is also extremely valuable as a source of customer data. Mass data collection is a
controversial subject that can be debated until the sun goes down but purely from the
perspective of improving customer experience, it is a gamechanger. Using technology to
analyse large amounts of data, gives businesses the opportunity to make informed decisions
that cater to the needs and wants of its customers.
In London’s hospitality sector, understanding this data allows hotels and restaurants to provide a
more personalised service, and clarify outstanding problems. It can help answer questions such
as: What kind of menu do people want? What time do guests usually check in? What is the
main demographic of our customer base?
For London’s hospitality industry, the scope for technology use moving forward is huge.
Advanced AI (Artificial Intelligence) tech is already being used to enhance security at hotels (via
biometrics), solve language challenges for international visitors (via translation apps), and
provide humanless (i.e. robot) waiting services at restaurants.
Admittedly It’s still in its early days with regards to reliability, but further development of this
technology in coming years should enable businesses to offer the most impressive and highly
bespoke customer experience.
Is your hospitality business experiencing IT-related headaches? Then don’t hesitate to contact
With two decades of experience helping organisations with IT support across London, Sphere IT is one of the
city’s leading IT support services for the Hospitality industry. No matter if it’s a minor (yet extremely annoying) system
issue, or a full blown tech meltdown (also extremely annoying), we’ll swoop in and get your
business back up and running