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Why COVID-19 Could Actually Be Good for the Hospitality Industry [Opinion]

Why COVID-19 Could Actually Be Good for the Hospitality Industry [Opinion]

In this thought leadership series, Revel CSO Chris Lybeer shares his thoughts and predictions around the hospitality industry. This is an industry that has faced a year filled with obstacles. He pairs these thoughts with advice on how restaurants can continue to adapt and thrive. Chris brings insights from a career spent fostering technology for restaurants and retailers. In this post, he shares a positive take on how COVID-19 could actually be good for the hospitality industry. Check back each month for more thoughts directly from Chris, a valued member of the “People POS.” 

In Search of a Silver Lining

Make no mistake, the past few months—well, 2020 as a whole—have been stacked with extreme challenges and change for our families, friends, businesses, and the world. The hospitality industry was not immune to those challenges. As someone who has built a career revolving around the point of sale (POS) space, it was really difficult watching businesses struggle and see hard-working staff members furloughed. It would be extremely nearsighted to downplay the pandemic’s effect on daily life. But I like to look for positivity in situations, even when it’s tough. I invite you to humor me in how COVID-19 could actually be a good thing for the hospitality industry. 

Changing Tides Before the Pandemic

Prior to the effects of COVID-19, restaurants and retail businesses were on the precipice of real operational change. I felt this personally, and I could feel it based on what our clients wanted. Operators were eager and open to learning about how technology could help them better serve their customers and meet them where they were. They were craving a more diversified technology mix, backed by a solution that leads with the flexibility that legacy systems lack. They realized, more than ever before, that underinvestment in technology could be devastating. Operators knew they needed to be able to offer omnichannel commerce backed by centralized data. All this was coming from an industry that—if we’re being honest—has lagged behind others in taking advantage of technology. 

Revealing Numbers

Let’s take a look at this speculation by the numbers. Prior to COVID-19, digital restaurant orders had grown 23 percent annually since 2013 and were expected to triple in volume by 2020. Compare that projected growth to a more generalized look at online spending post-pandemic. U.S. eCommerce sales in May of 2020 jumped by 92.7 percent, and consumers spent more than $53 billion via eCommerce in the U.S. in April and May. Access to an efficient online ordering solution helps businesses capitalize on the meteoric growth of online purchases. I think businesses are now realizing that their POS must be a true technology partner, and make reaching these digital-first customers easy. 

Commerce Isn’t Dying; It’s Evolving 

Despite the growth of more digital shopping avenues, in-person eating and shopping is certainly not dead, it’s just evolving. The term “contactless” is now everywhere, and with good reason, as once-shuttered businesses begin to reopen and adapt to more germ-conscious customers. Mastercard reports that contactless payments increased 40 percent in the second quarter of 2020 alone, and some markets are generously increasing tap-and-go limits to support usage.

I think the heightened demand for a contactless buying experience will likely have a substantial impact on how businesses pivot their in-store experience moving forward. Likewise, demand will increase for POS solutions that offer contactless technology. Users are also looking for features that give them an option to request contact-free delivery during their online ordering experience, and Revel is enabling clients to meet this demand.

Flexibility and Efficiency are Key to Resilience

No one in the hospitality industry saw the effects of this pandemic coming, but perhaps the industry will come out stronger as a result of the forced technological growth that many businesses have experienced. Those who respond and adapt will be more flexible, more efficient, and more prepared businesses. You could argue they’re more customer-focused than ever before; some Revel clients completely changed their business models just to meet the needs of their customers and communities. I think that all of these successes will have long-term benefits across an industry built on resilience and strength.