ScotHot 2019 The Future of Hospitality: 3 Trends Set to Shape the Industry

ScotHot provides a Scottish-focused annual exhibition for Food, Drink, Hospitality and Tourism – from debates, sessions and talks to competitions, demonstrations and product showcases. Exhibitors include enterprises such as Heineken and Tevalis to small-size family vendors like St. Andrews Farmhouse Cheese Company and The Little Herb Farm. Michelin star chefs from well-known restaurants such as The Gannet and The Ox and Finch demonstrated their skills while debates centred around the future of the industry.

Through the course of the two-day exhibition we uncovered 3 key trends which look to shape the Hospitality industry over the next year.

1. Staffing

A key debate at ScotHot 2019 centred around the issue of staffing within the hospitality industry both past, present and future. However, this may not be for the immediate reason of Brexit on the horizon with debates highlighting key factors such as training, recruitment and customer experience.

Skill shortage within the Hospitality sector is increasingly thought to be an issue, with 3 in 5 firms reporting in September last year that they expect it to worsen over 2019. In December it was reported that Hospitality was the largest proportion of ‘hard-to-fill vacancies’ with chef positions being the third hardest to fill in the UK. Conversations with vendors at ScotHot mirrored this sentiment, particularly in finding young talent to remain in companies and work ‘up the ladder.’ With long working hours and often intense pressure, many restaurants find it challenging to ‘sell’ the job to youngsters.

Additionally, there is a prevailing attitude that Hospitality is a young peoples, students or part-time employment – many companies simply refuse to invest in further training and employee growth unless there is a near-immediate return or it is a necessity. The increasing trend of the ‘gig’ economy has created controversy and concerns of increasingly high turnover rates.

Nonetheless, The Big Debate remained positive with three of four panellists agreeing that investments in staff training would be beneficial to the industry. In reality, the question was one of perception. There is a need to move away from the refusal to invest in staff who are seen to be part-time or not devoted to staying in the industry long-term. In order to encourage staff retention and lower turnover it is important to show the industry as a long-term employment option. Costs of training become minimal when they are compared with the retention of staff and the costs of continual recruitment.

This point was made clearly by a panellist who pointed out that one of the largest Hotel chains in the UK sent their staff to a training course and saw an increase of 25% of whisky sales, purely due to upselling which encouraged customers to move from blended whisky to a single malt. The cost of one bottle covered one member of staffs training.

What’s more, the dedication to the staff training greatly improved the customer experience. In order to achieve high customer satisfaction, it is evidently necessary to have happy – and enthused – staff. It’s likely that as the industry faces turbulence from external pressures in the coming year this will become increasingly important for the success of businesses all over the UK.

As such, staff forecasting, and analytics will become an ever-increasing factor in business processes. The possibility of utilising predictive analytics to forecast sales and staff scheduling is no longer a thing of the future – it is a possibility now.

2. Health and Social Consciousness

Another key debate which ScotHot focused on was the issues of health, well-being and social consciousness. Over the course of the past several years there has been a huge shift in the way consumers think and feel about personal health, with a particular growth in vegetarianism and veganism. This has hugely impacted the Hospitality industry, particularly full-service restaurants who must adapt to these changing tastes. Additionally, over the past year, vegetarian meals have accounted for roughly 25% of the UKs out-of-home meals – with just over 4% of the population considering themselves vegetarian, this is a substantial change in eating habits. There has been a huge growth in plant-based food production companies, healthy non-alcoholic beverages and ‘vegan junk food.’

Alongside the growth in health consciousness there has been a growth in social and environmental consciousness. Faith and trust are now key factors in brand loyalty for younger generations. This was discussed avidly in the session titled ‘Power to the People: Consumers’ Love/Hate Relationships with Brands.’ Brands like Brewgooder were championed for their ability to combine environmental and social consciousness with the growth of a trend product, namely craft beers. Dedication to these causes can often be costlier in the short-term, despite long-term benefits.

Nonetheless, as these trends continue to boom there has been a coinciding trend with the knowledge of ‘green-washing.’ That is, companies who are simply jumping on the proverbial band wagon. Treading the line between genuine dedication to a cause, green-washing and business success will be no mean feat for many SMEs in the Hospitality space. As always, we would recommend assessing your business processes and requirements first to see where you can implement new approaches.

To start, consider this - through online software for your staff scheduling, reporting and analytics and finance solutions you can greatly cut down on your use of paper and paper goods. A simple but effective way to start your conscious journey.

3. Virtual Communities

Finally, our ScotHot experience was filled with conversations concerning the steady rise of digital throughout the Hospitality sector – or rather, lack thereof. Through discussions with different vendors it became apparent that many demonstrated little or no knowledge of the benefits of digital as a serious aid to their business. One vendor said they had only recently begun to use analytics for their website, but they had no interest in social media nor business analytics. Another stated that their current focus was simply their produce, so they hadn’t considered social media, analytics or anything digital.

The unprecedented growth of digital provides a unique opportunity for their businesses, and all in the sector. It’s likely that businesses that continue to eschew digital aids, from social media to analytics, will have difficulties in encouraging sales or continued growth.

A key tool for those in the Hospitality industry is TripAdvisor, which was a key discussion point throughout the event. TripAdvisor allows companies to have direct feedback from customers which could only really be seen as beneficial to encourage both staff and management. The debate against this was also covered in ‘TripAdvisor: Friend or Foe?’

Of course, we believe in the value of all things digital when coupled with solid business practices and we hope the next ScotHot event will discuss this in greater detail.

Despite the predicted turbulence of the hospitality industry, from ScotHot it is clear there is a wealth of positivity and opportunities to come if businesses are prepared to be forward thinking and innovative in their offerings.

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