Vineet Verma, CEO & executive director, Brigade Hospitality Services, writes about how hotels would be looking at retrofitting equipment and fixtures to redefine services to the patron in the new normal
While designing space for hospitality one will have to embrace digital technology at its fullest. Initiatives will be directed towards reducing human interaction and encouraging contactless experiences. Significant changes may be seen in every aspect of the guest journey. Hotels and restaurants’ entrances may be sensor-enabled to avoid contact. Keyless entry to rooms along with check-in and check-out kiosks may be the new norm. Automation in rooms and public areas will gain prominence. Future hotel rooms will allow guests to manage the lighting and temperature settings from their own devices. Vital signage for safe distancing will be made available in public areas to aid social distancing. Advanced solutions for thermal screening will come to use and hotels will be looking at retrofitting the luggage scanners with UV lights for disinfecting luggage. An automated solution for Hygiene, sanitising and disinfecting will gain prominence as the same guarantees efficiency in safety protocols.
Future dining spaces will have more live counters and show kitchens basically to build guest confidence in our safety & hygiene standards. Community seating may take a back seat and guests may now look forward to micro-social dining environment. Furniture designs will be relooked into. For example, individual couch seating will be a preferred option over large sofas. Restaurants with cabanas would be able to capitalise on such occasions as they convey a sense of safety to the patrons. The surfaces selected would be keeping in mind the frequency and ease of cleaning and disinfecting. The design will be a simple, straight line and minimalistic. It will be an idealistic setting to have an alfresco area attached to an indoor venue as this would add value since an open space will be a sought-after option over an enclosed one in cities with pleasant weather. The usage of sneeze guards at food counters is an expected norm in current times. Usage of technology-driven equipment like a combi oven in the kitchen will aid efficiency and help reduce cost.
There will be heightened communications within the room signifying the hygiene and sanitation practices to reassure the guest of safety. The focus in new hotels will be to drive low or no contact features in lighting, plumbing, etc. Frequently contacted surfaces in the guestroom like switch panels, flush plates, bathroom fittings can become sensor enabled. Room temperature can be controlled or set as per the guest preference from the hotel PMS itself. Mini Bars in rooms can be sensor-enabled wherein when an item is withdrawn from the bar it gets billed to your folio. This can minimise the entry of the associate to guest rooms and avoids revenue loss.
Selecting the right and reputed hygiene partners will be crucial in ensuring effective training of the associates regarding hygiene, sanitation and the disinfection process. The compliance will be ensured by frequent audits and would be subjected to rigorous reviews to ensure that the hospitality establishment stays up-to-date with the constantly evolving situation.
Drive-in / Take away outlets are being explored by hotels as a new potential opportunity based on the location. Hotels are also exploring the possibilities of dissolving the receiving and stores functions. In the future, the supplies would be directly delivered to the kitchen. Chefs will be trained and equipped to facilitate this function and thereby eliminating these two functions in hotels. This will relieve business owners by easing the pressure of the working capital requirements. Touch-free access to elevators will also be a feature to look forward to.
Having said that, we do believe that hotels are integral to our social fiber and we essentially being social creatures, will look forward to a cure and a vaccine being found soonest for Covid-19, so that we may get back to ‘meeting people and making friends’, without being concerned much about social distancing.