PYMNTS Intelligence: Leveraging Automation Technology to Mitigate Hospitality Labor Shortages

Restaurants and hotels can take advantage of promising new automation technologies as staffing shortages in these industries from the pandemic continue.

Download the PYMNTS and LS Retail May 2023 "Hospitality Tracker: Can Automation Solve Labor Shortages in the Hospitality Sector?"

The hospitality industry has been experiencing staffing shortages across the board in recent years, with both hotels and restaurants feeling the squeeze. The industry has been slow to recover from pandemic-related furloughs and economic conditions, with many employees shifting careers entirely to work in other sectors rather than returning to their old hospitality positions. 

As a result, businesses are exploring new technologies to make up for the lack of staff, using automated services either to augment human employees or to replace them entirely. This month, PYMNTS explores how automation technology can help to solve labor shortages in the hotel and restaurant industries.

Automation could fill urgent need in hotels 

Customers are hungry for digital experiences when they travel. A recent survey found that 73% want to use their mobile phones for functionalities such as checking in to hotels, paying and ordering food, and 74% said artificial intelligence could tailor individualized experiences and amenities for them. 

This interest in automation dovetails perfectly with hotels’ need to mitigate staffing shortages. The U.S. Travel Association estimates the leisure and hospitality sector to be understaffed by 2 million openings, and technology could significantly reduce the impact of these vacancies by automating key roles. 

Some potential use cases for hotel automation include self-service kiosks and apps for customers to check in and out of their rooms, while chatbots can help with customer requests in lieu of front desk staff. Back-end functionalities lend themselves even better to automation, with digital tools replacing document scanning, faxing and financial reporting. Some hotels are even implementing mobile robots that can deliver room service directly to guests’ doors.

Keeping restaurants humming with automation 

Staffing shortages in the restaurant industry have had a damaging effect on the customer experience, with patrons reporting slow lines, long wait times and other unpleasant dining experiences. Delivery fares little better, with 9 out of 10 customers reporting at least one food order gone awry. 

Technology can automate roles in both front- and back-of-house operations, including ordering and even food preparation. Chipotle, Panera Bread and White Castle are working with Miso Robotics on food preparation robots, and McDonald’s is testing automated drive-thru services at several trial locations.