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  • Author: Kay Schwabedal

Tomorrow is today: Digitalisation in the hospitality sector

Interview: HOTREC, Hospitality Europe Business Newsletter July 2017

Digitalisation becomes more and more important in the hospitality sector and therefore the new METRO expands these services for our customers. For this purpose we established the company HoReCa digital.
The CEO of HoReCa digital, Kay Schwabedal, held the following interview with HOTREC in July 2017.

HOTREC is the umbrella association of national trade associations representing the hotels, restaurants, cafés and similar establishments in Europe.  METRO established a partnership with HOTREC in 2016/2017 for mutual benefit.

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HOTREC: METRO has established a subsidiary focused on digitalization of the hospitality industry, and is investing into hospitality tech. What is the purpose?

Kay Schwabedal: Customers of restaurants and hotels have had consistent expectations when it came to their experience for quite a while. Hospitality industry operated in the same way for dozens of years and there had been no pressure to change. Recently, however, customer behavior and expectations changed. The hospitality industry is experiencing an increase in pressure to become more efficient, high-tech, integrated, customized, and innovative. Since independent hospitality businesses are one of the main customer groups of METRO, it was a natural move for the company to support its customers in facing the challenges of digitalization.

We believe that technology can bring various advantages to the industry, both in front of house and back of house operations, it helps support the business owner in addressing such issues as profitability management, supply chain efficiency, personal planning, customer satisfaction, etc. All these are critical areas that ensure the survival and successful operations of an independent business owner.

Hospitality industry is known for being traditional in many ways. How do you overcome this when introducing new digital innovations?

It is important to view digitalization as a process, and not as a change that can be done overnight. While it is true that, the more we educate hospitality business owners about innovation and digital the more enthusiasm and interest we receive, it remains pivotal to do so in a way that supports their way of operations. We are running pilots and tests both on the product side, as well as in the way that we sell digital solutions to hospitality operators.  

We are also able to build on the knowledge of the industry that is coming from our 50+ years of wholesale operations. For example, we offer a unique product – web-site builder designed specifi-cally for the hospitality business owner. One can build a web-page for his bar or restaurant in less than 5 minutes online following a simple process that fits the business reality. We are fully aware that independent restaurant owners have no time and very often little interest in complicated tech solutions, so products that we offer are easy to grasp and fast to deploy. Creating flawless cus-tomer experience is the only way to overcome technology adoption resistance.

Where do you see the hospitality industry in the next 4-5 years? What role will you play in its development?

Digitalization of hospitality will go further. It will most likely enable the industry both to operate in a qualitatively new efficiency mode, as well as enhance customer experience through wider spread of digital services – be it payment, ordering or loyalty programs.

We expect that there will be wider spread and adoption of digital services across independent businesses, as they will discover the benefits. We intend to continue supporting this trend by partnering with hospitality tech startups and developing our own solutions in-house.

Kay Schwabedal

Information about the author

Kay Schwabedal leads METRO's initiative supporting the digitization of the hospitality industry, including the METRO accelerators, investment activities and startup sales support.    He has previously held various positions in IT, telecommunications, FMCG and consulting including CCO at E-PLUS, COO at Vodafone Arcor and CEO at Computacenter AG as well as various positions at McKinsey & Company and Procter & Gamble.    A Harvard Business School graduate, Mr. Schwabedal is an experienced board member, avid investor and mentor. kay.schwabedal@horeca.digital