S4Labour CEO Alastair Scott was featured in the latest edition of the always excellent “Friday Opinion” series of articles published by Propel Info, one of UK hospitality’s most respected institutions.
In response to a previous piece written by the Thai Leisure Group’s James Hacon, Alastair discussed the challenges and opportunities that define the burgeoning relationship between hospitality brands and technology providers.
The article can be read in full below.
James Hacon’s article recently was, as a technology provider and an operator, very interesting and thought provoking reading in Friday Opinion. His core argument is the big technology players are reluctant to integrate with the smaller players, and even more so when they have a competing product. This is hampering innovation and just as importantly leading to a less efficient and/or effective sector.My first point is this is understandable. The small players have most to gain from openness and the large ones the most to lose. Just watch how Apple has changed from arguing against the Microsoft machine to in effect adopting the Microsoft position now it is big enough to want to close out the competition. As a supplier that is transitioning from a small supplier to a larger one, I really do understand both arguments. So we should all understand in any commercial world that is how people will rationally behave. Therefore, the real question is what can operators do to ensure they have the freedom to choose the best systems and select a group of products that works for them?My advice is to only work with people you trust and can have a relationship with. The cost of adopting most technology platforms is not in the cost of the product but in the substantial effort and energy it takes the organisation to change the working practices to make the most of the technology. As an operator we have had three different restaurant booking systems in four years and we wish we had made the right decision first time around. In my view it is more important to pick a partner that has a similar philosophy than the partner with the best product right now. For me that philosophy would critically include how they want to take the product forward, and also their attitude towards integration.We have struggled with determining the right position regarding integrations. However, now we offer free access to the data we hold on behalf of our customers. Our commercial argument for this is other suppliers will be keener to work with us and thus will recommend us more positively and more frequently than our competitors. This integration decision is, of course, harder when your competition may have a competing product, but if you believe your product is the best product on the market it makes that decision much easier, which we of course do.I believe we are only at the start of a major software revolution in the hospitality sector. Historically, because we run small individual units, the software costs have been prohibitive. With the software as a service model reducing the large upfront costs of purchasing software for a site, lots of sites can use the same platform giving a small site great massive economies of scale they haven’t been able to access before.And so I think once we really apply our brains there will be lots more solutions, and they will come thick and fast. My advice to all operators is to understand your providers’ approach to your data and make sure that it works for you. But then I would say that wouldn’t I – we still think like a small player.