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Future Skills: Natalie Duffy - Hospitality

How has your industry changed over the past 10 years due to technical and digital advancements?

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Back in 2010 after visiting a tradeshow in London, we signed up to Opentable an online reservations system that was able to be integrated into our website, allowing customers to make reservations without having to call us by phone, which at the time was the only way of booking with us other than actually walking into the restaurant. The decision to do this was a pivotal moment in our business, not only were we able to use the system to manage our daily reservations in a practical time efficient manner, we were also able to capture data on our guests and use it for marketing purposes. The hand written diaries and time consuming table plans were history overnight and we launched ourselves into a new era. Online reservations now account for 36% of our overall bookings.

The next major development was email so in addition to taking bookings online from anywhere in the world, our email correspondence increased and the reservation process including confirmations, sending of menus, arranging special parties all transferred to emails.

Automated credit card transactions using hand held devices improved service to our customers and offered them increased security, our end of day cashing up procedures became more efficient and cash handling decreased.

Finally we upgraded our till system to allow touch screen ordering, instantly printing orders in the bar, kitchen, sweet sections even customer bills and subsequently we saw a reduction in mistakes being made on bills, service was speedier and all this resulted in more streamlined operations .

Technology has had a massive impact on our industry.

What do you predict will be the main change in your industry over the next 10 years and why?

You know when it comes down to it, the purpose of restaurants, cafes and bars (a centuries old industry) is to eat and drink away from the home environment, to socialise, to sample new flavours, to celebrate special occasions, to have a romantic meal or simply to avoid doing the dishes.

I predict that with increased use of technology, ordering online, will see a boost in home delivered food.

Technology will further improve and streamline operations both front of house and in the kitchen from a service point of view with improved more energy efficient equipment.

Improved methods of containing allergen foods will be introduced as we see an increase in diners having allergic reactions.

Restaurants will have to adapt menus as consumers will demand more ethically sourced food products.

What three main employability skills will be required for a successful future career in your industry?

Quite simply all you need is a genuine interest in the industry as a whole.

No matter whether your main interest is food service, hotels, travel and tourism, management, events or even advertising & marketing, what makes you employable is your enthusiasm and commitment to learn all you can of this diverse business.

An ability and willingness to learn new skills both practical and academic.

Most of all a friendly approachable personality. Hospitality is a very personal / human industry and communicating effectively making a good connection with both your work colleagues, your peers and your clients is absolutely essential.