10 Hospitality Trends That Will Be Strong in 2021

Trends 13 minute read 03 December 2020

With 2020 out of the way (yeah, we hear you…), there’s actually quite a bit to look forward to in 2021.

This is particularly the case in hospitality, for as rough a time as it’s going through at the moment, history tells us that it’s a remarkably resilient sector.

The key to success relies on identifying trends and jumping on those which are most appropriate for your business. And to give you a head start, we’ve scoured the industry for the most important hospitality trends you’ll need to keep an eye on during 2021.

10 Hospitality Trends that will be Strong in 2021

1. At home experiences

One of the most popular hospitality trends that has emerged during 2020 is the ‘home experience’. Although, this isn’t anything new; back in 2015, OpenTable started listing what it called “home restaurants”.

This was in response to an increasing number of guests who were, ironically, craving new dining experiences they couldn’t find anywhere else - including those which resembled hearty home cooked meals.

What you need to do

Home experiences are a trend that’ll continue long after the lockdowns have finished and represent a great revenue driver. So, start thinking about what makes dining at home special, from the food to the ambiance, and build that into your restaurant offering.

2. Clean dining

“Cleanliness-first” is something you’re probably already used to hearing ad nauseam at the moment, but it’s a trend that’ll continue long into 2021 and beyond.

Prioritising health during the pandemic has obviously been incredibly important, but it’ll be a differentiator, too. According to research, improved health and safety is a primary factor when choosing which hotel to book for most guests.

What you need to do

Make your current COVID-related cleaning strategy a longer-term affair. Ensure your staff are well versed and consistently trained on cleanliness and look into the most efficient ways to sanitise every surface.

3. Personal connections with guests

Knowing as much as you can about your guests has never been more important.

Your customers will still want to experience new things next year - perhaps even more so if they’ve been stuck behind closed doors for extended periods of time. This is why building personal connections with them are so important.

It all comes down to the way in which you interact with guests, from the point at which they book to the days, weeks and months following their departure.

What you need to do

Gather as much data as you can, ethically, about guests and use it to personalise your interactions with them during every stage of their journey.

It’s also worth investing time in creating SMS and email sequences that build loyalty both before and after their time with you.

4. Tech savviness - whatever type of establishment you run

We’re no longer in a world where only the most forward-thinking or contemporary hospitality businesses are the most technically proficient.

The way in which new customers are acquired and the experience you deliver when they dine or stay demands a solid grasp of the latest tech.

What you need to do

Don’t shy away from new technologies. The great news is that they’re more affordable and easier to use than ever. Everything from the POS system to the WiFi platform you use will deliver a measurable return on investment and have a tangible impact on the guest experience.

We don’t want to keep mentioning the ‘C’ word, but it’s hard not to - particularly when it comes to the way in which the pandemic has impacted guest booking habits.

More people than ever are now booking online, whether it be to guarantee a table or for a home delivery. What’s more, they’re often looking for safer ways to travel, leading to bookings which are placed far more closely to home.

What you need to do

Keep an eye on your reservation data, both within your booking system and also your website analytics. Where are people coming from both logistically and digitally?

Make sure your website is optimised for fast, direct booking, and if you spot trends for more local bookings, consider how you can capitalise on that.

6. The marriage of historic and modern architecture

It’s not for every venue or every taste, but there is likely to be an increasing mixing of heritage with new, exciting architecture in hospitality.

This is particularly the case if you operate from an old building. Retaining old features or unearthing fascinating stories about its past may bring more guests through your doors during 2021 than you realise.

What you need to do

If your venue has some history behind it, unearth it. Rather than hiding brickwork and pipework, expose it. Equally, if you operate from a modernist building, try adding some classical touches with the decor and furniture.

7. Remote working havens

Data from the Office for National Statistics suggests that the number of people working exclusively from home during 2020 was 24%.

It’s a trend which shows no signs of slowing, either. And as a hospitality operator, you have the unique opportunity to find an additional source of revenue within this growing market.

People may be working from home, but they occasionally want a change in scenery, which is why they’re increasingly flocking to coffee shops, restaurants and even hotels.

What you need to do

This market is there for the taking - now, so start thinking about how you can make your venue more worker-friendly. Lots of power points, free, fast WiFi and great coffee are the most obvious starting points.

8. Continue rise of the cloud/dark kitchen

Dark - or “cloud”, as they’re sometimes referred to - kitchens are basically kitchens which only produce food for delivery. As you might expect, they’ve been pretty popular this year.

But they look set to continue their rise to fame in 2021. Take Woky Ko, for instance, a delivery service which has recently opened a new kitchen in Newport. Meals can be ordered via Uber Eats or as a click and collect via Woky Ko’s own app.

What you need to do If the rise of the cloud kitchen simply tempts you to create your own delivery service, the process is easier than you might think.

However, you may also be tempted to view this as a potential expansion opportunity by launching your own cloud kitchens purely for delivery services. It’s certainly worth exploring and may enable you to open up in multi-national locations, like Woky Ko.

9. Hybrid hotel concepts

If you think the idea of combining a hostel’s belt-and-braces approach to accommodation with the glamour of an upmarket boutique hotel sounds daft - think again.

There’s even a word for the above: “glostel”. Once again, it’s not for every hotel, but it’s another example of where guests are increasingly expecting new, unique experiences. What’s more, it can significantly widen your audience if bookings are waning.

What you need to do

Be careful not to lose the essence of your brand but start thinking about how you could combine two vastly different accommodation offerings within your hotel. It may be something as simple as adding simple spa facilities to a hostel venue, for instance.

10. Sustainability

If truth be told, this particular trend appears on lists like this each year, but for good reason.

According to Booking.com’s 2019 sustainable travel report, 72% of travellers think people need to act now to make sustainable travel choices. What’s more, 58% of travellers say they’ll book a hotel based on whether or not it gives back to the planet.

What you need to do

The road to increased sustainability in hospitality isn’t easy, but it is possible. Start by reviewing every element of your venue’s energy usage and wastage and begin tightening up.

Make sustainability part of your marketing effort, too. If you spend a great deal of time and resource in areas such as recycling and sustainable food produce, for instance, shout loud and proud about it.

Should I follow the trends?

You may have read through this list and wondered if you really need to jump on every passing bandwagon. It’s a fair question, and the answer is pretty simple.

If a trend matters to your business and its target market, jump on it as soon as you can. Some of the above are universal (the changing ways in which people are booking, for instance), while others will depend very much on your situation.

For any trends that you’re suspicious of in terms of longevity, just keep an eye on them. Sometimes, the craziest trends are the opportunities for you to steal a march on the competition, so don’t be afraid to take a gamble once in a while.

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