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The Caterer

We sell service, not apps

13 June 2014
We sell service, not apps

We can't replace real human interaction with mobile technology, and we shouldn't want to, says Peter Hancock, Pride of Britain chief executive

Have you noticed how obsessed we're getting with mobile and tablet use? Scarcely a week goes by without another report or conference highlighting the importance of the
young generation's preference for electronic communication over all other methods.

It was suggested by one expert that younger customers are likely to tweet comments about their restaurant meals while still at the table, and that management should respond immediately via Twitter. Er… am I missing something here? Surely if the customer is actually in the building your first instinct should be to speak to them in person?

And please don't think I am resistant to technological progress. At Pride of Britain we were among the first to optimise a hotel-base website for mobile users and are constantly refining the way we market digitally. No, my point is that handheld communication devices are just that: a means of getting and sending information. They cannot be a substitute for real smiles and shared laughter. How sad to think that the highlight of anyone's stay at a luxury hotel might come when they have successfully logged on to the free Wi-Fi.

The same expert got very excited at the possibility of an app that allows guests to process all their commands by touchscreen, rendering the ears and voice completely redundant.

Is that progress? So instead of dreaming up new ways to make the tablet or phone an ever-greater part of the process of giving hospitality, let us please explore the alternative - an experience so nice that you put the darned thing away for a while and give those thumbs a rest.

We held a business meeting in the countryside a couple of weeks ago where there happened to be no mobile signal or broadband. One or two delegates were quite agitated at first, but by the end of the session I heard those same people say: "I can't get any signal here at all. Isn't it relaxing?"

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