Outlook - what’s in store for Hospitality in 2024?

Ollie Brand

Ollie takes a step back and reviews the journey the hospitality industry has been on these past twelve months and shares his predictions for the year ahead.

As another year draws to a close, it’s an opportune time to take a step back from the day to day and review the journey the industry has been on these past twelve months. In this blog, I share my annual retrospective of 2023, with the hope of inspiring more debate and shared experiences as we navigate the road ahead for 2024.

Consistent challenges prevail

Supply chain fragility, staff shortages and inflationary pressures have dominated throughout this year. It is clear that the debt hangover from the pandemic, impact of Brexit and geo-politics surrounding the wars in Ukraine and Gaza will have a long-term impact on the hospitality industry. It’s fair to say that 2023 has seen consistency in the challenges presented and it has been a case of ‘survival of the fittest’. Living within a tough and unpredictable economy, hospitality businesses have needed to operate incredibly efficiently to survive and thrive. Fortunately, whilst many restaurants have closed their doors, resilience and passion for the wider sector coupled with a focus on exceptional or differentiated guest experience have kept many heads above water.

What do our customers say?

Most of our hospitality customers are saying the same thing; Costs and people are their primary concerns. Inflationary pressures causing price hikes in food continues to make it extremely challenging to create affordable, innovative menus that are appealing and created with guest experience in mind. Additionally, finding good people who are passionate and committed to the industry, as opposed to those more transactional ‘career jumpers’, remains challenging. Many leaders in the sector want to see more investment in the education of young people so that hospitality is given the kudos it deserves as a professional core subject at school.

Positives and lessons to be learned

As challenges that existed back in 2022 have become ‘noisier’ throughout 2023, we have seen a tech awakening across the sector caused by the hype around Artificial Intelligence (AI). This is triggering a mindset change towards innovation - and that can only be a good thing. We have seen increasing technological solutions come to market addressing operational challenges, especially in relation to plugging the gap for more mundane tasks. Whilst there remains a resistance to adopting technology overall, the perception of risk is falling as businesses realise that technology can help transform their operations.

In the meantime, as AI continues to develop at an exponential rate, the current perception of AI and its potential to transform how we do business seems to swing between the two extremes of denial and excitement. Nevertheless, through this year particularly, the narrative around the future impact of AI on the sector is dramatically changing how we view and interpret data and we are all beginning to see a new art of the possible emerge.

This all brings me to my predictions for the coming year.  

Outlook 2024

My predictions cover a blend of trends that we’ve seen build over recent years. However, there are also some other trends emerging that will be vital in the quest to continue delivering growth and innovation in hospitality - and these cannot be overlooked as we all come together to transform the industry:

Operational efficiency – this continues to be vital in 2024. Admin must be automated where possible to free up time and resource in a world still stifled by people shortages and rising operational costs.

Customer experience – businesses will need to open up more specialisms in the marketplace to compete and survive. That means more new roles and responsibilities focused purely on customer experience.

Informed decision-making – making important decisions around cost control, spending and efficiency needs to become more democratised in 2024. Embracing technology will help to boost both the quality and timeliness of decision making as well as provide an opportunity to break down the silos in business.

Personalised nutrition – Consumer knowledge and demand is ever on the increase. Nutritional guidelines as we once knew them are a thing of the past. As we face a future more focused on personalised nutrition and ever-increasing allergies, the industry will need to ensure it can respond to these demands.

Sustainability – much of the hype around operating more sustainably has fallen by the wayside because businesses have been consumed by reactive day-to-day problems. But with savvy consumers demanding ethical, sustainably driven processes, this will likely move back up the agenda again in 2024.

Collaboration is key - there needs to be a cultural shift for this industry with greater collaboration between hospitality businesses and technology providers. Perhaps the approach we’ll see next year will be more co-opetition. Whichever, working more closely together to solve problems will ensure more positive outcomes that work in the real world for both consumers and businesses.

What’s in store for Zupa in 2024?

As we move into 2024, we’re very much continuing to apply technology with progression in a way that is meaningful for our customers and delivers a boost in productivity. We are super passionate about hospitality, and this drives us to support, inform and drive real and meaningful change in our industry. We have some exciting announcements and launches through the first half of the year – all a result of the amazing insight and feedback from working closely with our clients and the wider industry through 2022 and 2023 - so watch this space!