Technology has become firmly embedded in the hospitality experience, with the pace of adoption accelerated during Covid as a solution to reduce human contact.
But what do consumers actually think about the growing use of tech in hospitality venues?
A new report, ‘People vs Tech: What Guests Want in 2023’, commissioned by hospitality technology provider Zonal and CGA, reveals some useful insights into consumers’ attitudes.
Based on a survey of more than 5,000 UK adults, the report reveals that 71% of consumers now prefer to use technology, either exclusively or in tandem with human interaction, when visiting hospitality venues.
However, most consumers (55%) believe a balance between technology and human interaction provides the best hospitality experiences.
The report also found that:
- Of those who eat out at least weekly, 41% prefer to use technology in hospitality.
- 50% of those who prefer technology to human contact are aged 18 to 34, while just 3% are in the 65+ bracket.
- 50% of consumers say speed is the main reason that tech enhances their experience.
- 49% of consumers say convenience is the main reason that tech enhances their experience.
- 73% say personal interaction is the main reason that human contact enhances their experience.
- The average monthly spend on eating and drinking out among consumers who prefer tech is £114, compared to £90 among those who prefer human contact, suggesting that technophiles are heavier spenders.
So if you’re wondering how customers will respond to the use of robots in your hotel or restaurant, the report points to the importance of a balanced approach.
Going too far in either direction - either by withdrawing human interaction completely, or failing to offer a technological solution - risks alienating sizable proportions of potential guests.
Of course, SoftBank Robotics’ robots are more accurately described as “cobots” as their purpose is to work collaboratively alongside their human colleagues to take care of some of the more time-consuming and mundane tasks.
The T5 tray delivery cobot is a perfect example of a balanced approach between utilising technology and providing human interaction: with the T5 bussing plates to and from the kitchen, speed of service is improved, while staff are then able to be permanently on hand in the dining room to give that all-important personal (and immediate) service to guests.
Also working collaboratively alongside their human colleagues to ease some of the burden are SoftBank’s Whiz vacuum cobots which can memorise up to 600 cleaning routes, vacuum 1,500 sq m of carpet on a single charge, and do so at any time of day.
SoftBank’s W3 room service robots can be programmed to integrate with the lifts and will call the guest to alert them once their order is outside their door.
It’s true to say that W3 eliminates human contact when it comes to room service, but another recently published report, ‘Hospitality in 2025’, indicates that this kind of contactless service is what more and more guests are looking for.
The report, produced by tech provider Oracle Hospitality and intelligence platform Skift, is based on a survey of over 600 hoteliers and 5,000 consumers across the world, and aimed to find out their expectations in hospitality over the next three years.
According to the survey, about 26% of travellers said they “strongly agree” that they’d be more likely to stay at a hotel offering self-service technology to minimize contact with other people.
Interestingly, almost half of all consumers (47.1 percent) said they would be more likely to stay at a hotel that offered self-service, but they also like a personal greeting from time to time.
As the report’s author says: “This trend underscores the need for contactless technologies and easy-to-use digital amenities that guests recognize from their home lives. It’s true that many guests enjoy the ability to check in, go to their room, text for service, and leave the property without ever interacting with another person or the hotel staff.”
But the Oracle and Skift report also emphasises the need to strike a balance between using technology and offering the human touch - and that both should hold equal importance in the hospitality industry moving forward.
“Automation is often pinned as a replacement for human activities across industries, a sort of bogeyman that threatens the very existence of the social order. Hoteliers that cling to a misconception that hospitality and personal service are mutually exclusive from technology are already falling behind in meeting modern guest expectations and increasing hotel profitability,” says the report.
“Automated services are excellent replacements for mundane activities that require more time and attention from staff than necessary. Automating simple requests can free up hotel staff to provide more direct, one-on-one service at any given time, empowering them with knowledge to make guest interactions more intimate and meaningful.”
So, if you’ve been wrestling with the question of whether guests and staff will like being assisted by cobots, it seems the answer could well be ‘yes’.