Opinion: Hospitality trends to watch in 2024

From “high-end and beyond” to foodservice robots, Marius Zürcher forecasts the major trends that will impact the sector

The last three years I have wrapped up the year with a column dedicated to my predictions regarding future trends in the hospitality industry. Who am I to mess with tradition?

High-end and beyond

I usually do not pay too much attention to the high-end hospitality market in my columns, as it is not the segment I am most interested in. However, when it comes to trends, I found it useful to occasionally take a closer look, since high end hospitality business are sometimes able to dedicate resources to try out new things before the rest of the industry can, which will then nevertheless spill over to the rest of the industry.

According to WATG, a leader in luxury hospitality design, one of the trends to watch is luxury fashion and lifestyle brands entering the hospitality industry, be it outright or, more frequently, by way of collaborations. Examples of the latter are collaboration between high-end hotels and luxury lifestyle brands, leading to exclusives suites furnished by said brands. Now, it should be noted that these kinds of collaborations are not an entirely new concept. Nor are they exclusive to the high-end segment. It is however fair to say that it is an underused tool, especially outside of the high-end hospitality industry. Maybe this renewed push in the high-end part of the industry will lead to a higher degree of collaborations with brands from other industries in the entire hospitality industry?

Another trend identified in the high-end hospitality segment is the resurgence of private member clubs, for example in the form of hotels blurring the lines between hotels and clubs, by targeting the local community for ‘daycation’ experiences. These models are usually subscription based and thereby provide hotels with diversified and stable revenue streams. Speaking of subscription models: this too is something all kinds of hospitality business should consider experimenting with in the coming year(s), as it is increasingly becoming a preferred way of spending money by many (young) consumers. Examples of such experiments outside of the luxury segment already exist, predominantly in the United States, where both large chains, such as Panera and P.F. Chang’s, as well as small, family-owned restaurants successfully use a variety of subscription models – from unlimited drinks to a certain number of deliveries a month for a flat fee – to ensure steady revenue and customer visits.

Sustainability vs. affordability?

2024 will also be the year in which the hospitality industry will (continue to) grapple with the seemingly conflicting forces that are the ongoing cost-of-living crisis and the turn towards sustainability, health consciousness and corporate social responsibility among consumers.

I therefore predict that one of the trends of next year will be to find ways to tackle both at the same time. One such way will be a renewed effort to reduce food waste, a topic which I have covered before. Similarly, restaurants will have to find ways to lower their energy costs, by adjusting their practices and by implementing energy-efficient technologies.
Another way to tackle this issue is through collaborations. An example of this could be collaborating with local businesses for joint marketing efforts, thereby reducing promotional costs while supporting the local community and economy.
Menus can be adjusted in ways as to reduce costs, without losing appeal to customers. Speaking of customers: they too can be part of the solution. Expect to see even more hospitality business encouraging their guests to bring reusable containers.

Robots, again

Every time I wrote an article like this, I highlighted automation and robotization as trends to watch out for. It seemed only sensible, given the growing availability and sophistication of such technology, as well as the ongoing staff shortage crisis. Nevertheless, it just never really seemed to be happening. Until last year, when generative AI entered all our lives.

Granted, robots might not be cooking and serving you dishes in your favourite restaurant yet, but their all-digital cousins might just have chatted with the chef about which interesting new seasonal dishes to put in the menu this fall, or helped the person that handles the marketing come up with and implement engaging new campaigns that helped them attract new customers as well as employees much more cheaply and quickly than ever before. Given that generative AI – as impressive as it already is to many – will become much more capable at a rapid clip, I once again must predict that automation and robotization will be a trend that will shape the hospitality industry in the coming year.

Marius Zürcher

About the author:

The co-owner & founder of Millennial & Gen Z marketing and employer branding agency 1520 in Apeldoorn, the Netherlands, Marius Zürcher was a participant at FCSI’s ‘Millennials’ focused roundtable at INTERGASTRA and a speaker at FCSI workshops about industry trends.

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