Instagram Menus & Hotel Hi-Tech (a Sandy Distraction for you East Coasters)

Just when I think I’ve heard it all, some company I would have never expected comes out of the woodwork with a digital innovation that just makes me smile. 

Today, that smile came from a couple of places: first, Comodo, a restaurant in my home city (NYC that is – where I, along with the other 8+ million of us, are awaiting the mammoth Hurricane Sandy’s treacherous arrival). The restaurant has launched an Instagram menu that leverages hashtags and customer-taken photos of their own food. I always found restaurants with photos of their food pasted about their interiors (insert typical American Chinese food restaurant here) a bit off-putting as the dishes never looked appetizing, but rather a glossy, perhaps plastic version of the actual dinner. But here, we have real photos from real people of real food that I can pretty much guarantee is from the very place I’m eating in, and looking glamorously delicious to boot.

Among the dishes on the Instagram menu are Comodo’s swordfish ceviche, seared duck breast and poblano pepper pasta. The menu is assembled using the #comodomenu hashtag.

The second smile-inducer for me today was also from the hospitality industry, which seems to be on the forefront of delivering innovative technology to the masses.

An article in the Huffington Post outlined 5 predictions for the future of the hotel industry, and it turns out that digital marketing and technology is affecting it just as much as it is retail. The number one prediction was around social media and how it is no longer a nice-to-have but a must-have for the hospitality sector. Hotels must have Twitter accounts and must respond to customer complaints and compliments through them.

The second prediction was focused on reviews and how in the hotel industry, reviews are paramount. They have come to not only help, but to drive business. In the retail industry, the same is true. Take Amazon’s model. Reviews on the site are what drive people to purchase.

The third prediction was around service and the increasing demands customers are placing on enhanced service  – another tenet of successful modern retail.

The fourth and fifth predictions stated that new concepts and technology innovation would lead the way for a successful hospitality future. Introductions like hotel lounges that offer showers and luggage storage for guests who arrive in the morning were noted among new concepts being introduced. As for technology, some hotel firms are starting to use Big Data-influenced strategies to analyze guest reviews, track bookings and more.

As the hospitality industry evolves with changing technology, so does retail – both of whom have a goal of increasing digital conversions and thus can learn from one another.

Ironically enough, very few hospitality venues on the East Coast are happy right now, what with Sandy surely wreaking havoc on occupancy and revenue. We wait in the calm before the storm…