The Impact of Modern Technology on the Future of the Hospitality Industry
The Impact of Modern Technology on the Future of the Hospitality Industry
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Since the dawn of the Industrial Age, the hospitality industry has always been on the look-out for new technologies that it can adapt into its operation and management system. This is has been brought about by the connection between the following concepts: technology, convenience, customer satisfaction and profit.
In the last two hundred years the greatest technological breakthrough was man’s ability to harness and control the awesome power of electricity. From there, inventions and innovations sprung up to overwhelm society. But the over-all impact was positive. It greatly transformed an industry whose major amenities for thousands of years remained the same; the ever reliable bed, oil lamp and table. Most important of all the industry method of cooking meals was also transformed by the power of electricity. Chefs no longer have to rely on only one kind of fuel – fossil fuel that is.
After power plants that generate electric power became stable, the choices for new gadgets and equipment available for hotels and restaurants became too many to track. One that benefited the industry was the invention of electric coils embedded into cooking stoves - The Impact of Modern Technology on the Future of the Hospitality Industry introduction. Fom then on a host of inventions and innovations were built on this new technology. Ovens not only have provisions for electric cooking but it also has added features like lighting inside the cavity of the oven so the chef can see how the food is roasting or baking without having to open the lid, saving on heat and energy. Electrical gadgets were added like the rotating feature of rotisseries. The most important thing of all perhaps is the introduction of a safer way of cooking.
Humanity in general and the hospitality industry in particular was blessed with these new tools to accomplish age-old tasks of preparing meals; meals that are not only supposed to be tasty but must be served hot and on time.
This is welcome news to an industry forging ahead in the 21st century. This is because those who are in this business are no longer in operation for the sake of the local market. The industry is no longer confined to a small territory, it is not even confined to one’s country – it has gone global. Hence, from now on, everything must be considered from an international perspective. Lawrence Yu, in his book, The International Hospitality Business, has this to say:
The most significant development in the world economy during the past few decades has been the increasing globalization of economic activities. In today’s rapidly changing world, the economic activities of individual countries do not occur in isolation, nor are they insulated by geographic distance; their economics and markets have become integrated worldwide. (3-4)
This means that the industry will grow even more but the result is not all joy and profit for the entrepreneur, a new set of challenges and headaches can be expected. Yu adds, “Such development trends require management for change: changes in globalizing products and services for worldwide market” (4).
Too often the industry could not cope with such a demand for better, faster, and multi-lingual service. Hotels and restaurants are like oases in the dessert where exhausted travelers seek rest, where harried businessmen seek comfort in soft beds and warm meals and where harassed individuals from all walks of life seek a little peace and quiet. This is in a nutshell what the business is all about, the service it is selling to the public.
The need for better technology comes in at a point when management realizes it could no longer provide the basics. When the waiting time for food takes too long, when meals arrive cold from the kitchen, and worse, when a patron comes out of a restaurant hungrier than before – something is definitely wrong.
Defining Key Issues
Before proceeding, the direction of the discussion must be defined based on the following questions:
1. What modern technology had greatly impacted the hospitality industry in the last five years?
2. What modern technology will continue to impact the industry in the future?
3. In what ways did these technological developments help the industry achieve its major goals and help solve some pressing problems?
On what is meant by the hospitality industry an average person would most likely concur that it is all about hotels and restaurants. This is good enough for a basic understanding. But a quotation in the book entitled, The Role of the Hospitality Industry is perhaps a more profound definition and it says:
Hospitality practice is the humanistic art of being able to give as well as receive and, in the spirit of that exchange, requires us to understand how both acts comprise a unified experience. It may be said that such practice comprises the essence of what it can mean to live successfully in a global world on both individual and collective levels. (qtd. in Cummings, Kwansa & Sussman)
This view adds more pressure to an industry who believes that the customer is always right. How to keep clients satisfied is a challenge every CEO and Hotel and Restaurant Manager must figure out and soon.
Breakthroughs in Cooking
Looking at the hospitality landscape, one can easily tell that two recent technological breakthroughs have revolutionized the industry: the microwave ovens and the sous vide method of cooking. These two modern technological breakthroughs will be shaping the future of this industry.
The French-sounding new technology delivers more than hype. It promises quality and efficiency. Here is a definition from V. Vaclavic and E.W. Christian’s book Essentials of Food Science and they wrote:
Sous Vide (under vacuum) packaging involves mild, partial precooking of food prior to vacuum packaging. Once again according to the FDA definition in the 1999 Guidelines for ROP (reduced oxygen packaging), Sous Vide is a specialized process of ROP for partially cooked ingredients alone or combined with raw foods that require refrigeration or frozen storage until the package is thoroughly heated immediately before service. (434)
The above-mentioned definition is rich with information thus it is important to focus on some key terms. First of all, Sous Vide is basically a packaging technique that in contrast to canning and drying involves the sealing of food that is either raw, partially cooked, frozen meals or others like it. This type of food preparation is done in such a way that it can be heated or cooked before serving to customers. All these put together will definitely result in a whole new dining experience.
According to information released by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, food preparation that uses ROP will result in, “[…] in a reduced oxygen level in the sealed food package and decreases the amount of competing spoilage bacteria normally found in certain foods. The resulting package is a more aesthetically pleasing product to the consumer and in many cases will extend the shelf-life of the food” (par. 1).
This has tremendous effect on the hospitality industry. One can just imagine the wide array of food products that will be the outcome of this new process. It would now be possible to offer fast-food service without sacrificing quality. In fact this is the main reason why Sous Vide was invented, to cater to the needs of those people who wanted to eat healthy and great tasting meals as opposes to the blandness and unnatural taste of processed foods. Sue Ghazala pointed out that this has been the main goal of sous vide aficionados and she said:
The sous vide method was developed for restaurant use by a French chef, Georges Pralus, making use of a packaging material and system patented in USA. Its support by the French culinary establishment ensured that the claimed high levels of sensory quality for the sous vide method would appeal to the owners and staff of up-market restaurants and hotels around the world […] (33-36)
When microwave ovens were first introduced, no one paid attention. But then a decade or so later, almost every home is equipped with one, and most specially the facilities in the hospitality business.
This thing of beauty is a wonder to behold for those who love to cook and to eat. Gone are the days when thawing that solidly frozen block of meat takes hours. Also, gone are the days when reheated food would either tastes like burnt paper from the incinerator or would appear like a thick crust clinging to the bottom of the pan. The chefs and moms have the microwave to thank for that.
Aside from the serendipitous nature of its invention – the oft-repeated story of the inventor, Percy Spencer walking past a row of magnetron (radar tubes) and its emitted waves melting his candy bar – there is more to this cooking equipment that generates interest and excitement. The method of cooking by way of microwave is almost unthinkable because it went against the traditional way of cooking. This perhaps led William Hammack to say that microwave cooking technology is the “greatest discovery since fire” (par. 1). It is perhaps a statement within the realm of reality considering the following description and observations regarding this technological marvel.
Conventional Cooking vs. Microwave Cooking
Marshall Brain writing about the wonders of microwave cooking begins comparing the high-tech with the conventional methods of preparing food. The first thing he said was that microwave technology has an edge in saving time, effort, and energy resource (par. 3) because it cooks food quickly and heats the food directly saving electric power. Marshall Brain goes on to clarify this statement by explaining the science behind conventional cooking’s heat conduction method of transferring heat as opposed to the microwave way:
Let’s say you want to bake a cake in a conventional over. Normally, you would bake a cake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit or so, but let’s say you accidentally set the oven at 600 degrees instead of 350. What is going to happen is that the outside of the cake will burn before the inside even gets warm. In a conventional oven, the heat has to migrate
(by conduction) from the outside of the food toward the middle […]
In microwave cooking, the radio waves penetrate the food and excite water and fat molecules pretty much evenly throughout the food. No heat has to migrate toward the interior by conduction. (par. 5)
A more technical explanation can be found in K.C. Gupta’s research on microwaves. And he said:
Like transfer of heat by conduction, convection, and radiation, microwave heating can be considered as another mode of heat transfer. In this mode, heat is produced directly at the locations of the dielectric losses. Water has higher dielectric loss than the other ingredients in food products. Thus water pockets get heated first which is exactly where heat is required for cooking purposes. (4)
In other words microwave oven can concentrate the use of electrical energy and in turn heat the food directly and not anywhere else. To simplify, a traditional way of cooking requires firewood/gas to heat the pan or pot. The considerable heat energy would be needed not only to heat the food but the cooking implement first since it is needed to transfer heat from the fire to the food. In the process energy is wasted as it passes from the source to the poultry, fish, vegetables etc.
Other Advantages of Microwave Cooking
According to Marie T. Smith, since cooking in the new technology takes only one-fourth the time than in conventional ovens, the following benefits are realized: 1) food is tastier- natural flavors are retained; 2) food is more nutritional – reduced cooking time means more vitamins and minerals are retained; 3) economical – you only need to cook the amount you need; and 4) the kitchen is cooler – the kitchen does not become overheated (par. 2)
These views are supported by the Center for Devices and Radiological Health of the U. S. Food and Drug Administration, the following vote of confidence can be seen in their website:
Microwave cooking can be more energy efficient than conventional cooking because foods cook faster and the energy heats only the food, not the oven compartment. microwave cooking does not reduce the nutritional value of foods any more than conventional cooking. In fact, food cooked in a microwave oven may keep more of their vitamins and minerals, because microwave oven can cook more quickly without adding water. (par. 7)
Improving the Wheel and Microwave Ovens
Many would say not to tamper with something that is not broken; and not to tamper on a proven product and technology. Even though the capabilities of modern microwave ovens are very impressive, the inventors and innovators working to improve the hospitality seem determine not to rest on their laurels. They are coming up with a new oven that promises to be way beyond expectations and would perform more excellently than a regular microwave.
In the forefront of revolutionary cooking equipment is the Accellis C70 Oven, created by Maytab Commercial Solutions. Quoting Pete Ashcraft, the director of brand management, Panitz wrote, “It (Accellis C70) has rapid-cook technology that allows it to cook seven times faster than a conventional oven […] The oven uses a combination of hot forced air and microwave energy to achieve its rapid cooking. In contrast to a traditional microwave, the combination effect seals the moisture in food” (par 5).
Another rapid cooking machine is the Vulcan-Hart FlashBake oven that combines both light and microwave energy. Quoting Chris Stern, director for business, Panitz wrote, “We use halogen lamps on the top and bottom of the oven, which allow you to energize the food very quickly […] It’s about the same speed as a microwave, but has better results […] The oven cooks food more thoroughly than a traditional microwave and can brown items” (par 7).
Another innovation of this technology was recorded by Kit Yam and Christopher Lai in their study on Microwaveable Frozen Food and they pointed out the new trend in enhancing quality of food coming out of the microwave oven:
Browning (considered a deficiency of microwave cooking) formulation have been developed for various meat and dough products. Commercial steak sauces, barbecue sauces, soy sauces and the like are brushed on meat before microwave heating. Reusable browning dishes are available for browning food surfaces in the microwave oven […] The packaging industry has also developed a disposable browning and crisping material, known as susceptor… (588)
The Future of Technology and the Hospitality Industry
These two technological breakthroughs would be greatly benefit the expansion of the hospitality industry. Starting with the Sous Vide method of food preparation and cooking the plus side is seen on the delivery of fresh and tasty food that would deliver more nutrition and satisfaction to the customers. Initially this will be available for upper-end markets and for those who can afford such novel products. But when more companies would join in as they will be forced by an increasing demand from a more health conscious populace, the prices would soon go down. Another interesting aspect of the Sous Vide is that it allows minimum labor and kitchen space. This will be very attractive for CEOs and Hotel/Restaurant managers as it will definitely means more cost.
With regards to the microwave oven, it does not cease to amaze restaurant owners and other mover and shakers of the hospitality industry. The microwave oven is a proven time and money saver that with added innovations would certainly become a winner and would stay as one of the most important equipment in the kitchens of the future.
Creed, P. G., & Reeve William. (1998). Principle and applications of sous vide processed foods in Sous Vide and Cook-Chill Processing for the Food Industry. In Sue Ghazala (Ed.). Maryland: Aspen Publishers, Inc
Cummings, P., Francis Kwansa, & Marvin Sussman. (1998). The Role of the Hospitality Industry in the Lives of Individuals and Families. New York: Haworth Press, Inc.
Hammack, William. The Greatest Discovery Since Fire. The American Heritage [Online].
Available: http://www.americanheritage.com [17 May 2006].
Panitz, Beth. (2005, June 15) Smart Kitchens: Science Fiction or High-Tech Reality? National Restaurant Association Available: http://www.restaurant.org/business/ magarticle.cfm?ArticleID=144 [16 May 2006].
Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture. Reduced Oxygen Packaging (ROP) Policy and Procedures for Meat Poultry, Fish and Seafood. Available: http://www.agriculture.state.pa.us [17 May 2006].
Smith, Marie T. (2006, April 19). Microwave Cooking for One.
Available: http://www.microwaveforone.com [17 May 2006].
Vaclavik, Vickie & E. W. Christian. (2003) Essentials of Food Science. 2nd ed. New York: Springer Publishing.
Yu, Lawrence. (1999). The International Hospitality Business: Management and Operations. New York: The Haworth Press, Inc.