Digitalisation vs. full human experience

An observation by gastronome 

Michael Cortelletti


We hear and read it again and again the pandemic was and is a catalyst for digitalisation Home office, video calls, online ordering, even web calls with loved ones all this is part of our new everyday life, the new normal But aren’t we already tired of it? Wouldn’t we rather go back to our old familiar ” Wouldn’t we much rather meet people again, go to the theatre and cinema, go for a stroll in the city and have a ” meal and party with friends or family? The fact is, a large part of society is oversaturated by full scale digitalisation Now, after long periods of pandemic, phases of lockdown and restrictions on social interaction, many people would rather reduce their online presence, think about social media detoxing and even try to do without using digital media altogether A counter trend to digitalisation is developing right now It is clear that it will not be possible to completely turn away from all forms and instruments of digital communication Digitisation has already been too long and too firmly established in the world for that Nevertheless, there will be an offer of withdrawal in many areas.


Places where you can take a break from the digital world and find peace for your mind to regenerate A time out in the real world It’s about not being available 24 7 and escaping the pressure of constantly looking at your smartphone Even if it is only for a short period of time, the distance from digitality can change the whole atmosphere.


Digitalisation has given society the promise of simplifying life and work, but this is not always the case Digital developments have made life faster and more stressful People feel compelled to be available at all times and in all places Because we as a society are strongly fixated on the digital world, there is often no time for free, emotional moments.


Society needs real life and contact with real people Back to meaning, reflection and finding meaning in life The focus is on conscious action and creation and this is to be experienced with all the senses.


The focus is on communication and on moments that are empathetic, emotional and memorable Instrumental network communication will still endure, but it will move into the background of interpersonal relationships New incentives need to be created and doors opened so that people can come together in cosy surroundings to really live life.


Within the hospitality industry, genuine contact between guests and with staff is nothing new But today it is a matter of deciding whether to rely entirely on digitalisation and do without any human contact that is not necessary, or to use digitalisation only where it makes sense and still prefer to remain human and live a life outside the virtual world The latter does not only describe personal exchange and community, it is about a “full human experience”, i e the direct contact of people with each other, where digital values take place behind the scenes This is particularly true for the hospitality industry Here, digitalisation can definitely be used in a supportive way to focus more on guest experiences.


Occasions can increase in value People have the opportunity to build personal relationships, experience emotional encounters and rest from the digital world.


In this article, we look at the counter trend of ‘digital free’ and the opportunities it presents for the future of hospitality Society is in an acute state of change There is a growing need for social proximity, which at the same time leads to increased resistance to total digitalisation It is undeniable that digitalisation is changing the way people interact But how far should digitalisation go in an industry that is a self confessed “people’s business”?                                                                     Coffee experience


”There is a growing need for social proximity, which at the same time resistance to total total digitalisation”


So to what extent can classic gastronomy, which is all about real encounters and personal, emotional exchange and experiencing shared moments, compete with digital presence, online ordering and food apps?

Uncertainties in the hospitality industry regarding economic developments and the use of digital supports are not only high due to the emergence of the pandemic Even almost ten years after Industry 4 0 reached society, uncertainty is still evident in the use of digital, analogue and personal elements in the industry.


The modern labour market has been permanently shaped by digitalisation There is an ongoing intensified process of change from analogue resources to digital technologies This has also arrived in the hospitality sector The so called Gastronomy 4 0 describes the conversion to digital processes, with the task of simplifying workflows in many aspects This concerns accounting tasks, resource management, merchandise management, orders and reservations as well as contactless payments Simplifying precisely these processes by means of digital tools led to desirable process optimisations and conveniences in the catering industry The pandemic reinforced this process.


It is anchored in society’s consciousness that the future of the market and thus that of the hospitality industry is determined by digital readiness Nevertheless, the question arises as to how far technological development will still go and what barriers may arise from it Many restaurants, bars or cafés still rely on classic concepts and only draw the most necessary support from digitalisation It is not a matter of boycotting digitalisation but of letting the technology run in the background, also to take the social needs of the guests into account.


Guests of the gastronomy and hotel industry today have different demands on service providers and services of the hospitality industry than they did many years ago For many people, it is important that things be quick and uncomplicated with consistent quality Modern hospitality must therefore be an extension of guest service For gastronomy operators, it is therefore impossible to disregard digitalisation but it depends on its targeted use Digitalisation should rather serve as a support to make everyday gastronomy as simple and uncomplicated as possible.


But the social and hospitality aspects should not be neglected After all, this is exactly what restaurant operators have been cultivating since the beginning of gastronomic history Guests come not only to eat and drink, i e to satisfy basic needs, but also to let everyday life fade into oblivion or, in some cases, perhaps even to escape.


How far will the technology develop and what barriers will it create?


Let’s imagine that digitalisation will become even more prevalent in the gastronomy or hotel industry and will no longer focus on the mere support of digital cash register systems or the use of QR codes, but that employees will be replaced by artificial intelligence and robotics that are solely focused on taking orders from guests.


Wouldn’t the original idea of gastronomy disappear? Not only would numerous jobs be lost, but there would be a lack of emotion, experiences and social interaction In other words, exactly what distinguishes us humans from machines.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                              Technology in the present


In fact, such fantasies are no longer visions of the future or science fiction It is already possible to run restaurants, cafés, bars or hotels using only technology driven software and machines A concrete example is the robot Tom Sawyer Tom Sawyer cooks and serves coffee specialities for Melitta The robot has its fixed café corner, where it fills up to six standard recipes or makes “Authentic Drip Coffee” its speciality The irony behind this is that the coffees are more authentic than Tom Sawyer himself To make them, Sawyer has to fetch mugs, place them correctly under the coffee machine, grab the hand filter and set it on the coffee grinder He turns on the coffee grinder, where Sawyer puts the grounds into the filter, ties the filter into the station and then starts the brewing process At first, the guest finds this very entertaining and admirable, how machines can be programmed Such technology is new and exciting But only until we notice that the process is always the same The processes are repetitive, conversations with the barista will never be able to take place A relationship will never be built can become, there will never be any friendship or attachment.


Won’t Tom Sawyer then become boring in the long run? And won’t we, quite unlike the novel character that Mark Twain developed with great humour in 1876 want to turn away? Won’t we want to take a break from progress and return to the real world? If there were only Tom Sawyer robots left, we would quickly wish for real people back at the coffee machines We wanted to go back to our favourite café around the corner The place where we used to spend so much time with family and friends, having lively conversations with the barista and.      Time out withfriends ©pixabay

host after or during coffee.


”In the end we will that what really counts counts is the emotions, togetherness and social community”

After almost two years, the pandemic, restrictions in daily life and recurring lockdowns have become part of everyday life. Questions such as “What safety precautions do we have to offer?”, “How many ‘Gs’ do we have to check with guests today?” or “Will we have to close again?” not only rob restaurant operators of their last nerve, they also lead more and more catering businesses into existential distress. From January 2020 to January 2022, the number of financially weak and thus insolvency-prone catering businesses, such as restaurants, pubs, snack bars and cafés, is expected to have increased by almost a third to 16.2%, according to the business information agency Crif. Business bankruptcies between the years 2020 and 2021 have already been factored out.


Two years accompanied by fears of losing guests, employees and one’s own business has driven the gastronomy sector to reorganise the business. Many restaurant operators have decided to invest in digital infrastructures, which should not only save processes and resources, but also reduce personal contacts to a minimum, to avoid possible contagions with Covid-19. The opportunities to digitally set up one’s own restaurant, café or bar initially appeared manifold and promised economic success in a difficult time. Digital menus and contactless payment have undoubted advantages for guests and staff: Ordering and payment can be processed faster, there is no need to wait for the service team with the bill. Another advantage has long been seen: There is no close contact with others, which played a major role especially in the times of Covid. Furthermore, many catering companies have repositioned themselves and expanded to include delivery and take-away. This meant that even during the lockdown, some basic business could be maintained and a little turnover generated.


The further development of digitalisation, driven by the pandemic, has thus supported the gastronomy sector in many ways. Nevertheless, in a per se social industry, the topic of customer or guest relations plays a prominent role.


Even if a reach could be maintained or even increased, this could only be generated by creating a superficial relationship. The pandemic and the digitalisation of the business initially contributed to the fact that guests and restaurant operators moved away from each other on an interpersonal level. But after some time, people realised that they were missing something. The cosy get-together in the restaurant, in the café, the shared aperitif after work, dancing in the club at the weekend. The desire for real encounters became stronger and stronger. The exchange with the hosts was also missing. Things that cannot be replaced by any technology. Nevertheless, digital techniques should be used in the hospitality industry. Practical, supporting systems that facilitate the ordering process, payment and administration are more in demand than ever and will be indispensable in the future. The decisive factor here, however, is the place of use. In the back office as well as in purchasing, digital solutions are indispensable even after the pandemic.


However, the gastronomy industry must not forget that without the direct exchange with the guest, the business lacks the true experience, the restaurant visit appears faceless. Especially in a place where unique moments are to be created that remain in the memory and in the heart. Perhaps for a brief moment we remember how interesting the flexible, technological offers were. We discovered new things we had never seen before. But the exciting conversations, the celebrations, the laughter and sometimes even the crying were no longer there. But the hospitality industry thrives on emotions and experiences.


It is now more important than ever to take hospitality back to its roots and let the very idea behind this social                  Café service

concept blossom again. What needs to be considered is the fine line between the emotional experience and the use of digital support.


What is worrying are systems and concepts that use digitalisation as a barrier and are thus no longer inclusive, preventing people from participation. There are plenty of examples of this in our modern world. Banks that do without physical branches and force their customers to participate in online banking or to do business at ATMs.


Property managers who can no longer be reached directly, but only online or by telephone via voice computers. Restaurant concepts where orders and payments can only be made online. Customer services that can only be contacted by e-mail, contact form or ChatBot. All these methods are primarily designed to save business costs. Fewer employees are needed, rent is saved and data can be collected easily. All advantages for the companies and great loss of service on the other side. Not only does the non-existent service still have to be paid for monetarily by the customers, but they also no longer receive any service and are forced to cooperate worldwide. But the saddest effect is that human contact is prevented and no longer takes place. Is this supposed to be our future? Our brave new world?                                                                                                                                                                Social pressure of technology 


”It is now more important than ever to take the restaurant industry back to its roots and let the social concept flourish again.”


Gastronomers should have a vision: People should come together in the restaurants, cafés, bars and clubs, celebrate parties and have a good time. Restaurants should be places of encounters with meaning. Gastronomic establishments must bring back the gastronomic experience as it once was before digitalisation not only stayed in the back office but also intervened heavily in the service area.


Digitalisation is supposed to make people’s lives and work easier and less stressful. People are supposed to get more time for themselves with it and concentrate on the essentials. But the question is: Isn’t this all just plain theory? Or doesn’t it look more like digitalisation has led to even more stress in our lives? The feeling of having to be available 24/7, always having to react immediately, is a result of this and in many cases leads to burn-out. Thanks to modern technology such as smartphones, tablets or laptops, people are always online and can answer messages, emails and calls at any time of day.


Whether on the mountain, at sea, in the underground or in the car, the mobile phone is always with us. If it’s boring somewhere, the phone is pulled out and the social media channels are looked through and intoxicate the users. Pictures and videos are found that show people somewhere else in the world having a lot of fun and presumably leading a great life, which we would also like for ourselves. This creates pressure, envy and the urgent need to participate in this “competition”. The stress factor increases slowly but steadily and the actual ease of sharing thoughts and experiences turns out to be a captivity of the system.


Many are aware of the latter, but often trivialise the impact of social media channels. The problem is that people feel compelled to live up to the digital media. In the process, real togetherness comes up short or even disappears altogether because people have isolated themselves and only live in their virtual world. Contact with people is no longer possible for these people alone. Only long-term therapies make a return to society possible.


Clearly, digital development is unstoppable and will continue to advance. Digital systems and tools will continue to find their way into all our lives. But please only in those areas where it is necessary and helpful. Digitalisation should be used in a supportive way, because the focus must be on real life, on moments and on experiences. That is what distinguishes us humans. We are social creatures who need each other to exist in a healthy way.


”People should come together in the restaurants, cafés, bars and clubs, celebrate parties
and have a good time.’’


In a time when machines are increasingly used and everything is organised, booked, bought and paid for online, direct contact with fellow human beings is completely lost. The weeks of isolation during the pandemic showed that people do not increasingly want to get stimuli from the net. They don’t want to talk to parents or children only via video calls in the long run, but the desire for real encounters became stronger than ever. A counter-movement emerged: out of the digital world, into real life. Occasions where people meet are becoming more important. People want to build personal relationships, experience emotional encounters and want a break from the digital world.                                                                                                                                                                                                         Dependence of the digital world


”The counter-movement: Out of the digital world”.

The topic of digitalisation has occupied society not only since the pandemic What initially sounded visionary and only marginally interested many people is becoming increasingly important Today, digitalisation plays a major role in the professional environment and in the private sector Media consumption often takes place exclusively via digital media and instead of letters we send around emails, photos and videos Tools that are particularly justified in times of crisis, such as pandemics or wars, and are relevant for the exchange and flow of information.


The hospitality industry, on the other hand, is still dominated by appealing to all the senses It is clear that the use of digital aids can no longer be imagined without Be it online delivery services, orders via click collect or digital payment methods that simplify billing and accounting The use of these tools is accelerated and driven by global crises such as the spread of the corona virus Nevertheless, digitalisation cannot replace interpersonal relationships.


Taking restaurants back to their roots and using digitalisation in the background to support them is exactly in line with the spirit of the times Society longs for the here and now, personal exchange and the chance to go to the restaurant around the corner People want to exchange ideas, celebrate together and be together Restaurants are places to celebrate births, baptisms, school    Piazza table setting © enrolments, graduations, marriage proposals, weddings, perhaps divorce, promotions, business graduations, retirements and          Francesco Apostolico for      deaths They are places for a wide range of emotions, laughter and tears are close together here Restaurants accompany us           IMPERO PIZZA & NATURA

throughout our lives Precisely these moments cannot be experienced virtually They will not be remembered and will quickly be forgotten.


Digitalisation will continue, but people must never be forgotten in the process.

The focus is on the hope and the wish that the pandemic and the accompanying restrictions will soon come to an end and that gastronomy will position itself again with new strength With uniqueness, variety and cheerfulness, gastronomic establishments will return to the time honoured restaurant concept and be intoxicated by the visit of numerous guests Restaurant visits will become a new lifestyle and society will learn to appreciate this anew, especially after two years of pandemic Real encounters in particular, are a luxury Millennials and baby boomers in particular are important guest groups for the true gastronomic experience Millennials know how important their free time is and are more travel and sociable minded than ever before                      Team IMPERO PIZZA & 

Baby boomers, on the other hand, enjoy life and the amenities that restaurants and hotels offer.                                                                  Apostolico for IMPERO

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             PIZZA & NATURA

The hospitality industry is once again realigning itself It is an agile and resilient industry and will survive the effects of the

pandemic in the long run What always sustains the industry are the guests.


”People count and togetherness especially!”


Full Human Experience
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