ChatGPT has dominated the cultural zeitgeist of late, with a spectrum of opinions ranging from singing its praises to worries about job losses. What does it mean for hospitality?

Artificial Intelligence (AI) has been a hot topic of late, with many people concerned about potential job losses. Others are more optimistic. AI has the potential to streamline the work day, completing menial tasks and increasing efficiency. In fact, Christopher Pissarides, a professor at the London School of Economics, believes that AI programs could lead to a 4-day work week.

As a service industry, hospitality is incredibly unlikely to face job losses due to AI. For an industry with human interaction at its core, AI may seem irrelevant. However, there are a number of innovative uses and surprising benefits that AI can have to your business. Annette Verhoeff, former pub operator and founder of business consulting firm Thrive Hospitality, is already helping her clients to use AI in their businesses.

AI refers to a computer program or machine that is able to problem-solve. They are often capable of machine learning, wherein the program can change its actions based on its past experience, essentially “learning” from its mistakes. Currently in the spotlight are chatbots, or Large Language Models (LLMs). LLMs such as ChatGPT can respond to prompts and produce human-like text.

“Think of it like a personal assistant that does everything except fetch your coffee… yet,” joked Verhoeff.

ChatGPT is much more advanced than the chatbots of old, which provided pre-written answers in response to keywords. LLMs work on a conversational model, ‘remembering’ the previous information you have given earlier in the conversation. ChatGPT responds to corrections and can revise what it has previously written. It also has capacity to handle a large volume of users, so you can use ChatGPT to interface with multiple people at once.

“What it’s doing is making Artificial Intelligence more accessible to ordinary people,” Verhoeff said of ChatGPT.

Currently, there are two versions of ChatGPT. GPT-3.5 is free to use via the web app. GPT-4 is the updated paid version, which can produce code and respond to images. Both versions can be integrated into your website, although this does require some coding knowledge and an OpenAI API key subscription.

As AI technology is constantly evolving, it is important to keep abreast of changes and innovations in the space. Booking platform OpenTable is also integrating with ChatGPT, which uses machine learning to recommend restaurants and find users the seats and booking times most suited to them. Similarly, Microsoft has added AI to its Edge browser, called Bing Chat. This allows users to input very specific searches and receive recommendations from the AI, so now is the time to update your business listings on Bing. Microsoft is planning to integrate their chatbot into Microsoft Office applications such as Word and Outlook, making AI more accessible than ever.

Why work with AI?

Almost any writing you need to do can be completed with the assistance of ChatGPT, such as writing SEO-rich content for your website or social media channels. It can also generate employee manuals, job postings, task lists, or interview questions. Chatbots can take care of repetitive communication tasks like answering common customer questions. This saves you and your staff from menial tasks and frees up time for more important duties.

The best news for hospitality professionals is that the only skills you really need to use ChatGPT are strong communications skills.

“If the quality of what you’re putting in is good, then you’re getting good stuff back from it,” Verhoeff advised.

Rather than replacing creative labour, Verhoeff argues that LLMs like ChatGPT give you time for more complex planning.

“What it’s actually doing is freeing up my time to be more creative about where I want the business to go. I’m freed up with that strategy and innovation thinking rather than writing proposals or writing training resources,” she said.

Learning the code

To get the best results from ChatGPT, it is important to refine the prompts you are feeding into the program. You can even ask ChatGPT to give you feedback on the quality of your prompts. There are multiple resources on writing effective prompts, but essentially they should be clear, focused, and relevant.

“It is all about using the right prompts to get ChatGPT to give you the right response, but you don’t have to be that highly trained in it. The trick is to keep conversing with the model until you get the result that you want,” explained Verhoeff.

Just like a human being, ChatGPT improves through constructive feedback. If the program produces something you don’t like, try explaining what you would like it to change. As economy of language is important for effective communication with ChatGPT, you don’t need to worry about politeness.

“Unlike an employee, you can give it really harsh feedback and get it to improve, and it’s not going to take offence,” said Verhoeff.

With some training, ChatGPT can be customised to reflect your business’ unique voice and tone. One method of this is to ask ChatGPT to analyse a sample of your writing to determine the tone you are already using in your business. You can also tell ChatGPT about your business’s goals and values. With the program dealing with time-consuming and repetitive tasks, you can spend your time defining these values and goals instead.

The program has been trained to deny inappropriate requests, meaning that ChatGPT is less likely to produce offensive or inappropriate material. However, it can generate inaccurate information, so it is important to check the accuracy of any AI-generated text. It is also best practice not to provide ChatGPT with any confidential information, as the program will retain this and may provide it to other users.

With the explosion of new technologies, it is often difficult to determine whether something is genuinely useful or just a fad. Of course, there is also the effort of learning to use these new technologies. Luckily, ChatGPT and similar programs are remarkably simple to use and can improve your business with a little experimentation and creative thinking.

Vanessa Cavasinni

Vanessa Cavasinni is the managing editor of Australian Hotelier and Club Management, trade publications for the pub and club sectors respectively. Vanessa has been at the helm of Australian Hotelier since...

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