How Zoku used technology to implement its ‘hybrid hospitality’ concept

We have understood that we no longer simply sell rooms as a hotel doestold us Reinier Bunnik, director of operations at Zoku. We sell time and square meters… This is precisely what has enabled us to provide what we call a ‘hybrid hotel business’.

Zoku is the fascinating tale of the hospitality concept for professionals, digital nomads and globe-trotting remote workers, whose numbers continue to grow. Launched in 2016, the Dutch brand invented a new category in the hotel sector with its hybrid home-office concept: Zoku Loft.

The brand aims to promote the future of work through its versatile professional infrastructure that allows employees to continue working in all corners of the world. This concept, which goes beyond every hotel’s standard goal of providing guests with overnight accommodation, has won numerous awards and received rave reviews from guests. Indeed, they appreciate its dynamic social spaces, its initiatives in terms of sustainable development and its unique community which strengthens the bonds between travelers and the local population.

Reinier is himself a great globetrotter: he has lived on three continents and worked in all kinds of establishments, from 3-star hotels to 5-star resorts. I think I am a good example of a nomad, traveling from establishment to establishment he said, laughing. The hotel industry has its advantages: throw a dart at random on a world map. No matter where it lands, you can be pretty sure you’ll be able to go to work there one day. This sector certainly offers the best adventures and stories to tell in the evening, leaning on the bar.

Building for growth

While the Zoku brand started with a great concept, savvy operators like Reinier understand that it takes more than a concept. branch to build a successful brand. You need to have systems that enable your brand to deliver the best experiences. In addition, these systems must be able to contribute to your growth.

As a start-up, you end up with a set of systems and tools because one day someone thought it was a good idea. In reality, it is often only a lure that leads to disillusionobserves Reinier. We needed to adopt an arsenal of integrated and scalable technologies capable of supporting the growth of our brand.

In the absence of interactive systems, it was difficult to report performance. At some point, you have to assess whether things are working or not. You can’t just be optimistic and expect everything to work out like magic.

Given his plans for growth, Reinier realized that the infrastructure he had was not suitable for the business he wanted to develop. Concretely, the technology in place had to be modernized to achieve the set objective: to sell time and space, rather than just rooms.

The need for more efficient technology

The POS (point of sale) solution is an essential technological element for hotel companies.

POSs tend to specialize in the restaurant or hospitality worldemphasizes Reinier. But something was missing from our project of WorkLofts (a concept in which hotel rooms become professional offices) and co-working, already offering breakfast, lunch and dinner service. Zoku is a concept that requires few staff, so I could not hire several people to operate each of our terraces.

In this dynamic but complex business, it was important to simplify inventory management. When we run out of a product, we need to restock quickly because customers order via QR code.

Running a multi-country operation with a global customer base also required the right technology. Taxes vary from country to country and not all systems can support them correctlyexplains Reinier. I needed a tool that could convert currencies and taxes, in order to get a real-time report on all assets and locations.

The search for a solution

These operational needs, but also the need to offer a modern hotel service, in line with the brand promise, motivated the search for an alternative solution.

From the beginning of the research process, Reinier spoke with different members of the company, from the revenue management department to the teams working within the establishments themselves. This is an approach that has worked for Zoku in chamber development, and one that I wanted to apply to our technology selection.

Quickly, everyone realized that their requirements would be daunting. Also, we didn’t want a collection of disparate systems that couldn’t be compatible.

We decided to build everything around our Property Management System (PMS), including the POS. This approach allowed for staggered growth, rather than compounding problems as the brand grew.

Focusing on integration with the PMS helped establish a shortlist of possible POS solutions. After evaluating the different possibilities against their list of requirements, Infrasys emerged as the best solution, both for the product itself and for the company that created it. With the support of Shiji Group, we knew the product would follow on a growth path, internationally. It was important to us.

Once the solution was identified, it was time to implement it.

Integration and implementation

Onboarding a new POS can be very difficultemphasizes Reinier.

Shiji Group’s support during this process made it easier with the approach taken. They started by asking us what was the goal we were trying to achieve, rather than just showing us what others had done and telling us to follow their lead. The onboarding process often sparked discussions around our goals, and Shiji Group suggested possible solutions to achieve them.

The presence of Shiji’s integration team on site was also very helpful. I have witnessed the deployment of many systems. Quite often, small flaws only become apparent once the onboarding process has begun or during the training of team leaders and administrators. It was great to be able to count on this support to help us.

Once setup, onboarding and training was complete, Shiji continued to support the Zoku team. Our respective teams are constantly talkingsays Reinier. Shiji’s teams are always looking for new ways to help us achieve our goals.

The results obtained by Zoku

Once this technological arsenal was operational, Reinier asked his teams to think about how to optimize performance. All data is at your fingertips and can be used in any report if needed. These capabilities are key to enabling the Zoku brand to deliver on its promises and seize every opportunity that comes its way.

Every week, we have 168 hours to make numbersnotes Reinier. Office rentals are down everywhere and people are coming to work in hotels. We noticed this trend a few years ago, but the pandemic has accelerated things. We have proven that it is possible to use our rooms as professional offices. Co-workers use our WorkLofts to work in a private space with strong Wi-Fi and a great cup of coffee.

Accurate reporting is important to maximize revenue from this new model. I am in favor of co-working and sharing between individuals and if a large round table is usually occupied by only one or two people, I need to know. This is perhaps the sign that I have to modify the configuration of the space. In this regard, Reinier and his team also learned some surprising things… Guess the ping pong table is also very good for business !

The Zoku team learns and leverages these lessons every day. This morning, I had a telephone meeting with the teams in charge of the brand on site. We started thinking about how to optimize the average spend for dinner. You can easily identify the best-selling products and when says Reinier. “ It’s incredible.

Continuous improvement, vector of growth

To conclude, Reinier specifies that innovating and testing solutions are part of Zoku’s values. It’s nice to have found a partner like Shiji Group who understands the situation and operates in this way. We are proud of what we have achieved, but we all agree that we want to keep learning.

Three establishments are now open. Reinier sees ideas emerging within the Vienna establishment that he can implement in Amsterdam or Copenhagen, and vice versa. This is also what happens with Infrasys as a technology partner.

Using a platform makes it possible to share a great idea experienced in a hotel with the entire platform. This allows for continuous learning and continuous improvement.

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