How Entrepreneur Ken Patel is Leveraging AI to Transform the Hospitality Industry

The hospitality industry was one of the most visibly impacted sectors of the pandemic year in 2020 and digital transformation has played a major role in the hospitality industry’s strategic shift. On this week’s episode of The Playbook, host Mark Collier, business consultant for the UGA Small Business Development Center, is joined by Ken Patel, CEO of EV Hotel Group and EV Human, two technology disruptors in the hospitality sector. In this segment, Patel peels back the layers on the groundbreaking advancements his company is leading.

Transcription: 

Mark Collier: Welcome to the Playbook on ASBN, Ken.

Ken Patel:
Thank you for having me. Thank you, it’s a pleasure to be here.

Mark Collier:
Absolutely. Now, Ken, you have two distinct and separate companies, EV Hotel and EV Human. So let’s begin our discussion with kind of the differences on those two companies and what markets they serve.

Ken Patel:
Yeah, absolutely. So EV Hotel Group is the world’s first technology hospitality management company. EV Human is also the world’s first all-in-one software in hospitality for employees and guests.

Mark Collier:
So you’ve got two firsts?

Ken Patel:
Two first, two firsts. We might have three firsts coming up, but right now, two firsts.

Mark Collier:
All right, well, good deal. So now tell me a little bit more, EV Hotel Group, you service hotels, and EV Human is more on the human resources side, correct?

Ken Patel:
Well, EV Human is basically the end to end user experience.

Mark Collier:
Okay, very good.

Ken Patel:
So it’s for the guests, it’s for the employees, for the hoteliers, for the owners. It’s for everyone. So the industry has never had a software that’s got every component of the industry.

Mark Collier:
That’s phenomenal.

Ken Patel:
Usually you only have two to three components.

Mark Collier:
Okay, well, very good. Well, digital transformation is at the forefront of many business sectors today. So, challenges to the hospitality industry are daunting. COVID just devastated that industry along with several others, of course. But what challenges do you see as we kind of move from the response phase of the pandemic to the recovery phase, what challenges do you see the hospitality sector facing?

Ken Patel:
There’s an abundance of challenges still. We have the labor crisis. We have urban markets that are still struggling. And you take the instance of New York City, Miami is an exception, Miami’s just in a world of its own. It was in a world of its own when the pandemic began. What we call in the industry our star reports or basically data reports. Miami was doing better during the pandemic than before the pandemic.

Mark Collier:
That’s very interesting and certainly a statistical anomaly.

Ken Patel:
Yeah, yeah. You got to give it up for Mayor Suarez for that, but he’s built a technology hub there. When we look at the industry overall, it needs change. As we talk about the auto industry that has changed or innovation every 10 years. The hospitality industry does not have that. They think that we’re doing well, let’s stick to that plan, and they don’t want to innovate in a way. And now they have no choice.

Mark Collier:
What digital and technological solutions to the hospitality industry does EV Hotel Group and EV Human provide? Give a little bit more detail around that.

Ken Patel:
Right. There’s quite a few shows, and this is our whole concept. A lot of the shows they call me the Elon Musk of hospitality. I don’t truly believe-

Mark Collier:
I think that’s a well-earned moniker based on what I’ve seen.

Ken Patel:
I say I’m all about changing this industry. I’m all about making sure how we can further the process, whether it’s has to do with labor, whether it has to do with the industry as a whole. And what we’re doing is EV Hotel Group being the first technology hospitality management company in the world, our concept is very simple, less task-driven system with better streamlined processes. We don’t believe in logs, we don’t believe in checklists. And I tell people, if you’re married, whether it’s your partner or your wife comes home, are you giving them a checklist of what you did today?

Mark Collier:
No, generally not.

Ken Patel:
So, why do we expect that from our employees? I feel that if we were able to give them better system to operate with, they’ll probably operate much better than we think they are capable of. What we’ve done is we’ve automated everything, and it comes from, and this is on the EV Hotel side, is we’ve automated housekeeping, we’re right now in production overseas where we’re building robots. And that production in Q4 is going to come here in the United States. And those robots for housekeeping will do two simple things, clean the entire bathroom, deep clean it. So every time it’s being deep-cleaned, not as a hotel industry schedule, is every quarter, every room gets deep-cleaned. Ours is every day. And that will stabilize the product even for a longer term.

Ken Patel:
And then the other robot will be a GPS controlled vacuum, where it will follow the housekeeper to which rooms they clean. So now we leave only two items for a housekeeper to do on a daily basis, is make the bed and sanitize the room.

Mark Collier:
That’s going to be a game changer in terms of productivity and the amount of output that they’re going to get out of their housekeepers.

Ken Patel:
Yeah, yeah, exactly. This is all about our less task-driven systems. This is also a way that we find housekeepers for instance. It’s an overall thing, but for housekeeping in the industry right now is a big labor crisis. And what do the housekeepers really do if they’re not cleaning rooms? They’re cleaning homes. And what do they do when cleaning homes? Two things, make the bed and sanitize.

Mark Collier:
Moving forward, technology solutions, which ones do you feel are going to be most important for hotel chains to adapt kind of as we move forward in a post-COVID environment, what are the kind of the top two or three technology solutions you feel are going to be most impactful?

Ken Patel:
We have to look at an overall. The industry has a lot of departments, a lot of departments. But the guest experience part of it has to be streamlined better, where we say we’re going to cut out the timeframe that a guest has to walk up to the front desk, check in, get their key, go to a gift shop, buy a candy bar, wait in line until three people check in. So it’s more of a better streamlined process. So the guest experience, the room experience, the hotel experience, the service experience. And we’ve tied all those things into it. And obviously, we’ll talk more about EV Human, but the technology aspect in this industry has only focused ever on one or two components, is whether the vendor has the front end component or they have the backend component. No one’s obviously come up with a single component. And that is where we struggle in this industry because an employee has six different logins because there’s six different vendors.

Ken Patel:
So, for the technology to speed it up, and then the foundation that’s doing really well with this is the American Hotel Lodging Association. They just partnered and actually almost bought out a company called HTNG. And now they’re upping their technology game with it. I think it’s slowly moving forward. And my emphasis for years has been, if I can check into my flight 24 hours prior and I go straight to the security checkpoint, then why am I waiting at the front desk to get a key and sign a document?

Mark Collier:
That’s a perfect segue. That makes perfect sense. Let’s talk for a minute, you mentioned about the guest experience. And that brings me to the human element that all hotel markets serve. I’ve got a friend who’s in the hotel business as well and he talks about that human element, and he says that technology cannot add value to the art of engagement and the necessary synergy of sales and guest services. We go back and forth, I don’t agree with that theory. I feel technology can add to the human element, the art of engagement, everything. So let’s talk a little bit about how technology is going to add to that art of engagement and that necessary synergy between sales and guest services.

Ken Patel:
It’s funny you say that because this is a conversation I have every day domestically and internationally. I tell them with the EV Hotel Group, the concept has never been to eliminate that human element. The concept has been, is what I call a revision. And the revision and realignment. And what that means is we’re taking the front desk agent now to simply be a concierge. And that delivers better service.

Mark Collier:
Agree.

Ken Patel:
Now, these front desk agents aren’t focusing on checklists, logs, knowing the PMS, that’s the property management system, not I’ll check in, your credit card is declined. Let’s call the guests because their card declined and they’re supposed to come and check in today, but they’re on an airline flight, they cancel the room. Now the guests has no room. These are all the headaches of the industry. And what happens with that is the human element never goes into the phases that we want it to go into. They forget that the guest is in front of them. So now we’ve put the focus where we’ve turned that person that’s a front desk agent into a simple concierge.

Mark Collier:
A troubleshooter more or less.

Ken Patel:
They’re there, and our front desk, our concept of the front desk, is they’ll never be behind the front desk. They’re always going to be in the lobby. They’re always going to be in the lobby. Now, the focus is where the guest comes in, how are you? What brought you here? Is there something we can do for you? Is there any help you need? Basically, I’ve learned in this industry when I got my MBA from Emirates Academy in Dubai, is we never point, we lead.

Mark Collier:
I like that a lot.

Ken Patel:
That is the concept, we have to lead them. And we can’t point to where the bathroom is, where the room is. We have to lead them. So now that we have these people as concierge, they can lead them to the direction.

Mark Collier:
Makes perfect sense, Ken. So, let’s talk about another important technology aspect, that’s artificial intelligence. And that’s at the forefront.

Ken Patel:
My favorite.

Mark Collier:
There you go, man. It’s at the forefront at leading edge most companies today. So kind of share with me how your firm is going to leverage AI for the benefit of your clients.

Ken Patel:
We have the absolute best partner, and that is Microsoft. I would tell you, AI is only as good as the data you collect.

Mark Collier:
Absolutely true.

Ken Patel:
AI has to know just not your nose, it’s got to know your lips, cheek bones, ears, hairlines, everything. So you have to collect a tremendous amount of data. And the industry has been doing that. But that’s where it stops because they collect the data and then it goes out onto data islands. What we call data island is the data has an inflow and then data gets stuck somewhere because it’s not being utilized.

Ken Patel:
Now, what we’ve done is we’ve taken that data and developed clean data. Tremendous amount of clean data that now you could utilize all that data, and the different sectors that data’s coming in from.

Mark Collier:
So, where do you see the hospitality industry kind of heading in the years ahead and what are going to be some of the greatest challenges that you see on the horizon for hospitality?

Ken Patel:
Well, one thing I’ll tell everybody is that you’re not going to find robots that are going to be at the front desk. You’re not going to find robots cleaning rooms. So I just want everybody to get that out of their head. They’re not replacing humans. The concept here is very simple, is the industry needs more automation. As the labor force dwindles down, I was talking to a CEO of a major hedge fund two days ago, and he told me, he’s like, “Ken, where do you see the industry going?” And I told him that I see a 30% turnover rate. So we need to automate for that 30% turnover rate. And the only way to do that is with technology. Technology is everywhere.

Mark Collier:
It’s the driver, man. For all industry right now, it’s the driver.

Ken Patel:
I tell people that don’t believe in technology in hospitality, then you shouldn’t have a 5G, go back to 2G and get your Nokia flip phone. If you don’t like that, then stick with the 5G and the 6G is coming and the 7G is coming. So it always keeps moving and we have to move along with it. And this labor intensive positions that the world knows hospitality to be, labor intensive, low wage, we need to control those both. And the only way to do that is we need to streamline the processes. And the industry will be better. You see more hotels opening. We obviously have something in the works that’s going to be very big, very, very big, massive, when we’re talking about hotel. It’s something I can’t detail a lot about, but it will be announced in the next six to eight months.

Ken Patel:
What we’re looking at is how do we further the industry to be better in the way for everybody. You have somebody like Kayak that’s considered to be an OTA like Expedia, Kayak actually just opened their first hotel in Miami.

Mark Collier:
Interesting.

Ken Patel:
And why did they do that? Because they developed a customer base. So you are going to have those things. And do they have money to spend, on what? What are they? A technology company.

Mark Collier:
Yes, they are.

Ken Patel:
So we know where this is going. We know where Expedia is going next. I already know, I see the vision happening with Expedia. And the guests want technology. And I think that is the steps we’re going to have to take. It’s already happening, and people might see it, people might not see it, but it already is happening. And that’s why you’re seeing more guests go to non-branded hotels, what we call boutique hotels because they’re more technology-driven. So I think the industry’s in a very good point because there was a report that came out, everybody’s so excited thinking the industry is on such a high right now because of the travel season. But you have to think about this, May of this past, May that just happened, the industry did worse than 9/11, May.

Mark Collier:
I was not aware of that.

Ken Patel:
Yes. So the industry is not back yet. We have to look at when September, October, November, December happens, and we have to see what that is.

Mark Collier:
Back to getting that data we talked about earlier.

Ken Patel:
And I think that’s where people might not think about the technology right now, but I can guarantee you, they will start thinking about it when September rolls around.

Mark Collier:
Well, let’s shift gears a bit, talk about EV Human. As you mentioned earlier, the labor crisis, it’s severely impacting the hospitality sector. So kind of share with me your solutions that EV Human is bringing to alleviate that pain of the labor shortage.

Ken Patel:
EV Human’s concept when it was created in 2018 when I moved from New York city to Georgia here in the Alpharetta area. It’s very simple to how we came up with it. In 2018 in May, the unemployment rate was 5.1%. Hotels were still looking for general managers and other employees. So the issue was happening a long time ago before COVID that the industry was struggling with labor. Now, I saw when we got to 2022, we were going to see a 32% turnover rate based on the math I was doing. So I came out started the development of EV human thinking of a 30% turnover rate. And it was a trade off. As in, we’re going to have a 30% turnover rate, EV Human would replace that 30% turnover rate. And that’s what it was going to happen. There was no elimination of staff, robot’s not replacing humans, George Jetson isn’t coming down from the planet where he is.

Ken Patel:
What we’ve done with it is we have a front end and we have a backend. We have two different CTOs. They’ve created three softwares in the last three years each valued over $20 million. Their development teams have been part of HubSpot and other tech companies. And we have over 100 developers on this. And we’ve done the front end that includes such things as gift shop automation. That pretty much means, it’s a digital scanner inside the app, you scan any product at the gift shop, goes right onto your receipt. You check in 24 hours prior.

Ken Patel:
And we’ve partnered with Stripe on this on an ID verification. So it’s just not that, oh yeah, you scan your ID, you’re all set. No, ID verification means you got to run through a one to three minute verification. So if any red flags are drawn there, you will not be able to check in. And it not only scans the ID, passports, everything. And then they sign that simple reg card document. They get their digital key, they get 15 analytical questions. One of them is are you attending breakfast? How many people? And that’s the clean data aspect I was referring to.

Ken Patel:
So now that transfers over to the hotel, kind of getting all that data data’s for lower food cost percentage. And then they get to the hotel, they scan the QR code. That puts them in. We have three different chatbots, ones for housekeeping, all automated, anything they need. One for maintenance, any issues that they might have, then we have EV assistant, that’s the whole chat bot and anything they want to look for. And then we also have Google Maps attached into it.

Mark Collier:
You’re wrapping an entire ecosystem of technology around the hospitality sector, which is going to be a big bottom line driver.

Ken Patel:
Oh, huge, huge. I mean, we have even like where they can extend the room, view their bill. If they see a wrong charge, they can dispute the charge right there, right in the app, everything. The back end has got the whole item, if it’s a hotel you’re watching this, he’ll exactly know what I’m talking about. Time and labor management, revenue management, guest CRM, all of it. And our guarantee promise is a world first. The guaranteed promise is over 42% over GOP and under 20% labor, guaranteed.

Mark Collier:
When you put a guarantee out there along your product, you better be able to stand behind it.

Ken Patel:
We did. We actually had data scientists from Harvard look at, because the number one thing I’ll tell you in this software, that’s for the back end portion, it’s an innovation of a kind, that’s what a lot of our partners loved. We still have more investors that want to invest all the time. And it’s contactless ordering. That means the hotel will never, ever have to order a single item by itself. And the software will be able to dictate how much it needs based on their revenue and it’ll will automatically put it into their vendor carts. So the hotel will never have to order. So that maximizes their GOP right there.

Mark Collier:
That’s phenomenal. All right, Ken Patel, CEO of EV Hotel Group and EV Human, this has been a very enlightening discussion, man. You guys look like you’re at the cusp of something very big in terms of technology disruption. I’d love to have you back on the show, man, in a couple of months after you launch, and you can let me know how it’s going and how the market has received your brand new product?

Ken Patel:
Yeah, yeah, I mean, if it doesn’t go well, you’ll see me stocking shelves at Walmart.

Mark Collier:
All right, Ken, appreciate you coming in.

Ken Patel:
Appreciate it. Thank you, Mark.


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