Personal Data In Hotels - Are You Bad Food Or Dirty Kitchen?

personal data Oct 24, 2020

As a hotelier you are keenly aware of your reputation locally.

There will be restaurants in your area which are queued out the door at peak times while others just seem to have the couple sat in the window table.  They wandered past and made the mistake of venturing inside and have now been used to make the place look busy.

People get to know what is good and what is bad and they respond accordingly.  When it comes restaurants, if the food is bad people will quickly make up their minds about whether or not to return.

And when the food is bad, they don't come back.  It can take a lot of effort to encourage people to come back and purchase again when their last meal with you tasted as though it had been strained through the sous chef's underwear.

I know this because I've run a few hotels.  Some better than others.  I've also managed catering outlets which churned out phenomenal volumes of food.

Get the flavours or textures wrong and recovery can take a while.  Yet it can still be done.  Anyone who has ever turned around a failing property knows how much effort it takes.

Bad food is one thing.  A dirty kitchen is quite another.  You see, your customers know straight away when your food is bad and will usually do something about it.  They will either complain or not come back.  Probably both.

A good, motivated chef can fix bad food.  An enthusiastic owner or manager can fix bad food.  Bad food won't make people ill.

A dirty kitchen is altogether more sinister.

You can produce tasty food in a dirty kitchen.  If eaten, the fact that it will render the diner incapable of coherent speech the following day is the only giveaway.

As a diner, you don't go and inspect a kitchen, do you?  Instead you rely on the kitchen staff and restaurant or hotel management doing that for you.  You take it on trust that crockery and cutlery are cleaned correctly and that food is stored at the right temperatures and prepared with clean hands.

Which is why local authority environmental health officers inspect commercial kitchens.  If they find a dirty kitchen, they can shut it down.

If your problem is just bad food, the worst that can happen is you have no customers.

If your problem is a dirty kitchen, you can quickly find yourself without a business.

What is my point with this story?

Well it is simple.

When you process personal data in your hotel, you might very well be processing the personal data equivalent of bad food.  You might even be processing it in the data equivalent of a dirty kitchen.

"Bad Food" Personal Data

Misusing personal data is the equivalent of bad food.  People nowadays will soon notice if you're mishandling the personal data which belongs to them.  You spell their name wrong, you send them emails when you shouldn't have.  They will soon call you out for it.  This is bad processing that people can actually see, so they know when you're not doing it properly.

"Bad food" processing is annoying and a nuisance and it WILL cost you customers.  Yet you can still retreive the situation by paying a bit more attention to what you're doing.

"Dirty Kitchen" Personal Data Practices

 The dirty kitchen analogy is when a hotel processes personal data without due regard for the regulations.

Instead of making people ill, "dirty kitchen" processing of personal data can put people at risk of harm.

People (your "data subjects") can't see what you're doing - or not doing - and have no idea about the risks you're running with their personal data.

Without the policies, the training, the privacy notices, the security, the awareness, ethics and the good business practices which all need to be in place to look after personal data, a hotel business places people's wellbeing at risk.

Risk of fraud, physical harm, loss of confidentality, isolation, bullying, embarrassment or abuse.

Processing which puts people in harms' way will attract the attention of the regulator and of the courts.  Lawyers see personal data mismanagement as their next big source of revenue.  If they find against you, what do you think would happen to your business?

(Put the thought of the massive GDPR fines to the back of your mind for now.  That's not where your problem is. The real threats are much closer to home.)


So when it comes to processing personal data in your hotel, are you bad food or dirty kitchen?

Or is everything going so well, there's nothing to worry about?

A review of a few hundred hotel websites suggests to us there are some hotels in the UK displaying the symptoms of personal data processing which could be a lot cleaner.



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