"What's on the menu at Whitbread Tech?"
Tasha Morrison – Innovation Manager
Innovation to me, means making life and experiences better for our guests and teams. Against the background of business pressures, increasing the use of tech in our day-to-day work provides us the opportunity to try to address and react to the challenges we face.
But, if you look at Whitbread’s history over hundreds of years, it’s how we have always stayed ahead. That innovation’s been clear, even in recent years building up businesses like Costa, from a start up to a $4B sale. We’ve always done things differently and it’s paid off.
The goal of Innovation at Whitbread now is to prove concepts and develop business cases before scaling up and to ensure we’re prepared for when the large-scale technology enablers are delivered.
As a business we are currently in the process of the fastest roll out of Oracle Opera Cloud – the new booking tool for Premier Inn – that Oracle have ever had, alongside upgrading our guest and corporate network across all 1000+ sites. Innovation doesn’t stop there, we’re at proof of concept with; Poly AI, replacing tills, a trial of AI CCTV cameras, discovery for Gen AI, and the launch of Integrated Ground Floor – our new hotel proposition that’s been cross-functional in development and we’re moving away from having suppliers to strategic partners, so businesses like Oracle, Microsoft and Cognizant are co-innovating with us.
The Innovation Manager role fits me well. It’s always been hard to place where I sit in a business. I can talk more technically, and I can talk to the business, so being the interface between departments internally and externally works for me. As a woman in tech, my journey at Whitbread has been considerably smoother than it was to get here. Especially when I think back to my middle school, where I first showed signs of interest in technology as a subject, and found the Robotics Club was ‘boys only’!
It didn’t put me off me though; I loved the subject and I was good at it. I did IT for GCSEs and was one of 3 girls in a class of 25 at IT A-Level; at my university approximately only 18% of the course was women. I found in group activities quite often the women would take on Project Manager roles, not the coding or the practical parts and I went against that. I wanted to do both.
I joined as a Solution Architect graduate role in 2018 – and even that was innovative as until then they took on grads for the specific department, gave them exposure to the various parts of the business and you applied for jobs off the back of it. With myself and one other two years above they identified my skills and was trained specifically for a Solutions Architect role. A very different experience to applying to other graduate programmes.
In my time here, I’ve had exposure to work that I know I wouldn’t have had elsewhere. But what makes me proud is when we come together to use our skills for projects that have real, tangible results. The most innovative thing we’ve done during my time wasn’t tied up with multi-million-pound products or projects. It was much closer to home.
Utilising our current technology investment to solve problems such as rolling out a Track & Trace system across 400+ restaurants during the pandemic, saving Whitbread money from buying an ‘off the shelf’ product and exploiting existing technology at an uncertain time in a creative way, was a great achievement.
Along the theme of utilisation, a key to success is enabling our teams to use our platforms and their skillset to produce positive business impact, such as Bedroom Genie, a house-keeping app built in-house that serves our business better than what’s in the market currently.
There’s a lot of opportunity at Whitbread to be a part of real change if you’re eager to.