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Doing Business in Hospitality AV

AV pros says the restaurant and hotel markets are gradually improving. But selling new AV systems to those customers isn't business as usual. Certain trends are driving hospitality customers.

Trend 3: Consumer Brands Make More Headway

Overton Hotel and Conference Center

Overton Hotel and Conference Center

In restaurants, consumer brands such as Bose and DirecTV have penetrated the market more than pro brands. "People tend to go with the brands they know," Tassey says. "You are fighting consumer brand awareness versus professional brand awareness. For the AV integrator, you need time and patience to educate the customer on why professional brands are better for the application."

Some AV manufacturers have gone so far as to provide pro versus consumer talking points for their distributors and dealers. These talking points cover everything from duty cycles to heat tolerance and ventilation, and from a product's ability to interface with control systems to warranty terms.

Langevin, who works with Bose Direct Solutions and DMX Direct, says he focuses on installation details and lets the manufacturer handle the sales and design work. "As a small company, I've been able to install AV in places like Capital Grille, whereas I would've only worked with small bar and restaurant owners on my own," he says.

Under the Bose Direct Solutions business models, Langevin's firm is hired as a subcontractor to complete the install with the respective manufacturers taking care of all other details, including client service, system design, and accounts payable. Langevin has even added support services for phone and security systems to his company's repertoire so that he can offer one-stop tech support to clients.

Looking ahead to the coming year and beyond in hospitality AV, Scardina thinks the next three years will provide slow but steady growth for AV services. "We've seen an increase in client requests for satellite feeds to support webcasts, and some meeting planners are trying to figure out how to incorporate Twitter, Facebook, and other social media elements to engage and promote their event," he says. "There is an opportunity for AV to solve the new challenges of the new economy, such as technology to support virtual trade shows that are used to supplement a live meeting."

In the meantime, Tassey says the technology-adoption curve will still stay midway between early adopters and tried-and-true technology. "Hotels and restaurants are a very competitive market, so the AV technology needs to be trendy enough to draw people into the venue but reliable enough to run on a 24/7 duty cycle."

Linda Seid Frembes is a freelance AV writer and frequent contributor to Pro AV.

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