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Op-Ed: Room service and the ‘new normal’

Food always has been, and always will be, a major part of the travel experience.

But in a post-pandemic world, change is inevitable. Crowded restaurants and menus which have been handled many times may well (even temporarily) be avoided by wary travellers.

How can the hotel industry step in to ensure guests are still able to easily enjoy outstanding cuisine? One obvious way is to make it as simple (and safe) as possible for them to get it delivered to their room. It’s time to overhaul in-room dining (AKA Room Service). A contactless experience is what we are striving to deliver guests.

THE EVOLUTION OF ROOM SERVICE

Prior to the Covid-19 pandemic hitting, industry experts were reporting a decline in profits from room service. Many hotels have been turning to alternatives, such as the Hilton’s grab and go outlets or their adoption of HCN’s DineIN tablet technologyHyatt Centric hotels partnered with food delivery app Grubhub, incorporating it into their Restaurant to Go program. And at The Kubic Hotel in Athens, Greece’s first Smart Hotel, guest rooms are equipped with smartphones which come pre-installed with food delivery apps.

Finding the neatest solution

Fast forward to a post-pandemic world – in-room dining looks set to be a more popular option for guests, but there are new hygiene and safety implications to consider. So is there a solution that’s safe, offers maximum convenience to guests and can help hoteliers make some incremental revenue?

We think so, and it involves these steps:

  • Eliminating printed menus
  • Replacing them with a digital menu guest’s can easily access on their own device
  • Rethinking your food offering, potentially partnering with local restaurants on in-room delivery

Phase-out printed menus

Printed menus present a problem where hygiene is concerned. They can be costly to produce, time-consuming to clean, and look tatty quickly, even if they are made of wipe-clean material. This will not appeal to guests who need reassurance around cleanliness.

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One neat solution to this is to replace printed menus with a wipe-clean in-room tablet. But if you’re a perfectionist when it comes to customer experience, making menus accessible on the guest’s own device means they don’t have to navigate an unknown operating system (ever tried using Apple when you’re used to Android?).

Making your menu available on your guests’ own devices also means they can access the room service options from anywhere. For example, if they were working at the office and suddenly realised the time, they could pre-order room service on their way back to the hotel so that it arrived just after their return.

This option isn’t just convenient for the guest though. Use of their own device means no capital investment for you, and it means you don’t have to worry about the risk of germ transmission from guest to guest. You have the flexibility to make menu changes whenever you need to, and if you want to add a special, no problem! You also have better scope for promos and guest engagement.

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