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The Rise of Mobile Ordering: From Trend to Core Hospitality Technology

by
Hotel Tech Report
5 days ago

It’s more convenient than ever to dine out or order in, thanks to the proliferation of food delivery apps and technology that makes ordering and payment a breeze. In fact, 80% of Americans have used food delivery apps before, and about 60% order food via an app at least once per week. Ordering food from your phone is becoming widely accepted in all facets of the hospitality industry, aligning with a shift toward the “low-touch economy,” the contact-free trend that accelerated as a result of the COVID pandemic. As more people want a contactless experience, and as people become more comfortable with technology in the hospitality space, mobile ordering will be an integral part of the future of the hotel and restaurant industry. Traveler preferences have evolved since the beginning of the pandemic, shifting toward contactless, on-demand services. These changes extend beyond hotels, as more people have become accustomed to food delivery, video calls, and even virtual fitness classes as socially distant substitutes to in-person interaction. The contactless trend appears to be here to stay. Retailers have adopted contactless payment terminals, supermarkets offer contactless grocery pick-up, and many hotels now offer contactless check-in and on-demand housekeeping service to limit physical touchpoints. At hotels, guests also want the ability to order food without speaking face-to-face with restaurant or room service staff and to be able to enjoy it while they work remotely in the lobby, under the shade of a cabana, or in the privacy of their guestroom. RoomOrders was founded in 2017 to provide this convenience for guests, and the company was originally designed to digitize room service operations at the Hilton Boston Downtown. Success in Boston led RoomOrders to expand to hotels across the world, working with brands like Marriott and Accor in addition to Hilton. RoomOrders is now in over 300 leading hotels and resorts across the US, Asia, Africa, Europe, and Oceania. At the onset of the pandemic in early 2020, the RoomOrders team saw an opportunity to bring their technology to not only hotel room service operations, but also to hospitality businesses ranging from restaurants to health and beauty centers, convenience stores, and tourist attractions to meet the desire for contactless service. As RoomOrders CEO Eugene Jones says, “mobile ordering is moving quickly from a trending sector to a booming sector.” Tech-enabled options are becoming increasingly popular, and rather than being viewed as a novelty, a tech-forward experience is an expectation. Customers are also becoming more savvy. Consumers in the F&B space are accustomed to ordering everything from their mobile devices whether it’s a new pair of Nike shoes, their groceries, or even a Tesla.  It’s only natural that these guests expect room service on their smartphones, too. With mobile ordering, a customer can browse the menu, place an order, and pay on their smartphone without the need for in-person interaction with staff. “Imagine the possibility of ordering a refreshing drink while relaxing by the pool...without having to get up to approach a bar to order,” says Jones. But mobile ordering isn’t for everyone. Jones recognizes that some guests relish the in-person interaction or don’t feel comfortable placing orders on their smartphone for a variety of reasons. The good news is that “guests have the option to order the old way or the new way, leaving customers with the ultimate freedom of choice.” Even when you implement mobile ordering, you can serve customers the way they want to be served. Mobile ordering doesn’t just benefit customers - it’s good business: increased revenue, more efficient and helpful staff, and higher guest satisfaction. Hotel businesses that partner with RoomOrders often report increases in overall revenue and average order volume. Why? RoomOrders eliminates friction in the ordering experience, so it’s easier than ever for customers to purchase food and drinks. Without mobile ordering, customers might decide not to order from your outlet if they see a long line or if they can’t flag down a server. Mobile ordering removes these obstacles and makes ordering effortless. Plus, the RoomOrders interface allows you to configure upsell options, specials, and tagging that make your menu items more compelling. Someone who might have skipped a side dish or dessert might be convinced to try it when they see it as a recommended pairing with their entree. In addition to highlighting the potential for revenue growth, Jones debunks a common misconception about mobile ordering systems. In our interview, he says “a digitalised hotel is not necessarily void of human labor, it actually frees up humans to be more hospitable.” The futuristic idea of a hotel run by robots isn’t going to be the future of your hotel with mobile ordering. The opposite is true; by letting technology handle menial, repetitive tasks like taking orders and running payment, your staff can focus on more important work, like building meaningful relationships with guests. Menu updates are seamless with a digital system like RoomOrders. Without a mobile ordering system, staff would need to reprint menus every time a menu item changed. RoomOrders allows you to make menu updates with just a few clicks so you can always keep your menus up-to-date and accurate. Overall, mobile ordering helps you deliver a better guest experience. It makes the ordering process more efficient at your restaurant, and, as Eugene discusses in the interview, it can also give guests an alternative to a potentially frustrating experience like waiting on hold for room service. Ultimately, guests who have a better experience at your hotel spend more and are more likely to return which is why this once trendy technology is becoming a global staple. Eager to learn more about mobile ordering? Read our interview with RoomOrders’ CEO Eugene Jones below     This content was created collaboratively by Hotel Tech Report and RoomOrders.   Tell us about the founding story behind Roomorders. In a nutshell, RoomOrders was founded in 2018 after one of the co-founders Haris Dizdarevic, who is an IT expert, sat with his restaurant owner friend in the Boston Hilton and suggested the hotel could digitalise its operations with self-service ordering by guest mobile phones. We were arguably the pioneers of QR code ordering in hotel rooms and this was a major move from fixed phones. However, QR code ordering has opened up new revenue streams by expanding ordering and payment opportunities outside bedrooms to the entire hotel or resort complex, as well as neighbourhood by connecting with community vendors. During the corona crisis, we realised digital ordering via QR codes or NFC tags could be done from anywhere outside hotels as well, from poolsides to beaches, rooftop bars to golf courses and neighbouring vendors, from restaurants to health and beauty centres, supermarkets and tourist attractions.   Why has mobile ordering been growing so rapidly in your opinion? Apart from opening up new revenue streams, your hotel will have an edge over rival destinations by restoring confidence in health and safety as a digitalised, low-contact hotel offering self-service ordering and payments via guest smartphone. Today's guest expect on-demand service and integration with surrounding vendors allows QR code ordering and payments of almost anything from anywhere on the hotel or resort site. I think Asia, which has totally skipped credit cards and where people no longer have a use for wallets, is indicative of the future awaiting us. When I see the corona QR passports and vouchers, it is obvious that mobile ordering is inevitable and that everything will be digital, powered by lightning broadband communication. I think we will be ordering from holograms appearing in thin air...  It will be like snapping fingers to be served in an instant! Many hotels believe that QR codes and pdf menus are a “good enough” solution for contactless ordering. Contrary to that belief is documented reality that guests hate downloading pdfs or any apps and feel teased if they cannot order as well as pay after seeing digital menus. The beauty of digital ordering platforms is that guests have the option to order the old way or the new way, leaving customers with the ultimate freedom of choice   How should hoteliers feel about automation of routine tasks? There is always the danger of technology replacing human touch in hospitality and this can be seen as a positive in terms of cost savings for hotels during tough times, yet a loss for social interaction and engagement - something we have traditionally enjoyed as consumers. However, a digitalised hotel is not necessarily void of human labor, it actually frees up humans to be more hospitable,entertaining or helpful in the process of delivering excellent guest experience.   How can hoteliers distinguish between mobile ordering software solutions? Mobile ordering is different to room service as mobile ordering is remote and unrestricted, it can be done from anywhere across a hotel or resort, rather than just a hotel room. Room service on the other hand is limited to just a room and the guest experience confined to a room.  Imagine the possibility of ordering a refreshing drink while relaxing by the pool, or a finger-food snack, without having to get up to approach a bar to order or even pick up orders. Our research shows orders skyrocket throughout the whole day, especially hot days, in this particular scenario. Hotels can’t be, or have, everything for guests, so RoomOrders is connecting hotel guests with surrounding vendors of all sorts of products and services on or off-site, expanding the guest experience by bringing anything, anywhere to their feet wherever they may be around the hotel or resort.   What has been the impact of COVID on the state of mobile ordering? COVID has been a double-edged sword. While it has suspended business for many hotels, particularly during lockdowns, it has also increased the urgency of digitalization, particularly contactless service, ie QR code ordering and payments. Mobile ordering is moving quickly from a trend sector to a booming sector, and in that respect we see it as a bigger revolution than food delivery - which is basically restricted to fixed addresses and extremely expensive. I think Covid-19 has sped up the dawn of a new age, the fourth industrial revolution. Everything will be digital and accessible remotely, starting with our jobs. The adoption of new technology, particularly QR code ordering and payments will move from a trend to boom sector and like Asia, we will no longer carry credit cards or wallets. Our mobile phones will be a lifeline, the centre of our world and essential to survival. Accessing our phone as fast as possible will be key, so QR codes may be replaced by something faster, but right now it seems RoomOrders will be busy improving people’s lives by fast ordering and secure payments. I honestly cannot see a hotel or resort without RoomOrders or a competitor service.   Are there misconceptions amongst hoteliers in this emerging category? It’s true, hoteliers think it’s expensive, when it is actually free, zero capital investment. Other fallacies include preconceptions that guests want human contact with waiters or that older people are technophobes. The reality is that newer generations want immediate glorification, on-demand service. Amazon and food delivery has changed their expectations, to the point of even compromising quality for efficiency. Seniors are actually the fastest growing segment of adopters of social media, Sure they were a bit slower, but when they sense that old methods are fading, they adapt just as easily as other groups, provided that the experience is intuitional, or in other terms, easy.   Are there any stories that stick out to you where RoomOrders delivered outsized impact for clients? Just before the pandemic, I arrived on a late flight into Las Vegas to speak at a conference about the threats facing hospitality in the digital era, and I was really hungry. As the hotel didn’t provide room service in the evening, I picked up a flyer and ordered pizza delivery by phone. I had to go outside, passing restaurants in the casino lobby and there were about 20 or so others waiting for their delivery too, even though it was past midnight already, There was so much confusion, it was a horrible guest experience that gave us the idea to not only integrate all the surrounding restaurants of a hotel, but other vendors too. It also gave me fodder for my speech, which offered RoomOrders as a way to combat the threat of aggressive food delivery services preying on local restaurants and hotel guests. The last year has demonstrated without dilemma that we have deeply entered the era of contactless ordering and payment  

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The Ultimate Guide to Hospitality Technology (2021)

by
Hotel Tech Report
1 week ago

Did you know the average small business uses 40 different software applications, and the average hotel uses around 20? In an ideal world, every system in your hotel’s tech stack would help you automate tasks, reduce costs, grow revenue, and deliver a five-star guest experience. But we understand that getting up-to-date on the myriad of technology solutions available to hotels can be daunting! Where do you even start? In this article, we’ll introduce you to each piece of the hotel technology landscape, from revenue management to reputation management and everything in between. Drawing on insights from over 10,000 hotel software reviews written by hoteliers across the globe, this article will also highlight some top software vendors in each category. For more detailed testimonials and additional software choices, you’ll want to click over to the full list of vendors. Let’s dive in!     9 Hotel Operations Software Tools that Drive Efficiency This category of software includes the most essential technology for hotel operations: checking guests in, reconciling accounts, handling payroll, and getting feedback from guests. Your hotel’s size and complexity will determine which systems you need; small, limited-service hotels might be fine with a PMS and a payment processor, but a large resort could benefit from each category of software. 1. Property management systems (PMS): The PMS is the central hub for hotel operations. In this system, staff can check guests in and out, create and manage reservations, pull financial reports, manage guest profiles, and more. According to user reviews and analysis of system functionality, the top PMSs are Cloudbeds, Clock, and HotelTime, though there are over a hundred more great systems on the market. 2. Staff collaboration tools: Hotel staff are scattered across different floors, buildings, and shifts, so a communication platform is necessary to keep everyone on the same page. Systems like hotelkit, Monscierge, and ALICE can replace analog methods like walkie-talkies and logbooks, plus they can track tasks, reduce manual errors, and increase efficiency. 3. Housekeeping and engineering software: These tools digitize the operations of your housekeeping and maintenance departments, with the ability to automate task assignment, monitor real-time status of rooms or issues, and track task completion. Top software in this category includes hotelkit, Flexkeeping, and ALICE. 4. Guest feedback and surveys: Do away with the paper comment cards and give guests a digital platform to voice their feedback, such as GuestRevu, TrustYou, or Revinate. Not only are these tech solutions easy for guests to use, but they also allow hoteliers to customize, automate, and analyze guest comments and complaints. 5. Accounting and reporting: If your hotel accepts payments from guests and issues payments to employees and vendors, then you’ll benefit from an accounting and reporting system like myDigitalOffice, M3, or Omniboost. A modern accounting system reveals opportunities to reduce costs and maximize revenue, plus makes your accounting team more efficient with automated reports and integrations with other on-site software. 6. Payments Processing: Most guests prefer to pay for their reservations with credit cards, but a payment processing system is necessary to get the funds from the guest’s card into your hotel’s bank account. Payment processors like Profitroom, Mews Payments, and Adyen charge a small processing fee, but they make getting paid as seamless as possible. 7. Labor management: Hotels have dozens, if not hundreds, of employees, so scheduling is no easy task. Software such as Hotel Effectiveness’ PerfectLabor™, M3, and UniFocus include forecasting, insight into labor costs, and integrations with payroll and timekeeping systems.  8. Meetings and events: Whether your hotel has one private dining room or several floors of ballrooms and breakout spaces, meetings and events software can support every step of the sales and planning process - and the event itself. Highly rated meetings and events software includes Proposales, Event Temple, and Blockbuster by Duetto. 9. F&B and point-of-sale systems: The pandemic accelerated demand for features like contactless menus and online ordering, so there has been a huge wave of innovation in the F&B software space. Vendors like RoomOrders, Bbot, and Oracle’s MICROS can help restaurants modernize their operations, cut costs, reduce reliance on delivery platforms, and strengthen relationships with customers.   7 Revenue Management Tech Systems that Improve Yield Strategy The goal of revenue management is to sell the right room to the right guest at the right price, and revenue managers leverage a variety of software to achieve their RevPAR goals. 1. Revenue management systems (RMS): The secret weapon of any revenue manager is the RMS; this system analyzes historical data, market supply and demand, and forecasts to recommend the rates most likely to maximize revenue and profitability. You might also hear revenue management software like IDeaS, Duetto’s Gamechanger, or Atomize referred to as “yield management systems” or “pricing engines.” 2. Channel managers: A channel manager is the link between a hotel’s property management system and distribution channels like Booking.com, Expedia, and the GDS. Channel managers such as SiteMinder, Cloudbeds’ myallocator, and D-EDGE’s Smart Channel Manager allow hoteliers to make changes in one system, their PMS, rather than managing rates on each channel individually. 3. Central reservation systems (CRS): Larger hotels or hotels that are part of a chain or group might use a CRS to centralize all bookings, whether they’re made by call center staff, the hotel’s own website, or a third-party channel. The CRS will then send reservations to the PMS for room assignments. Popular CRSs include Pegasus, Windsurfer, and GuestCentric CRS. 4. Rate shopping and market intelligence: A key to revenue management success is selling competitive rates, but how do you know what your competitors are selling? Rate shopping tools, like OTA Insight, Siteminder Insights, and D-EDGE RateScreener, do the heavy lifting for you and present competitor rates and market forecasts in user-friendly dashboards and reports. 5. Parity management: OTAs ask hotels to provide rate parity, meaning selling the same rate across all channels, and, as a hotelier, you don’t want OTAs to sell cheaper rates than your hotel’s website. Parity management tools, like OTA Insight, FornovaDI, and Triptease give hoteliers access to dashboards that monitor rates across all channels in real-time. 6. Business intelligence: Revenue managers love data, but sometimes all that data is too much for Excel to handle. Business intelligence tools offer better solutions for slicing, dicing, and visualising data through dashboards and reports suitable for studying historical performance or predicting the future. Top BI applications include OTA Insight, Scoreboard by Duetto, and ProfitSage. 7. Upselling Software: Driving incremental revenue per guest is possible with upselling tools that automate the entire process - and use profile data and historical trends to serve the most compelling, personalized offers to each guest, like room upgrades or F&B items. Tools like Oaky, EasyWay Smart Upselling, and GuestJoy also enable hoteliers to start the upselling process before the guest arrives on property.   9 Guest Experience Platforms to Improve Satisfaction Scores How do you create a five-star guest experience in the digital age? A plethora of systems exist to delight guests, from contactless check-in solutions to modern in-room entertainment. 1. Guest messaging: Messaging platforms allow hotels to communicate with guests via their preferred platform: text messaging, email, or even apps like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger. Top-rated systems like Monscierge, Whistle, and EasyWay support automated messaging and one central dashboard where staff can respond. 2. Keyless entry: Keyless entry software enables a guest to unlock their room or other secure areas like gyms or pools with a wave of their smartphone. Systems like Mobile Access by ASSA ABLOY, FLEXIPASS, and Openkey.co offer integrations with PMSs for a seamless arrival experience. 3. Guest apps: Digitize your in-room directory with a hotel app like ALICE, INTELITY, or Duve. These downloadable apps put everything guests need to know at their fingertips, from contact info and directions to room service menus and local recommendations.  4. Contactless check-in: In the wake of the pandemic, guests prefer a contactless arrival process, and software like EasyWay, Canary, and Duve make it easy for hotels to pivot to a fully digital check-in. Functionality includes ID scanning, digital registration cards, upselling, payment processing, and arrival time coordination. 5. In-room tablets: Just like the smartphone replaced our digital cameras and rolodexes, an in-room tablet can replace your rooms’ telephones, directories, room service menus, TV remotes, thermostats, and more. Tablet providers like SuitePad, Crave Interactive, and INTELITY are even proven to increase guest satisfaction and revenue. 6. Energy management: These systems have two goals: decrease your hotel’s energy costs and reduce your hotel’s environmental impact. Vendors like Verdant Energy Management Solutions, Telkonet, and EcoStruxure are designed with hotels in mind and seek to not only decrease costs, but also enhance the guest experience. 7. Guest room entertainment: Today’s guests want more than local cable channels on their guestroom TVs; systems like Monscierge ZAFIRO IPTV, and Sonifi provide interactive content and entertainment for all types of hotels, plus additional marketing and engagement opportunities you couldn’t get with traditional TV. 8. Mobile ordering/F&B: Bbot, RoomOrders, SABA F&B Ordering, and other systems provide an essential piece of technology for hotels and restaurants: mobile ordering. With this software, guests and customers can access menus, place orders, and pay from their smartphones, and F&B outlets can better manage order fulfillment and deliver an end-to-end contactless experience. 9. Hotel Wi-Fi: What was once a premium add-on is now an essential amenity at hotels, especially with a growing segment of travelers working remotely. To offer reliable high-speed internet access, hotels can partner with vendors like Cisco (Meraki), Percipia, or GuestTek that offer implementation services and ongoing support.   9 Marketing Tools to Lower Acquisition Costs and Drive Direct Bookings Of course, you don’t need any of the software listed above if nobody knows about your hotel! Marketing software allows you to tap into new audiences of guests and build relationships with your existing guest base. 1. Booking engines: For hoteliers seeking to increase direct business, a booking engine is essential. This software allows guests to book reservations on your hotel’s website by displaying rates and availability from your PMS, then integrating reservations into the PMS. Cloudbeds, Bookassist, and SiteMinder offer some of the best booking engines.  2. Reputation management: A reputation management tool helps you request, track, analyze, and respond to guest reviews across sites like Tripadvisor and Google and your own surveys. Some of the industry leaders are TrustYou, GuestRevu, and Revinate, and they can even assist in increasing guest review scores by revealing insights about guest sentiment. 3. Website builders and content management systems (CMS): Outsourcing your website design isn’t necessary with a CMS; these tools allow you to build, edit, and organize website pages and content, and they support integrations with booking engines, payment processors, widgets and more. Smart CMS by Bookassist, Profitroom, and Net Affinity are some of the top website builders. 4. Direct booking tools: If you want to increase direct bookings, then an app like Triptease, Hotelchamp, or TrustYou can boost the number of shoppers who complete bookings on your hotel’s website. These tools let you display personalized messages, snippets of guest reviews, price comparison widgets, and more - all of which give guests reasons to book direct instead of on an OTA. 5. Digital marketing agencies: Don’t have the time or resources to handle digital marketing in-house? A digital marketing agency can lend their expertise to help your hotel succeed in search engine marketing, social media, content creation, and PR. Bookassist, Avvio, and Net Affinity are some of the leaders in this space. 6. Social media tools: Whether you’re trying to build a new audience or stay in touch with past guests, social media is an important component of your hotel’s marketing strategy. Social media vendors like BCV, Sprout Social, and Travel Media Group can help you achieve your reach and engagement goals. 7. Metasearch and ad tech: Metasearch channels, like Google, Kayak, and Tripadvisor, are powerful drivers of traffic to your hotel website - if you leverage them effectively. These sites require special connectivity and a bidding strategy, and tools like Bookassist, Avvio, and Koddi will help you manage budgets, track attribution, and understand market dynamics. 8. Website live chat/chatbots: Potential guests shopping on your website want answers now - without needing to pick up the phone. A chatbot, like one from Asksuite, Quicktext, or Whistle, use artificial intelligence to answer guest questions quickly and accurately, plus capture leads and increase conversion on your website. 9. Hotel CRM: Your database of guest email addresses is a gold mine - if you can leverage it strategically. A CRM system, such as Revinate, Profitroom, and dailypoint 360, allows you to capture email addresses on your website, send automated messages throughout the guest’s journey, create segments of profiles with specific characteristics, and analyze open rates, click-through rates, and conversion.   F&B and MICE The food and beverage and meetings and events components of the hotel industry have their own technology solutions too. Whether you’re trying to streamline your room service offerings or support citywide conferences in a maze of meeting spaces, you can find software to help you execute any type of service or event. 1. Restaurant management: In order to run a restaurant smoothly, restaurateurs leverage point-of-sale software to manage stock in real-time, handle transactions, reserve tables, run reports, and more. Popular restaurant management software includes Vento ePOS, Oracle MICROS, and Lightspeed POS. 2. Mobile ordering and room service: Contactless service is the latest trend in F&B, but it seems likely to become the norm. Mobile ordering systems, such as Bbot, RoomOrders, and SABA F&B Ordering, allow restaurants to upload digital menus, accept online orders, and receive contactless payments, and customers can feel confident in more efficient service and accurate orders and bills. 3. Meetings and events intelligence: This category of software aims to help hoteliers maximize their meetings and events business by understanding market dynamics, uncovering insights about attendees, and optimizing pricing and space usage. Top meetings and events intelligence tools include Blockbuster by Duetto, IDeaS (SmartSpace), and Get Into More. 4. Group sourcing and RFP tools: Without software to assist, the RFP process is tedious. RFP software, such as Proposales, MeetingPackage, and Venuesuite, moves this process online and helps you to automate it, making all the back-and-forth more efficient and helping sales teams reach their goals. 5. Event management: Software doesn’t just help your sales team seal the deal, but also to plan and execute the event itself. Event Temple, Tripleseat, EVENTMACHINE, and others provide functionality to send proposals, get e-signatures, manage traces, communicate with clients, and create and edit BEOs and agendas.   Looking for more resources on hotel industry software? Download the free 2021 HotelTechIndex Market Leaders Report.

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How Smart-Room Tablets Can Fill in Gaps for a Reduced Staff

by
Pilar Caballero
2 weeks ago

In 2020, the hospitality industry had to quickly jump on board with mobile platforms as a result of the pandemic requiring a focus on contactless options. After a year of focusing almost exclusively on mobile, the topic on everyone's mind now is the industry-wide staffing shortage. For many hoteliers, conversations around investing in new tech have been put on the back burner in the scramble to address staffing issues. But staffing concerns and contactless tech are not unrelated; in fact, smart-room tablets specifically have a lot to offer reduced staff teams to elevate guest experience and, for properties with mobile platforms, complement existing tech.   The Lean Team’s Perfect Companion First and foremost, a smart-room tablet is an information hub that frees up valuable time for staff. It provides quick communications, service requests, and updates. It can take over the role of compendium and act as an in-room concierge—all while remaining easy to maintain and update. And with tablets creating better staff workflows and saving employee hours, a reduced staff can spend their time attending to in-person needs. Replacing clunky physical compendiums with digital compendiums saves staff from having to manually update information. Instead of needing to print out new sheets and replace them in every room for even a minor update, your staff can add changes at any time, with just a few taps. Beyond that, there’s also a huge potential for new revenue; in-room tablets offer a landing point for high-impact visuals for promotions—if there’s something you want to make sure your guests see, this is the place to put it.   The Always Available, In-Room Helper One problem facing the entire industry in the wake of staffing shortages, is inability to have the same standard of personalized guest experience as when all positions are filled. For hoteliers looking for solutions to add a personal touch to every guest’s stay, tablets can help. It can be as simple as setting a custom greeting to welcome them by name when they walk into their room for the first time. Or, for an even more luxurious experience: putting temperature controls and a digital compendium within an arm’s reach of their bed, offering a dedicated in-room device that can meet their needs any time of the day or night. Both a practical tool and a luxury experience, tablets offer an opportunity for hotels to go above and beyond to impress guests, without adding extra work for staff. And for properties that don’t have an app, the tablet can be a one-stop shop for dining, amenities, service requests, and more. Smart-room tablets provide nearly all of the benefits of an app, while remaining easily accessible to guests and requiring little upkeep from staff.   Meet the Perfect Mobile Companion For properties that do have a mobile platform, tablets offer a more holistic digital experience for guests when they are in their room. As guests continue to become more tech-savvy, dedicated in-room devices for all things information, communication, and control is right up their alley. Mobile and tablets work together to make the guest experience as smooth and simple as possible at every step in the guest journey. It's a better experience, one that facilitates better service and builds guest loyalty. Plus, one distinct and powerful advantage smart-room tablets have over mobile tech is a nearly 99% guest engagement rate.1 One thing you can know for sure when looking to invest in in-room tech: if the tablet is there, guests will use it. So there you have it. Without an app, tablets provide the convenience and communication opportunities of an app plus the extra features exclusive to the in-room experience. And paired with an app, smart-room tablets create a holistic digital experience for both guests and staff. Either way, tablets can help shoulder the burden of having reduced staff while heightening the guest experience overall.    1 Internal INTELITY reporting and customer data, 2021.

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4 Hotel Tech Tools for the Post-Pandemic Travel Surge

by
Sandra Holland
2 weeks ago

It’s no secret that the travel industry was one of the most prominent industries affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact, the U.S Association of Travel reported that the United States lost around $500 billion in travel spend, and the United Nations World Tourism Organization reported international tourism plummeting between 20%-30% in 2020. But it’s not only airlines within the industry who suffered.  Hoteliers too, have felt the devastating effects on their bottom line. With more than one third of hotels claiming bankruptcy in 2020 and 77% laying off critical workers, McKinsey and Company declared hotels “among the hardest hit” during the pandemic.  2020 was undeniably a tumultuous time for hoteliers, however, with vaccines rolling out and safety measures improving around the globe, the future for hospitality looks more bright than bleak. In fact, it was predicted by Statista that “as a result of increasingly affordable flight rates and cheaper oil prices, passenger and cargo air traffic are estimated to grow substantially through 2039.” What’s more, McKinsey and Company predicted revenue per available hotel room (RevPAR) returning to very near pre-crisis levels in 2022. With a more than devastating past few years, the coming months will remain pivotal time for hotels to harness in order to prepare for a surge in travel and return to a thriving business. In that case and in order to prepare you for an influx of guests with new preferences, we’re sharing our top tools to consider, in a post-Covid world, so you can maintain efficiency and build customer satisfaction.   4 Tools to Consider For The Post-Pandemic Era Over the course of 2020, the number of customers opting for technology to combat face to face communication, increased radically. Social media grew as a customer service channel, check-in and check-outs became streamlined through online portals and QR codes created a safe and effective way for customers to place orders.  During the pandemic, technology wasn’t a nice to have, but rather a necessity in order to communicate and win customers. McKinsey even reported that the “responses to COVID-19 sped the adoption of digital technologies by several years—and that many of these changes could be here for the long haul.” In addition, according to Gursoy’s, COVID-19 Study 2 Report: Restaurant and Hotel Industry, the majority of hotel customers (70.42%) believe that the use of various technologies in service delivery is necessary in the COVID-19 environment in order to minimize human-to-human contact. Some examples include; service robots, digital menus that can be viewed on personal mobile devices via QR codes, contactless digital payments, keyless entry, touchless elevators, etc. For hotels, the next year will be a critical time to set a foundation of service and enhanced experience in order to win loyalty. In this next section, to support your hotel endeavours with the influx of customers, we’ll take a look at technology-based tools to help meet customer needs and streamline operations for maximum efficiency. Safety Satisfaction Measurement According to McKinsey and Company, when asked “what it would take to get [travelers] to travel again, most stated additional health and safety measures.” Post-pandemic, an integral part of improving satisfaction and maintaining hotel operations, will be the need for improved safety measures. This means, following regulations, taking extra precaution and then measuring guest satisfaction to see how you’ve performed. Measurement will be a key factor here, as you can understand critical touch points like room cleanliness, satisfaction with contactless check-in, ease of check-in with rapid tests, room service and more, to continuously improve the experience. Self-Service Options Even before the pandemic, people around the world were shifting towards a more digital approach to business interaction. The pandemic, in this instance, simply accelerated that pace, pressuring businesses to consider innovative ways to incorporate technology. For hotels, self service options will be paramount in a thriving customer experience. Whether it be in the form of a chatbot on your website answering frequently asked questions, a portal on your website for check in and check out, or an OnDemand ordering system for room service. By having self-service options in place, you reduce employee error and meet customers where they are for a streamlined journey.  Consolidated Messaging  As a result of shifting to digital capabilities, McKinsey also noted the acceleration of digitized customer interactions. A whopping 3 years ahead of its time, customers have quickly adopted contactless communication channels like guest messaging via text, Facebook Messenger, email, WhatsApp and more, in order to adhere to new regulations and increase the feeling of safety.  With these new preferences, a digital inbox, or messaging platform with a centralized inbox will become imperative to meet the influx of digital channels. It’s important to note that we are specifically referring to an inbox that can retrieve a number of different channel types in one consolidated inbox. This will make responding easy and efficient for employees, as toggling through different tabs or windows will become daunting in an era where customers are regularly channel hopping.  Task and Ticketing Software In addition to customer facing technology, back of house, or operational software will also become an essential tool to ensure all functions are running smoothly and managers are able to keep the experience thriving. For many hotels, ticketing software may already be in place, however for the post-pandemic era, an intuitive software will be essential. Not only does an intuitive ticketing platform provide housekeeping, reception, restaurant staff and more, accountable through real-time tags and mentions, but it also ensures everyone has visibility into tasks to identify time-saving opportunities. In addition, it adheres to contactless preferences. Employees can communicate via staff collaboration software without ever having to meet - lessening the number of interactions and bolstering employee confidence.    Final Thoughts Almost everyone, in some capacity, has been affected by the COVID-19 virus. It was unprecedented and many suffered. Although adopting technologies and being hyper aware of the current situation is key, it’s also very important to be cognisant of guest feelings and unease. For the post-pandemic era, flexibility and understanding should be paramount in the new travel experience. This means taking a new stance on cancellation policies, allowing flexibility with trip modifications, actively listening to your customers, acknowledging frustrations and making a point to do better. Working hand in hand with your biggest advocates, your team, and new guests, you can strengthen your operations and propel your hotel to deliver a memorable post-pandemic guest experience.

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What Will the Future of Hotel Sustainability Look Like?

by
Gregor Herz
3 weeks ago

Climate change has been in the news again recently with a very stark warning from the UN's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). They concluded that global temperatures are rising at an unprecedented rate and that this should be considered a “code red for humanity”, according to UN chief, Antonio Guterres.  There have been strong indications that many areas previously thought to be low risk from the effects of climate change are now being affected. Recently, Greece—one of the Mediterranean’s top destinations—experienced the worst wildfires in living memory. Earlier this year, the west of Germany and surrounding countries saw extensive flash flooding and soil erosion that claimed the lives of over 180 people. 150 are still missing. And in Canada and the northwest United States, temperatures reached 49.6C (121.3F). The resulting wildfires and extreme temperatures are together thought to be responsible for over 1000 deaths in the region. Whole towns have been wiped off the map as a result.  With such damning evidence of the consequences of climate change, there are changes that need to be made across all industries. According to the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance, 1% of the world’s carbon emissions result from the hotel industry. 1% is a substantial chunk and as tourism continues to grow, this share or the world’s carbon emissions that hotels are responsible for will likely increase. What can hotels do to help contribute to a greener, more sustainable world? We’ve put together 5 ways hotels can become more sustainable in the future.   1. Focus on rewilding  Hotels rely heavily on tourism, and tourism relies heavily on beautiful scenery, wonderful wildlife, and clear oceans. The climate crisis has raised awareness of the need for rewilding. Rewilding means allowing areas of land to be left untouched indefinitely to enable parts of the natural world to regenerate to their former glory. Rewilding doesn’t only increase native fauna and flora, it also helps create carbon sinks that take carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and release oxygen back into the atmosphere. As people try to reduce the concentration of carbon dioxide in the Earth’s atmosphere, rewilding is an important and cost-effective weapon against global warming. Rewilding also protects regions from natural disasters such as flooding and landslides. The increased legislation binds with the soil to ensure it’s locked in place, and the natural barristers caused by trees and bushes helps reduce the impact of floodwaters that accumulate on land developed by humans. The hotel industry needs to start raising awareness and supporting the rewilding movement if they want to continue to benefit from the pristine scenery that’s so crucial to attracting guests. This includes lobbying for international cooperation on creating rewilding zones around the world on land and in the oceans. Educating guests at hotels on the importance of these initiatives will help drive support for rewilding from the general public, ultimately helping hotel businesses thrive in the future and improve conditions for humans everywhere.   2. Reduce the impact of hotels on the environment Hotels use huge amounts of resources to run their business. Even when there are very few guests staying, the hotel still needs to provide heating, lighting, and restaurant services to guests. These are examples of energy-intensive requirements that hotels always need to provide no matter the number of guests staying at any one time. To reduce their impact on the environment, hotels need to invest in solutions that enable guests to make environmentally-friendly choices during their trips. By offering guests the chance to drive the green revolution in hotels, the perception of the level of service that hotels offer won’t suffer—guests don’t like being told they need to make changes, but if they choose to make them themselves, they’re much more likely to view them favorably. An example of how modern technology can enable guests to make more eco-conscious decisions is SuitePad’s Green Option. Using push notifications the Green Option works much like the traditional “do not clean” sign on the door, but due to its digital format, it actively encourages guests and can notify them of the impact their choice can have on the environment. Some hotels also offer small incentives such as vouchers or free drinks to incentivize guests to make this choice. These types of features will soon start to become more commonplace at hotels as they seek to become more eco-friendly.   3. Rediscovering the staycation The term “staycation” is synonymous with the COVID-19 pandemic, but it could be here to stay. While vacationing locally or within your own country was a good way of helping reduce the transmission of the virus, it’s also an effective way of reducing travelers’ carbon footprint. With hydrogen power aircraft and solar-powered vehicles still a long way off, there’s a real incentive to reduce consumer carbon emissions. One return flight from Europe to the US produces as much carbon dioxide as the average vehicle owner produces from their car in a year. And this problem can’t be sorted with short-haul flights. In fact, short-haul flights are just about the most environmentally damaging way of traveling as airplanes use huge amounts of fuel to get off the ground. If you’re only traveling a few hundred miles, short-haul flights clock up the highest CO2 per mile ratio besides space travel. For hotels, this may mean switching their focus to people visiting from more locally. In places like Europe, this may be stretched to people from other countries that can be easily connected by train. By making tourism more local, the industry can significantly reduce carbon emissions, but it will take input from the airlines, hotel, and restaurant industries to achieve this. The good news is that this may not last forever. Engineers around the world are working on producing much more efficient and eco-friendly forms of travel including solar-powered cars and hydrogen-powered aircraft. Major advances in battery technology have also made electric cars much better than most people thought possible, and if this technology is adapted for airplanes and they are charged using renewably produced electricity, global air travel will enter a whole new, eco-friendly era.   4. Redefining extravagance Some of the most greenhouse gas-producing aspects of tourism are equated with decadence and luxury. Superyachts, for example, contribute a huge amount of carbon emissions and ocean garbage build up in some of the world’s more important ocean ecosystems. Despite this damage being well documented, there is very little currently being done to reduce these contributions, and the demand for chartering superyachts is on the increase. Of course, superyachts are not the only contributing factor, but they are a good example of how the modern superrich lifestyles of many people can contribute to climate change. Instead, there needs to be a shift in what extravagance and luxury really mean. It needs to be cool, exciting, and ultimately, desirable, for hotel guests to notably reduce their impact on the environment. This could come in the form of encouraging them to pay towards charity organizations when they book their vacation, or it could come in the form of making taking the time to actively contribute to rewilding projects while they’re on vacation. Rather than yachting over the world’s most pristine coral reefs,  why don’t we encourage people to take the time to contribute to coral reef rebuilding projects? These kinds of activities need to be prioritized and rebranded as attractive representations of extravagance if we are to help reduce the hotel and tourist industry’s impact on the environment.   5. Moderating business travel Before the pandemic, business travel was a common feature of a globalized business world. But, the increase in the need for video conferencing technology has shown that businesses can significantly cut the need for travel. In the future, businesses will need to make decisions as to whether it’s worthwhile or environmentally sustainable to send staff abroad for business trips when the meeting or conferences they are attending could easily be done online.  The reduction in business travel will also likely have an impact on the demand for business hotels, meaning that many business hotel owners will need to diversify their business to offer services to non-business guests.   Understanding the future of hotel sustainability Hotel sustainability will hinge on using innovative technology, changing attitudes, and moderating expectations. But, with time, new more sustainable travel and hospitality technology will enable hotels to return to operations much like we have today. Until then, it’s imperative that hotels do their bit in trying to reduce their impact on the environment.

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4 Common Hospitality Tech Stack Pitfalls (and How to Avoid Them)

by
Matthew Lynch
2 months ago

In the age of technology, connectivity is critical to property and brand-wide success—and it affects every aspect of rising industry trends around security and mobile payments. To find the right vendors and put the right tech in place, you need the right information. You need to know how the tech you’re looking at is going to integrate with the systems you already have in place. So before anything else, view the tech through the lens of your SOPs. What would a day in the life of your staff look like? Are there significant gaps in functionality or connectivity? If so, it’s a no-go right from the start. If not, it’s time to dig into specifics. Here are four key pitfalls for hoteliers to know and avoid in order to find success:   1. Hotels have more technology than ever—and when systems don’t communicate, the business consequences can be devastating. Between your PMS, POS, and staff collaboration tools, there’s plenty to worry about. Add in guest-facing tech and hotels can suddenly have more different solutions than time to sift through them. And if a single cog in the machine isn’t working in conjunction with other things, it can be a disaster for operations. Before signing up with a new vendor, make sure what they’re offering will integrate with the critical systems your property already uses on a daily basis. Your tech should maximize your staff’s efficiency, not add extra stress or unnecessary steps. To further ensure a quality integration, look for a vendor that builds their integrations directly. A more advanced integration is much more likely to be certified or otherwise validated by others.   2. When operations suffer due to bad integrations and siloed data, the guest experience suffers as well. When systems don’t communicate, information is either duplicated or never shared at all causing guest requests to never get fulfilled or get fulfilled twice. And this isn’t something staff can be expected to handle or track. The reality is, many simpler integrations pass less information which creates a shallow and less efficient system. Make sure you are getting integrations with depth—the more information your systems can share the better. If you want to ensure the vendor you are looking at has effective integration and consistent guest satisfaction, go to the source. Ask to speak to a customer who is currently using the integrations you need. Get your questions answered by someone who can vouch for how things affect the guest experience and day-to-day operations.   3. Security is absolutely essential to connectivity. Here’s what to watch out for on that front.  If a vendor declines a security audit, there’s a reason. A good place to start is by asking if their integrations meet industry standards from organizations like HTNG (Hospitality Technology Next Generation) or OTA (OpenTravel Alliance). Are they directly involved with those industry organizations? And find out if they have regular security audits. No confident vendor declines a security audit. They aren’t easy for anyone, but they’re necessary and they exist for a reason. You need to know if their system is secure. Declining an audit is a huge problem and an indicator a vendor may not be all they say they are. Seasoned vendors will understand that request from the beginning.   4. Payments are among the highest levels of integration to achieve and the thing everyone wants right now. Payments are the most in-demand integration: are the vendors you’re looking at prepared? If a vendor has payments capabilities right now, that’s an indicator they’re advanced and up to speed on the latest developments in hospitality. Ask: Do they process or facilitate mobile payments—namely, do they leverage a PCI-compliant payment gateway that has authorization and settlement capabilities specifically for lodging? If they do, huge green light. If not, a little worrying. Beyond the overall importance of connectivity and how it affects trends like security and payments, buyers should be looking for a trustworthy vendor above all else, and knowing which questions to ask during the buying process plays a key role in determining that. So there you have it: those are some of the red flags you should be watching for—but what are the green flags? If you want to find a vendor partner that goes above and beyond, there are two quick things to check for: a dedicated team for integrations and a product roadmap that demonstrates ongoing commitment to innovation. If a vendor has both of those things, they’re likely not just good at what they do, but great at it. For more in-depth vendor questions, check out 10 Questions to Ask Vendors Before Your Next Purchase.  

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Netflix Casting, Digital Games, and the Future of Digital Entertainment in the Hotel Room

by
Gregor Herz
4 months ago

Keeping guests entertained has always been part of a hotel’s requirements—especially at resort and leisure hotels. Evening entertainment, free cable TV, and on-site activities such as table tennis or pool were all classic hotel entertainment options, but what will the 21st century bring for hotel entertainment? Outside the world of hotels, digital entertainment has grown to become the largest media industry in the world. The video game market is valued at a staggering $65 billion in the US this year alone, and Netflix earned a whopping $25 billion in revenue in 2020, and 2021 looks set to be another bumper year. But, with such drastic changes happening outside of the hotel room, it’s about time more efforts were made to bring entertainment like Netflix casting, digital games, and other forms of modern digital media to the hotel room. In this article, we’ll highlight just how hoteliers can utilize modern digital media channels to improve the stay for hotel guests and bring the hotel experience in line with the modern world.   Bringing Hotel Rooms into the 21st Century As things currently stand, hotel rooms usually have a TV with access to cable or satellite TV subscriptions, but beyond this, there’s usually very little in hotel rooms to keep hotel guests entertained while they’re there. Now, you may be asking, “why would a guest stay in a hotel just to spend their time in the room? Surely they’ll spend most of their time outdoors?”. This is a valid argument, but what if the weather is bad for their entire stay? What if they have young children who need to be constantly kept entertained? Or what if the idea of chilling out in a hotel room, catching up on their favorite Netflix shows, and ordering room service, is what appeals to them the most? By assuming that there’s a low demand from guests to have access to modern digital media in the hotel room, hoteliers are unwittingly losing out on the potential to drive revenue from in-house outlets. If hoteliers keep guests engaged and content in their hotel room, they’re more likely to stay on-site, and maybe order room service or decide to eat in the hotel restaurant. This is a massive financial incentive for hoteliers to improve the level of digital entertainment in hotel rooms.   Casting Netflix and Other Platforms Straight to the Hotel TV  With account-based streaming now being the preferred way for many people to consume their favorite shows, it opens up a new array of possibilities for hoteliers. Casting—when a user streams content from their personal device to another device like a TV—is a hugely popular form of watching shows on platforms such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, Hulu, and Disney+. However, due to security concerns over the possibility of guests’ account details being stolen, many hotels don’t offer this cutting-edge technology. For hoteliers that really want to offer their guests a seamless experience, where they can continue watching Tiger King or The Queens Gambit in their hotel room from where they left off at home, there are some solutions out there. SuitePad’s SuiteCast solution, for example, gets around the security issue by automatically logging out and deleting any user details data between guest stays, effectively overcoming one of the biggest blockers for this kind of technology. By enabling guests to take their home streaming experience into the hotel room, hoteliers will demonstrate that they understand what guests really want—more control over their hotel stay experience. If guests want to spend their time adventuring outdoors, that’s fine, but equally, if guests want to stay in their room, binge-watching The House Wives of Beverly Hills and ordering room service, there should be nothing stopping them!   Digital Gaming in the Hotel Room Of course, watching TV isn’t the only pastime people enjoy—gaming is now one of the biggest multimedia activities in the world. Yet, this is another feature that many hotel rooms lack. Access to high-speed internet and the development of state-of-the-art gaming systems means people can now fight dragons, play football, or race cars with their friends in a virtual world. So why haven’t hotels adapted to add gaming to the hotel room experience? One answer could be down to logistics. Many hotels lack the WiFi infrastructure necessary to enable high-speed gaming in all rooms. With the development of high-speed internet and 5G moving at an incredible rate, it won’t be long before this barrier is overcome, but for the time being, this is a realistic barrier for hoteliers. Another answer is that hoteliers currently have no way of ensuring that guest’s details are kept private. Much like using a Netflix of Amazon Prime account, gamers store sensitive data on online profiles that allows them to play from wherever they are. The problem for hotels is that there are currently no solutions that allow guests to log into their Playstation, Xbox, or Steam account with the knowledge that they will be securely logged out. As gaming becomes equally as big as watching TV in the modern world, hotel tech companies will need to think of ways to bring high-quality gaming into the hotel room in a secure and convenient way. This is one area that we expect will develop in the next five years or so.  However, not all guests crave fast graphics and online gaming. Many guest room solutions actually enable guests to play simple games in the hotel room—and they are very popular. The popularity of these simple yet addictive games just goes to show that there is a demand for gaming in the hotel room. Data from SuitePad, which provides games on their guest room tablets, shows that many people still enjoy playing games as a pastime. The most popular game played on SuitePad devices in 2020 was Memory, which clocked up over 100,000 sessions among hotel guests using SuitePad devices. In second and third places came Sudoku and Chess which both clocked in at just over 76,000 sessions. Considering this was a year when fewer people were staying in hotels, these numbers suggest that there is a demand for more interactive entertainment options for guests in the hotel room. It also shows that despite being offered more modern games such as Angry Birds, many guests still prefer the timeless classics.   Providing Convenience by Giving Guests More Control There are things hoteliers can do right now to make the in-room entertainment experience more convenient for guests. For example, centralizing some of the hotel room’s features is a good example. Many people actually now use their smartphones to control their TV, and it won’t be long before many TV companies phase TV controls out altogether—they’re just another unnecessary piece of equipment cluttering people’s homes. Using smart devices to control TVs also enables a much greater depth of control. For example, you can search for programs using filters such as genre and language, and you can have an overview of the TV schedule on your smart device screen rather than needing to flick through channels to find something to watch. These solutions are already available for hotels. SuitePad TV Control is one example, but this feature is also popular across many in-room tech providers. For hotels that want to quickly improve the in-room entertainment experience that guests have at their hotel, this is a great quick win that can be implemented at short notice and for a nominal fee.   Breaking into the Digital Hotel Room Market Although there are many options out there for hoteliers, it’s important that they still offer some of the original in-room entertainment options that guests have come to expect. Right now, not everyone has a Netflix subscription, so hotels should still offer cable TV options. However, as more and more services continue to be offered on digital platforms, cable TV, and other legacy entertainment options will become obsolete. In this sense, investing in digital entertainment options for your hotel should be done sooner rather than later, as your competitors will soon be making these investments, and you don’t want to be left behind at a time when the industry is going through such profound change. If you’re an enthusiastic and innovative hotelier, you’ll need to start assessing your future hotel room entertainment options now. No doubt offering innovative entertainment ideas will drive business, but whether you are a hotel chain or an independent hotel, creating these high standards will make you and your brand an industry leader. If you’re serious about offering better hotel room entertainment, now is the time to strike, because this space is soon to be one of the hottest areas in modern hotel technology.  

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How to Select the Right Restaurant Ordering System at Your Hotel

by
Hotel Tech Report
4 months ago

 Today’s traveler can book their flight, reserve a stay, and even unlock their guest room via apps on their smartphone - but what about ordering a burger at your hotel?  In a recent survey, 47% of travelers say they would be more likely to order room service or dine-in a hotel restaurant if mobile ordering were available. Overall, guest preferences are increasingly shifting towards contactless options, there’s no better time to implement an online ordering system for guests. In fact, 87% of Americans who use food delivery apps say that mobile ordering technology has made their lives easier.  That convenience also translates into direct P&L impact where mobile ordering is proven to boost average order values.  The best part is that the world has gone appless meaning that your guests can place orders directly in your hotel's POS system without ever downloading an ordering app onto their device. Guests anywhere in your hotel’s ecosystem should be able to order with a few clicks whether they’re at the restaurant, pool, in-room, on the beach, or even the golf course. While mobile ordering might seem like a no-brainer, choosing the right restaurant or room service ordering system can be a daunting task. In this article, we’ll walk you through the essential steps to follow as you research and ultimately implement a system that’s best for your unique property. Let’s get started!   Develop an Initial Business Case for Online Orders at Your Hotel or Restaurant Before making changes to your tech stack and SOPs, it’s crucial to ensure all key stakeholders are on the same page. The first step in implementing a mobile ordering system is to actually clarify why - and if - you need one. Set up a discussion with anyone involved in the decision, including not only restaurant managers, servers, and the F&B director, but also representatives from the front office (who will undoubtedly need to answer guest questions about the system), the finance team (who will handle a new billing process), and IT (who will help to implement the system).  “Working more than 100 of the leading hospitality brands like Marriott, Hilton, and Intercontinental we typically find that modern hospitality businesses demand a lightweight solution to sell food and beverage offerings on guests’ own devices.  Operators are looking for app-less solutions that don’t require downloads and they are demanding rapid low-cost rollouts,” says RoomOrders CEO Eugene B. Jones. In this discussion, you’ll want to refine your goal: why do you want a new restaurant ordering? And why now? It’s also worthwhile to discuss the pros and cons of your current technology vendors to get a sense of existing pain points and opportunities for improvement. Want to educate yourself further before speaking with your team members? Check out the 2021 Guide to Mobile Ordering Software.   Set Measurable Goals Prior to Engaging Potential Technology Vendors How will you know if your mobile ordering system is delivering the results you want? Setting measurable goals is one of the most important steps as you explore mobile ordering at your hotel. Your goals should include a specific target and a timeframe in which you want to reach them. For example, is your primary goal to increase average order value? Maybe you set a goal to grow order value by 50% in the next six months. Perhaps you want to decrease room service response time by 80% over the next quarter. Or you might want to boost overall restaurant order volume by the end of the year. According to Mr. Jones, RoomOrders increased in-room dining checks by 40% at the Hilton Boston Downtown and 122% at the Hilton Sydney.  It’s important to set aggressive yet attainable goals based on the success of similar properties.     Gather Data to Understand Your Restaurant KPI's Prior to Mobile Ordering Now that you have your goals, how will you know when you meet them? Before implementing a new system, make sure to gather benchmark data related to the goals you’ve set. If you plan to increase your average order size, then you’ll want to pull a report showing your current average order size - and maybe average order size over the last year or two so you can understand seasonal fluctuations. As you gather this data, create a list of your other software partners (like your PMS or POS) that would require integrations with the new restaurant ordering system. Ideally, data from the restaurant ordering system would flow seamlessly into your existing tech to make reporting a breeze.   Build a Vendor Shortlist of the Best Restaurant Online Ordering Systems Once you’ve established the goals you want to reach and have gotten buy-in from all of the relevant teams, the real research begins. By reading user reviews, case studies, and articles written by industry experts, you can get a good picture of the mobile ordering system landscape. You can also uncover some nuggets of information from your own network; hoteliers who have implemented ordering systems for their own restaurants can be great resources to answer any questions and provide references. “When choosing between vendors you’ll want to test ordering functionality to ensure the best possible user experience for guests.  You’ll also want to compare business models and forecast fees based on various levels of income.  For some hotels, a flat subscription is preferable and others prefer a per-transaction fee to align incentives.  You’ll also want to explore back-office functionality and reporting capabilities to optimize your business mix over time.” said Jean Baptiste Pigeon, a 37-year veteran hotelier, who has led IHG branded properties across Europe, Asia, Middle East, and Africa, and now advises RoomOrders. As you conduct research, you’ll find that different systems offer some different features and functionality. It’s helpful to create a list of features you want and score them based on importance. With this priority list, you can objectively compare the specs of various systems to determine whether they might be a good fit for your hotel. Features to consider include: Online menu content management system Mobile payments Upselling and add-ons QR code scanning Analytics and real-time reporting PMS and POS integrations Credit cards and online payments Mobile app download required Guest facing ordering experience Kiosk ordering solution add-ons like iPads or Android tablets Ready to start your shortlist? Head to our list of the 10 Best Mobile Ordering Software Vendors.   Participate in Demos and Get Price Quotes Once you've studied up on the category, the best way to determine whether a system is right for your hotel and your needs is to compare different systems. As you narrow down systems of interest, you’ll want to schedule demos and see the software tools in action. During demo sessions, keep an eye out for a few things: User experience: Is the interface user-friendly? Is it easy to learn how to use the system? You certainly don’t want your new restaurant ordering system to make your restaurant service slower.  You'll also want to make sure it's easy for guests to order and checkout on their devices. Data reporting capabilities: What analytical features does the system include? How can you pull reporting that shows your average order value, order volume, response time, and other key metrics? Without reporting, you won’t know if you’re meeting your goals, so this functionality is critical. Ease of updating content: How easily can you change the price, description, or photo associated with a menu item? What about controlling which menu items show in certain timeframes through the day? You’ll want a system that allows for as much flexibility as you need - and makes it easy to perform updates to keep your menus current. Customer service: Where do you go for help? Will you receive a dedicated account manager? Is there a 24/7 support hotline you can call? Or is customer support limited to a ticket queue? Based on your hotel’s needs, you might want to look for systems with more hands-on support. Look for HotelTechReport’s Customer Support Certification badge for confidence that the system offers solid options when you need assistance. At this stage, you’ll also talk about monthly fees to determine which system makes the most sense for your budget. Some systems operate on a monthly subscription model, while others charge a commission (either % of revenue or a flat fee per order). Take the time to model out the pricing for your restaurant over the next year or beyond; how much commission would you pay if you achieve your revenue growth goals? How much would you pay in subscription fees? Knowing how much you’ll pay over time can help you make a future-proof decision. “Our main consideration was the level of commitment and risk involved before we could witness significant improvement in our operations and guest experience,” said Food and Beverage Director at the luxurious Hotel Fairmont Rey Juan Carlos I in Barcelona, Angelo Vassallo. “We decided upon a solution [RoomOrders] that offered enterprise software with free implementation, zero investment costs and immediate results, as well as no lock-in contracts.”  Finally, as you close in on that ideal software, make sure to test it out in the wild. Ask for a demo account, then ask real guests to take it for a test drive. By watching guests place orders and listening to their feedback, you can get a sense of the system’s true benefits and costs. Do guests find it confusing? Does the system encounter a glitch? Or is it totally effortless? Even the most feature-packed system can hurt your restaurant’s performance if it’s not truly user-friendly. Ready to start your search for a restaurant ordering system? Check out our list of the 10 best mobile ordering systems for hotels based on verified reviews from your peers.     This content was created collaboratively by RoomOrders and Hotel Tech Report.

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The 9 Most Futuristic High Tech Hotels in the World

by
Hotel Tech Report
5 months ago

The pandemic accelerated technological transformation across the hospitality industry. Contactless has become a must-have, fitness centers have gone virtual, guest communications have moved to mobile, and self-service has become standard. While some hotels found themselves rapidly deploying new technologies, other hotels have been playing the tech-long game for years. Here are some of the world’s most notable high-tech hotels. We've covered the tech strategies of great hotel groups like Viceroy and Noble House who implement everything from contactless check-in to digital concierge but this article focuses on some more wacky tech implementations with a bit of focus on form over function.  This list features some pretty cool hi-tech gadgets and hotel room amenities that go above and beyond the typical flat-screen tv.  Some of the cutting-edge technology on this list may off-put more traditional travelers but will undoubtedly hit the spot for tech-savvy millennials. Rather than layer technology onto the operation, these properties embed technology into the fabric of the operation, making it a focal point and key feature. Some use it as an Instagrammable moment at a specific location while others structure their entire brand around the tech-enabled guest experience. Either way, technology is front-and-center at these hotels.   Henn Na Hotel, Japan “The Robot Hotel” Tokyo has become the marquee high-tech hotel. The brand concept is “commitment to evolution,” which appears across its operation in the form of robots. Lots of robots! The brand claims to be the world’s first hotel staffed by robots -- and there’s really no disputing that, as guests are greeted by robots at the front desk. At one property, the front desk is even staffed by dinosaur robots and iPad kiosks, which is quite the experience.     Other high-tech features at some locations include a robot barista frothing lattes, espressos and teas, as well as a 360-degree VR space for guests to immerse themselves in virtual reality experiences. The hotel is also fully enabled with Wifi powered facial recognition, which eliminates the need for a hotel key altogether. Guests can access the property, and their individual guest rooms, seamlessly using biometrics. Very futuristic, indeed!   YOTEL, New York City The YOTEL brand has been synonymous with technology since it opened its doors near  Times Square. The showstopper was a massive robot arm dominating the lobby, providing automated luggage storage for guests (as well as safety deposit boxes to store valuables). The YOBOT also provides self-service check-in, which puts the brand far ahead of today’s contactless guest experience.   The rooms -- called cabins -- may be small, but YOTEL uses technology to deliver its promise to “give you everything you need, and nothing you don’t.” This includes Smart TVs so that guests can connect their own devices and choose their own entertainment. The guest rooms also use motorized beds as space-savers and motion-activated sensors for lighting and AC to reduce carbon emissions. It’s all about efficiency, delivering an outsized guest experience in even the smallest spaces.   Blow Up Hall 5050, Poland The Blow Up Hall 50/50 is an impressive mix of form and function. Designed by BAFTA-award-winning artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer, the hotel combines a restaurant, bar, gallery, and hotel into a unique vibe. There are several digital art installations, including a commentary on surveillance capitalism embedded right within the lobby.    The property eliminates the traditional touchstones of the hotel experience: there’s no front desk. The guest’s smartphone provides access to the property, from check-in to room keys to staff communications. The phone also acts as a room finder: after opening the app, the assigned room lights up and the door unlocks automatically. It’s these small tech flourishes that reinforce the property’s sense of mystery and intrigue.   Hotel Zetta, San Francisco At the center of Silicon Valley, the centerpiece of Hotel Zetta is most definitely its virtual reality room in the lobby. Designed by a local tech startup (naturally), the VR cube gives guests a fully-immersive opportunity to experience virtual reality. There are also Nintendo Switch consoles and Oculus VR headsets available so guests can experience next-generation technology in the comfort of their rooms.      Other tech touchstones include a vintage Atari Pong table in the Zetta Suite, which is modernized to include both the classic game and a Bluetooth speaker to play personal playlists. Each guest room is also equipped with Alexa-enabled voice control in every room. Guests can order a meal from room service, set an alarm or learn about on-property dining specials.    Kameha Grand, Zurich The Kameha Grand isn’t one of those kitschy places that you’re embarrassed to stay at. Quite the opposite: the high-end “lifestyle hotel” is part of Marriott’s Autograph collection. And, with rooms designed by Marcel Wenders, it’s got all of the trappings of a luxury property. Rooms     Our favorite rooms are, of course, the Space Suites. It’s the most futuristic room type on this list because it quite literally connects to space. The in-room TV features a live feed from NASA TV so that you can fuel those space dreams. The atmospheric vibes will contribute to that dreamy feel, with “outer space furnishings have been designed down to the smallest detail with a floating bed, pictures of galaxies, hovering astronauts and models of rockets.” Far out!   Virgin Hotels  The Virgin Hotel brand has always been tech-forward and guest-centric. Even prior to the pandemic, the brand empowered guests to control their own experiences right from the palm of their hand. Now, those features are dramatically expanded to be even more contactless.     Named Lucy, the app allows guests to skip check-in, using their phone to select rooms and unlock doors. Guests can also use the app to order room service, adjust room temperature, control entertainment (in-room streaming and Apple Music), plan their trip around the city, or even follow custom exercise routines by Fitbod. Following on smartly with its brand promise, the app also offers three preset lighting modes for guestrooms:  Get Lit for full brightness, Get in the Mood for dimmed relaxation, and Do Not Disturb for sleep. By putting all of these elements together into a single interface, Virgin Hotels puts the guest in control.    25hours Hotels Another brand that’s focused on high-tech without losing high-touch hospitality is 25hours. Thanks to an in-house multidisciplinary think tank, the Extra Hour Lab, the brand experiments with new ways of engaging with guests, both through digital and analog channels. That balance plays out in Cologne, where the record store greets guests alongside    Perhaps that’s one aspect that distinguishes the futuristic, high-tech hotels: those that understand how to inject storytelling into the experience alongside the latest technology.   Cityhub A hybrid between a comfortable hotel and a convivial hostel, Cityhub is futuristic in both its technology and its approach to hospitality. It’s part of a new wave of brands that blend categories and use technology to enable a more social experience. The Cityhub brand has an app but it also takes a cue from Disney and offers RFID wristbands. These bands are used not only for check-in and property access, but also  at the bar, cafe or vending machines, where guests can serve themselves and charge their rooms. Without having to constantly pull out their phones, there’s a more personal element to the experience.     Each “hub” has its own customizable lighting, temperature and audio streaming, so guests can control their vibe. There’s also an on-property social network, giving guests a digital lobby to meet and plan real-world adventures.   The Atari Hotel, Las Vegas (coming soon!) A notable mention is the upcoming Atari Hotel in Las Vegas.  This property will blur the boundaries between hotel and immersive experience, building on Las Vegas’ long history of blending entertainment with hospitality. The experience is straight out of Blade Runner: bright lights, massive marquees, and an “everywhere you look” focus on gaming.    The Atari Hotel points to a far-more futuristic vision of hotels than anything else on the market today. It very well could be the first hospitality experience built just as much for the virtual world as for the physical one. Guests can host friends in their rooms for gaming marathons, with consoles, batteries, and spare controllers available for delivery. The Atari Hotel may redefine the category and establish a new mainstream travel trend: the gamer circuit. -- What are your favorite high-tech hotel amenities? Let us know if we missed any key ones like hotels with crazy underwater speakers, air conditioning activated by motion sensors, cool touchscreen applications, and more!

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5 Lessons from Hospitality Brands that Crushed Mobile Ordering During the Pandemic

by
Hotel Tech Report
6 months ago

It seems like you can order anything with a few taps on your phone these days: a ride from Lyft, groceries from the local supermarket, and those things you didn’t know you needed from Amazon. Hospitality businesses like restaurants and hotels are quickly jumping on the mobile ordering bandwagon, a trend that has been accelerated by the pandemic. An estimated 70% of Americans now use food delivery apps, and 87% say mobile ordering has made their lives easier. Many restaurateurs also have found that their revenue and average order size grew after implementing mobile ordering and by taking advantage of partnerships with rapidly growing apps and delivery services like Postmates, UberEats, and DoorDash. What can you learn from hotel chains like Hilton and dining establishments like McDonald’s and Starbucks that have strategically adopted mobile ordering? These brands have figured out how to streamline the ordering process, increase average order value, drive brand loyalty, and more. In this article, we’ll share their secrets to mobile ordering success so that you can find opportunities to push your own ordering technology toward the future.   Lesson #1: Hilton Properties Understand that Mobile Ordering is the Key to Improving Average Order Value Many hotels still place paper room service menus in their guestrooms and accept room service orders over the phone. For tech-savvy guests, that ordering process can feel as out-dated and clunky as pulling out an atlas instead of opening your Google Maps app. In an effort to boost room service revenue and operating efficiency, the Hilton Boston Downtown partnered with mobile ordering app RoomOrders. With the app in use, the hotel could eliminate those in-room menus and realize a slew of benefits, although it did take a few days to set up the app, input menu details, and take photographs of the menu items. Within a few months, the hotel increased its order value by 30%, reduced the rate of order errors, and delivered an overall better guest experience. And, most importantly, the data provided by RoomOrders helped the Hilton Boston Downtown measure exactly what results mobile ordering delivered.     Lesson #2: Don’t Build Your Ordering App in House - Just Ask McDonalds It can be tempting to want to build your own custom ordering system in-house, but even major brands have grappled with operational challenges as a result of developing their own tech. In most cases, the better option is to work with an expert who can share a wealth of experience in the mobile ordering space. Though McDonald’s is known as a leader in efficiency, the restaurant chain should have realized its core competencies lie in cooking - not coding. Instead of incorporating an existing mobile ordering app, McDonald’s developed their own, and it led to chaos at their restaurants. As the app rolled out in 2016, employees were required to handle more tasks and adjust to a new service flow, which increased the average wait time. Some employees decided to quit rather than take on more work for the same pay. If McDonald’s had collaborated with a company that specializes in mobile ordering, the rollout could have enhanced the guest experience (and employee morale!) instead of hurt it.     Lesson #3: Dominos Used Mobile Ordering to Grow Loyalty (and their Competitive Moat) In a mobile ordering landscape dominated by a few big names  - UberEats, Doordash, and the like - Domino’s has doubled down on its efforts to build guest loyalty through its Piece of the Pie program. A key reason for restaurants to encourage customer participation in loyalty programs is to gather their data, like their name, order history, and preferences; a restaurant receives very little information about a customer who orders through a third-party app. All of Domino’s mobile orders go through their own platform, rather than third-parties like UberEats, giving them a competitive advantage over other restaurants that rely heavily on such channels. It’s easy to understand why customers would choose Domino’s mobile ordering app over a third-party; Domino’s has launched AI-powered forecasting and GPS driver tracking so customers get updates on their order with 95% accuracy. Customers can even order with voice technology through their Amazon Echo or Google Home. Plus, the Piece of the Pie loyalty program lets customers earn points on every order and redeem points for free pizza. What could be better than that?     Lesson #4: Starbucks Case Study Shows that Mobile Ordering Brings in New Customers If you feel the urge to return to Starbucks again and again, it’s probably not just because of the coffee. Starbucks’ mobile app hooks customers with its user-friendly interface, and the Starbucks Rewards loyalty program allows customers to collect stars that they can redeem for freebies. When placing a mobile order, Starbucks customers can completely customize their beverages, from the temperature to the number of pumps of flavor syrup. The app can remember your preferences and favorite orders, so each order feels personalized. Since the mobile ordering at Starbucks launched in 2016, the company has worked out the kinks and eliminated bottlenecks so the mobile ordering process is nearly seamless today. As a result of Starbucks’ investment in their mobile ordering system, almost 25% of their orders in Q4 2020 were placed on mobile. And overall order volume continues to grow: "Almost all of our same-store sales growth is from those customers that we have digital relationships with and those that are in our Starbucks Rewards program," Starbucks CFO Scott Maw said at a JPMorgan forum in March 2018.     Lesson #5: Chick-Fil-A Uses Mobile Ordering to Surprise & Delight If mobile ordering seems like a necessary evil in today’s hospitality world, Chick-Fil-A proves that mobile ordering can actually enhance the service experience. Rather than simply an order-placing method, Chick-Fil-A uses mobile ordering to surprise and delight their customers. The Atlanta-based company hired an alum of Google and Facebook to head their Digital Experience efforts, and in June 2016 the Chick-Fil-A app launched. To celebrate the milestone, everyone who downloaded the app received a voucher for a free sandwich. The freebies continue even though the app is no longer so new and novel. In addition to earning points that can be redeemed for free food, Chick-Fil-A’s app surprises customers with unexpected freebies. It’s the digital equivalent of comping a customer to thank them for their patronage, a practice that Chick-Fil-A didn’t want to lose in the era of smartphones.     Want to know more about mobile ordering in the hospitality industry? Ask via live chat or reach out to firms like RoomOrders who are experts in the space and have already perfected the technology or download the free Official 2021 Guide to Mobile Ordering Software for Hotels.   This content was created collaboratively by RoomOrders and Hotel Tech Report.