Industry Update
Opinion Article 6 July 2020

How relevant is room service in the modern hotel? Bringing hotel room service into the 21st century

A few minor changes to your hotel's room service operations could have a massive impact

By Gregor Herz, Marketing Manager at SuitePad

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Room service is the epitome of hotel luxury. The novelty of being able to dine in your own room, lounging around to your heart's content while being waited upon by hotel staff appeals to many people, and they're willing to pay for it! Hotel room service has never been known for high-quality food—hotels have restaurants for that. But, it's the opportunity to live like a movie star for the day that really appeals to people, and if the food is also great, then even better.

As eating habits have changed, so too have people's attitudes towards room service. Apps like Deliveroo, Ubereats, and Doordash have normalized the in-room dining experience for people at home, meaning it's not considered a special treat when they stay in hotels. The nature of takeout food has also changed. Not so long ago, takeout was restricted to overpriced greasy pizzas or bland noodles in a box, but now diners can have top quality food from renowned restaurants delivered to their door at the click of a button.

This rapid change means hotel room service has been left in the dust—why would guests pay for meals to be sent to their room when they do it all the time at home? And how can hotels compete with top restaurants that are now delivering in the local area? This may all sound very bleak, and it may be if you do nothing about it. But, for those hoteliers that want to continue offering unique in-room dining experiences at their hotels and even boost room service sales, it's time to up your game!

Using data acquired from SuitePad users around the globe, we're going to share with you some insights into guest ordering habits and how hoteliers can maximize the potential of their room service.

Consider waiving order fees to increase order numbers

Many hotels attach an order or delivery fee to their room service orders. While this may not have put guests off ordering room service in the past, the number of free delivery services out there now means guests are averse to paying an additional fee (sometimes as much as $11 or $12) for a member of staff to deliver their food to their room. If a delivery driver doesn't charge any extra to drive halfway across town, why should a hotel charge to wheel a dining cart into an elevator and down some corridors?

Here at SuitePad, we found that hotels that reduced or waived the order charge for room service saw a dramatic increase in room service revenues—sometimes as much as seven times what it was before! In hotels that had a surcharge of around $6, we found that on average, the revenue from orders tripled. This was even higher for hotels that had a surcharge of around $12, who saw revenue from in-room dining increase by seven times the original amount. It seems from this data that charging for delivery of room service may be a huge factor as to why people avoid ordering it and look elsewhere. These statistics were shared in a recent webinar by SuitePad managing director, Tilmann Volk, related to overcoming obstacles caused by the global pandemic.

If you are worried about guests taking advantage of your generous room service offer, you could implement a minimum order amount for free delivery—for example, $10 or $15. This would stop guests from ordering a single bowl of fries or a cup of coffee and expecting a member of staff to deliver it to their room. This is a fair and acceptable compromise for guests and will encourage them to use your hotel's room service rather than looking elsewhere for their dinner.

Lift the lid on room service limitations

Does your hotel offer a decadent dinner menu but a limited room service menu? This is a common tactic for hotels that want to reduce the number of guests that order food from the restaurant to their room, but is it limiting your revenue intake? It may well be!

Most guests that want to eat in their room do so because it's convenient (usually for business guests) or because it's luxurious and relaxing. You may think that limiting the items available for room service orders will encourage guests to go to the restaurant, but this can also encourage them to simply order-in from a local restaurant—a lose-lose situation for your hotel. It's advisable to offer guests the same dinner menu that's served in the restaurant for room service during the evening dinner service to ensure you maximize the potential F&B revenue available while heightening the guest experience.

Using data to know what your guests like to eat

Offering your guests the right kind of food can also make them more likely to order from your room service menu rather than looking for in-room dining options from elsewhere. In a recent study using data obtained from SuitePads customers, we found that there were huge differences between the types of food ordered by guests at different hotel types.

For example, guests at city hotels preferred burgers and orange juice for their in-room dining option of choice, whereas guests at MICE hotels preferred cola as their drink of choice, and guests at design and lifestyle hotels ordered a higher amount of fries than at any other hotel type. These insights are extremely valuable for hoteliers who want to optimize their in-room dining menu according to guest profiles.

Digital technology such as in-room tablets or mobile apps allows you to collect customer order data that can then be used to ensure you're offering guests what they really want. If you'd like to take a closer look at the study by SuitePad that includes order data from customers at over 600 hotels, check out our latest whitepaper that gives an in-depth analysis of what this data really means for hoteliers.

The outlook for hotel room service

Hotel room service still has plenty of years ahead of it—but it's likely to look very different as it adapts to a rapidly changing technological world and heightened guest expectations. Lowering barriers to ordering such as order fees, increasing the quality of the cuisine offered, and utilizing valuable customer data to optimize your room service menu are all effective ways you can increase the reputation of room service at your hotel and compete with the increasingly mobile restaurant industry.

Although you can implement all of these changes without the use of digital technology, digital solutions allow you to fulfill them much more easily and efficiently. In fact, most digital solutions out there are designed with collecting customer data in mind. To add to that, they also come with a multitude of other benefits such as offering booking systems for activities and communication channels with the front desk. So, it's a good idea to shop around to see which digital solutions you think can help your hotel best achieve the changes mentioned above to boost room service at your hotel.


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Gregor Herz

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    SuitePad is a leading provider of in-room tablets in the hotel industry and an expert in digital guest communication. The Berlin company was founded in 2012 and now has over 60 employees. In January 2022, SuitePad was awarded first place at the "Hotel Tech Awards" in the categories "Guest Room Tablets" for the third time in a row.

    The SuitePad, a tablet for the hotel room, replaces the traditional guest directory by taking digital communication between hoteliers and guests to a whole new level. In addition to general information about the hotel, the surrounding area, gastronomic offers, and an entertainment menu, the SuitePad also serves as a booking tool for spa treatments and restaurant reservations and also combines the hotel TV remote control and hotel room telephone in one device. SuitePad has equipped more than 1,000 hotels in 30 countries and over 60,000 hotel rooms with its in-room tablets. The portfolio also includes a BYOD solution - Bring Your Own Device, for the use of guest devices - the SuitePad lobby screen and SuiteCast, an easy and flexible streaming solution for the hotel TV.

    Gregor Herz
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