Forget room service. At many hotels across the country, you can now easily have groceries or ready-to-make meals delivered to your room.
Hotels are increasingly arranging for guests to get food deliveries from outside vendors as an alternative to room service, which has rarely been a money-making enterprise for them.
Grocery delivery services tend to be more popular at extended-stay properties, but other types of properties are starting to experiment with alternatives to traditional room service. Some hotels are also responding to the growing demand for healthier food options by making sure the delivery services have healthy meals or snacks for sale.
“It’s not the home kitchen, but gets guests closer to a home-like experience, which is what road-weary travelers crave,” says Maryam Wehe, senior vice president of Applied Predictive Technologies, which does consulting for hotels. “While travelers are just as time-starved as ever, they are increasingly health-conscious while on the go. Through healthy food delivery options, hotels are taking another step to bring the comforts and lifestyle of home to guests.”
* Affinia Hotels, a boutique hotel chain with properties in New York, recently announced a partnership with FreshDirect, a New York City-based grocery delivery service, to deliver ready-to-make meals to guests. There’s a Business Kit and a Healthy Kit, each with such items as fruit, vegetables, Greek yogurt, chips, salsa and cookies. The kits also have four-minute meals such as lemon-dill salmon, which can be heated in a microwave in each room’s kitchenette. The kits can be ordered in advance through Affinia’s online e-concierge service.
* GoBites.com, a portion-controlled, all-natural snack delivery service with most items containing fewer than 200 calories, is sending items to hotels with more frequency, says CEO Jim Gutt. Among the hotels the company has delivered to: the Marriott in Santa Clara, Calif.; Hotel Zaza in Houston; and the Sleep Inn in Phoenix. The company has partnered with the Country Inn in Buffalo, Minn., which offers the snack boxes to guests. The packages can be customized for guests who have special dietary needs, such as gluten allergies or diabetes.
* Marriott’s Residence Inn offers free grocery deliveries to guests with no mark-ups on items. All of Hilton’s Homewood Suites hotels also offer a complimentary grocery shopping service. Guests can leave their lists with hotel employees in the morning and return to a fully stocked refrigerator.
Lisa Zandee, senior vice president of brand management for Affinia Hotels, says guests like the grocery delivery service because “it liberates them from the limitations of room-service, minibar and restaurant fare.”
It also provides some relief to hotels that think room service is too costly to run and doesn’t generate much revenue.
Room service revenue has dropped 9.5 percent from 2007 to 2012, according to PKF Hospitality Research.
One hotel has come up with an even more unusual take on room service. The staff at Amway Grand Plaza hotel in Grand Rapids, Mich., noticed that guests were frequently ordering pizza from outside vendors. In response, the culinary team created its own pizza delivery service for guests and named it Piezelli’s. Pizza deliveries now represent about 15 percent of room service revenue, with the hotel selling about 150 pizzas a week.
Andrew Bowen, assistant food and beverage director at Amway Grand Plaza, says room service revenue at the hotel had declined by about 30 percent in the last decade. Bowen says the hotel doesn’t market the pizza deliveries as room service, even though guests can charge them to their rooms.
“There seems to be a negative connotation to room service now than there was 15, 20 years ago,” he says. Room service is “an amenity you feel you have to offer guests. Your hands are tied to a certain extent, so we were looking for options to give them a better product and price, and still offer the convenience.”
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