WASHINGTON D.C. – Love ordering hotel room service, but hate how much your club sandwich costs?
Well, the Marriott hotel chain is experimenting with a newfangled room service model that could make ordering a meal in your room cheaper, faster and more appealing. If the new system catches on, it could spread to other Marriott hotels, a Marriott general manager said today.
At the just-opened Marriott Marquis convention center hotel, guests can order a bottle of Sierra Nevada beer for $6, a cheeseburger for $16, a basic Caesar salad for $12 and a slice of hot fudge ice cream cake for $8. The items will be packaged in the hotel kitchen, and a runner will drop the items off at your room. They will not linger and unpack the bag, waiting for a tip. Another option is to pick up your food at a designated area.
FACEBOOK: Join Barb & friends on Facebook
The Marriott Marquis, the company’s high-profile convention center hotel, is the chain’s first hotel to test the new model right off the bat – as a newly opened property.
“We’re the first hotel rolling it out,” the hotel’s general manager Dan Nadeau said Tuesday.
Nadeau talked about the new room service model during the BisNow hotel industry conference, which is being held in the hotel. (“Travel Update” attended!) Marriott’s calling the program “Dining Your Way.”
The news comes as hoteliers increasingly look to figure out how to cut costs, since room service usually doesn’t make money for a hotel despite the pricey rates consumers pay.
High costs erase profits
There are labor costs associated with preparing carts, laying out cutlery, rolling carts to rooms, setting up the carts in rooms and lifting plate covers to reveal the food.
“It is rare that a hotel makes any money” on room service, he said.
Consumers’ tastes have also evolved since the days of traditional room service.
Whether Millennials or Baby Boomers, people have grown accustomed to eating in fast-casual restaurants such as Panera Bread or Starbucks – and they don’t necessarily want the fuss involved with old-fashioned room service.
The recession also prompted many travelers with expense accounts to view room service differently than they had in the past.
“Even though people could claim (a room service meal) on their expense report, a lot of them didn’t want to,” Nadeau told the audience. “It was costing them $40 to get a hamburger and a beer. They didn’t feel a good about submitting it, so they stopped (ordering) it.”
Technology plays a role, too. Guests are increasingly using smartphone apps to order from outside restaurants that do a good job of delivering good food quickly at cheaper rates then the hotel, Nadeau said.
“The company recognized that we were losing money and losing share at the same time,” he said. “About 40% of our customers staying at our hotel eat in the rooms – but only 14% actually eat our room service.
“More and more hoteliers are seeing outsourcing of (food and beverage),” he said. “So we decided to roll out a new service.”
MORE ONLINE: Inside the mind of Airbnb’s newest customer
What hotel guests can expect
“No more traditional presentation,” he said. “We’re not rolling up carts and lifting plate covers to unveil the food. There’s no more glassware. We’re packaging (the meal) down in the kitchen in nicely packages with upscale to-go cutlery.”
It goes further than that.
“Now, no one knocks on the door,” he said. “You have your food handed to you while it’s still hot. It comes faster. There’s no tip or delivery charge, so it’s less expensive.”
News of Marriott’s “Dine Your Way” comes about a year after the rival Hilton chain unveiled a similar strategy at its flagship New York hotel.
BisNow conference attendee Tom Paladino applauds the hotel’s move to update room service. He often orders a healthy meal in his room when he gets back to his hotel room, often at 8 p.m. Paladino knows the hotel well because his company led Marriott’s efforts to make the property a sustainable building.
He prefers this model because it’s less of a hassle.
“I’d rather have a bright shiny face show up with a bag like Chinese takeout, and give a tip to the person – not a percentage of cost, sales and delivery charge,” Paladino said. “It’s too complicated.”
Readers: Would you rather have the new style of room service – or the old-fashioned kind?