Don’t lose all your food business to third-party meal delivery services. Consider the opportunities—and they’re not just partnerships.
I was in a hotel recently, in the lobby in the evening waiting to meet a friend for dinner. The lobby was packed, and this was a full-service, conference-type hotel. As I waited, I noticed a pattern among many others in the lobby who seemed to be on their own, not in a group. They’d look at their phone, get up, head toward the door and … meet an UberEats or Grubhub or similar delivery person, take their food delivery and head back up the elevator.
Here they were, staying in a big city at a big hotel that had plenty of food outlets and roomservice at their disposal, and they chose delivery.
It makes me think back to one of my first business trips I took on my own, where I had to rent a car and drive to a hotel in a tiny little town, arriving really late at night. When I got there I was starving so I called roomservice and they told me the kitchen had run out of food.
The kitchen ran out of food?! That’s like the ocean running out of shrimp!
We published an article a few months ago on how outside food-delivery services are gaining traction at hotels. It was a useful, informative article, talking about Hyatt Hotels’ partnership with Grubhub and IHG’s with OpenTable, and how these partnerships can be win-win for guests and hotels.
The brand executives in the story said all the right things, about how third-party services are great supplements, and help bridge the gap between hours when restaurants are closed and so on, but I’m not convinced that’s the whole story.
I think these delivery services have the potential to strip a lot of incremental food revenue from hotels. Of course, you’re never going to get a wedding that rents your banquet space and then wants to cater it completely with delivery from Grubhub, but think about that business-transient traveler: Sure, he or she is just one person, but hotel lobbies around the world are full of those “just one person” business travelers who are hungry too and turning to meal delivery because that’s what they do at their offices and even at home, more and more.
There are a couple problems with opening the door to third-party food delivery services, the way I see it. First, you’re losing guests who might otherwise spend that money on-property. Mind you, if you’re a select-service hotel with little to offer in the way of food anyway, who cares (and with delivery at least they’re staying on property). But I see this happening at big full-service hotels too.
Second, you’re clogging up the porte cochére with more cars. I know, seems like a little thing, but I’m sure most of you can remember hotel entryways when there were only valet cars and taxis to deal with, and then Uber came in. Now add more drivers and more deliveries and more people. That’s security and logistics and operations. And are these delivery people stopping in the lobby or going up to guestrooms? Have you thought about that?
Now, maybe you have invested in great grab-and-go outlets, which definitely boost profitability for hotels and convenience for guests. Or maybe your brand is revamping its roomservice into the much more accessible pick-it-up-downstairs-or-we’ll-drop-it-off-in-a-paper-bag model, like I see at many Marriott hotels.
But there’s another side to the issue—an opportunity, if you will.
What if you listed your own hotel restaurant on the delivery services? I’m sure some of you do this at your hotels, particularly if you have restaurants that are real local, neighborhood draws.
Talk about using technology to meet customers where they are. You would be expanding your restaurant visibility to the community, and maybe even offsetting some of those inevitable UberEats orders being placed from your own lobby.
Hoteliers like to talk about offering guests technology in hotels that they’re used to at home. I can tell you this: I don’t know anyone who controls their blinds at home with their cellphone, but I know 50 people at least who regularly order food from meal delivery services.
If your hotel restaurant lists on meal delivery service sites (or if you have strong opinions about them), let me know. Comment below, email me at email@example.com or find me on Twitter @HNN_Steph.
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