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by Cheryl-Anne Sturken | November 6, 2018

Cheryl-Anne Sturken, senior consulting editor for Meetings & Conventions magazineThe Capital Grille at the Conrad IndianapolisIn the ever-competitive hotel landscape, where die-hard brand loyalty is not enough anymore to drive revenue growth, not to mention guests through the lobby doors, hotel are throwing everything they have at adding new amenities and experiences to the guest stay, all in an effort to stand out from the competition and turn travelers in their direction.

Take at look at how these two very different hotels are turning to technology to engage their guests.

When the Conrad Indianapolis this past June placed Intelity tablets in all 247 guest rooms, the hotel said it was part of a new service platform that would make it easier for guests to interact with dining menus at its food outlets and facilitate ordering. Four months later, digital dining orders at the property have increased by an astonishing 444 percent.

Now that's a smart move, as is the whole digital-dining trend via food-delivery apps like DoorDash, Grubhub and UberEats. These services enable diners to seamlessly surf the menus of their favorite local eateries, select a meal, pay for it and track its delivery to their front door, and the use of these apps is growing rapidly. According to Chicago-based market research firm NPD Group, in the last five years, revenue from food-app deliveries has jumped by 20 percent, and the overall number of such deliveries has increased by 10 percent.

The Conrad Indianapolis, which has eagerly embraced this consumer dining shift, is definitely onto something, because even if its guests don't actually physically dine in its restaurants, the hotel is still going to rake in some serious F&B revenue. "Delivery has become a 'need to have' and no longer a 'nice to have' in the restaurant industry," said Warren Solochek, senior vice president, industry relations for the NPD Group, in reviewing the report's findings. "Restaurants need delivery in today's environment in order to gain and maintain share. It has become a consumer expectation."

"The fact that guests can see the menu and make an instant order, rather than having to pick up the phone, makes the process easier and less stressful for our guests," said Maria Alviz, public relations and marketing manager for the hotel. "It's important for us to be able to track our guests' needs in order to better service them, and this tool lets us do just that."

For our second example of creative hotel tech, this past October, Life House hotels was launched by former Starwood Capital Group executive Rami Zeidan and New York City-based software engineer Yury Yakubchyk. The first entry for the brand will be a 33-room hotel in Miami's Little Havana, which is scheduled to open by year's end. That will be followed by a property in nearby South Beach in 2019, and there are plans to open 20 more in various urban locations over the course of the following year, including Brooklyn and Denver.

As part of the new brand's Millennial-focused approach, Life House announced it will have its own own in-house social network, via a downloadable app, to encourage guests to interact, make plans and socialize together. Time will tell whether this guest engagement at the micro level becomes anything like a new Instagram; in the meantime, my concern is that a social network for such a small group of travelers seems vulnerable to stalking. Let's see.