Category: RoomOrders

The Rise of Mobile Ordering

From trend to necessity!

COVID-19 has been a double-edged sword. While it has suspended business for many hotels, particularly during lockdowns, it has also increased the urgency of digitalization, particularly contactless service, ie QR code ordering and payments. Mobile ordering is moving quickly from a trend sector to a booming sector, and in that respect we see it as a bigger revolution than food delivery – which is basically restricted to fixed addresses and extremely expensive.

It’s more convenient than ever to dine out or order in, thanks to the proliferation of food delivery apps and technology that makes ordering and payment a breeze. In fact, 80% of Americans have used food delivery apps before, and about 60% order food via an app at least once per week. Ordering food from your phone is becoming widely accepted in all facets of the hospitality industry, aligning with a shift toward the “low-touch economy,” the contact-free trend that accelerated as a result of the COVID pandemic. As more people want a contactless experience, and as people become more comfortable with technology in the hospitality space, mobile ordering will be an integral part of the future of the hotel and restaurant industry.

Traveler preferences have evolved since the beginning of the pandemic, shifting toward contactless, on-demand services. These changes extend beyond hotels, as more people have become accustomed to food delivery, video calls, and even virtual fitness classes as socially distant substitutes to in-person interaction. The contactless trend appears to be here to stay. Retailers have adopted contactless payment terminals, supermarkets offer contactless grocery pick-up, and many hotels now offer contactless check-in and on-demand housekeeping service to limit physical touchpoints. At hotels, guests also want the ability to order food without speaking face-to-face with restaurant or room service staff and to be able to enjoy it while they work remotely in the lobby, under the shade of a cabana, or in the privacy of their guestroom.

RoomOrders was founded in 2017 to provide this convenience for guests, and the company was originally designed to digitize room service operations at the Hilton Boston Downtown. Success in Boston led RoomOrders to expand to hotels across the world, working with brands like Marriott and Accor in addition to Hilton. RoomOrders is now in over 300 leading hotels and resorts across the US, Asia, Africa, Europe, and Oceania. At the onset of the pandemic in early 2020, the RoomOrders team saw an opportunity to bring their technology to not only hotel room service operations, but also to hospitality businesses ranging from restaurants to health and beauty centers, convenience stores, and tourist attractions to meet the desire for contactless service.

As RoomOrders CEO Eugene Jones says, “mobile ordering is moving quickly from a trending sector to a booming sector.” Tech-enabled options are becoming increasingly popular, and rather than being viewed as a novelty, a tech-forward experience is an expectation. Customers are also becoming more savvy. Consumers in the F&B space are accustomed to ordering everything from their mobile devices whether it’s a new pair of Nike shoes, their groceries, or even a Tesla.  It’s only natural that these guests expect room service on their smartphones, too.

With mobile ordering, a customer can browse the menu, place an order, and pay on their smartphone without the need for in-person interaction with staff.

“Imagine the possibility of ordering a refreshing drink while relaxing by the pool…without having to get up to approach a bar to order,” says Jones.

But mobile ordering isn’t for everyone. Jones recognizes that some guests relish the in-person interaction or don’t feel comfortable placing orders on their smartphone for a variety of reasons. The good news is that “guests have the option to order the old way or the new way, leaving customers with the ultimate freedom of choice.” Even when you implement mobile ordering, you can serve customers the way they want to be served.

Mobile ordering doesn’t just benefit customers – it’s good business: increased revenue, more efficient and helpful staff, and higher guest satisfaction.

Hotel businesses that partner with RoomOrders often report increases in overall revenue and average order volume. Why? RoomOrders eliminates friction in the ordering experience, so it’s easier than ever for customers to purchase food and drinks. Without mobile ordering, customers might decide not to order from your outlet if they see a long line or if they can’t flag down a server. Mobile ordering removes these obstacles and makes ordering effortless. Plus, the RoomOrders interface allows you to configure upsell options, specials, and tagging that make your menu items more compelling. Someone who might have skipped a side dish or dessert might be convinced to try it when they see it as a recommended pairing with their entree.

In addition to highlighting the potential for revenue growth, Jones debunks a common misconception about mobile ordering systems. In our interview, he says “a digitalised hotel is not necessarily void of human labor, it actually frees up humans to be more hospitable.” The futuristic idea of a hotel run by robots isn’t going to be the future of your hotel with mobile ordering. The opposite is true; by letting technology handle menial, repetitive tasks like taking orders and running payment, your staff can focus on more important work, like building meaningful relationships with guests. Menu updates are seamless with a digital system like RoomOrders. Without a mobile ordering system, staff would need to reprint menus every time a menu item changed. RoomOrders allows you to make menu updates with just a few clicks so you can always keep your menus up-to-date and accurate.

Overall, mobile ordering helps you deliver a better guest experience. It makes the ordering process more efficient at your restaurant, and, as Eugene discusses in the interview, it can also give guests an alternative to a potentially frustrating experience like waiting on hold for room service. Ultimately, guests who have a better experience at your hotel spend more and are more likely to return which is why this once trendy technology is becoming a global staple.

Eager to learn more about mobile ordering? Read our interview with RoomOrders’ CEO Eugene Jones below

 

 

This content was created collaboratively by Hotel Tech Report and RoomOrders.

 

Tell us about the founding story behind Roomorders.

In a nutshell, RoomOrders was founded in 2018 after one of the co-founders Haris Dizdarevic, who is an IT expert, sat with his restaurant owner friend in the Boston Hilton and suggested the hotel could digitalise its operations with self-service ordering by guest mobile phones.

We were arguably the pioneers of QR code ordering in hotel rooms and this was a major move from fixed phones. However, QR code ordering has opened up new revenue streams by expanding ordering and payment opportunities outside bedrooms to the entire hotel or resort complex, as well as neighbourhood by connecting with community vendors. During the corona crisis, we realised digital ordering via QR codes or NFC tags could be done from anywhere outside hotels as well, from poolsides to beaches, rooftop bars to golf courses and neighbouring vendors, from restaurants to health and beauty centres, supermarkets and tourist attractions.

 

Why has mobile ordering been growing so rapidly in your opinion?

Apart from opening up new revenue streams, your hotel will have an edge over rival destinations by restoring confidence in health and safety as a digitalised, low-contact hotel offering self-service ordering and payments via guest smartphone. Today’s guest expect on-demand service and integration with surrounding vendors allows QR code ordering and payments of almost anything from anywhere on the hotel or resort site.

I think Asia, which has totally skipped credit cards and where people no longer have a use for wallets, is indicative of the future awaiting us. When I see the corona QR passports and vouchers, it is obvious that mobile ordering is inevitable and that everything will be digital, powered by lightning broadband communication. I think we will be ordering from holograms appearing in thin air…  It will be like snapping fingers to be served in an instant!

Many hotels believe that QR codes and pdf menus are a “good enough” solution for contactless ordering.

Contrary to that belief is documented reality that guests hate downloading pdfs or any apps and feel teased if they cannot order as well as pay after seeing digital menus. The beauty of digital ordering platforms is that guests have the option to order the old way or the new way, leaving customers with the ultimate freedom of choice

 

How should hoteliers feel about automation of routine tasks?

There is always the danger of technology replacing human touch in hospitality and this can be seen as a positive in terms of cost savings for hotels during tough times, yet a loss for social interaction and engagement – something we have traditionally enjoyed as consumers. However, a digitalised hotel is not necessarily void of human labor, it actually frees up humans to be more hospitable,entertaining or helpful in the process of delivering excellent guest experience.

 

How can hoteliers distinguish between mobile ordering software solutions?

Mobile ordering is different to room service as mobile ordering is remote and unrestricted, it can be done from anywhere across a hotel or resort, rather than just a hotel room. Room service on the other hand is limited to just a room and the guest experience confined to a room.  Imagine the possibility of ordering a refreshing drink while relaxing by the pool, or a finger-food snack, without having to get up to approach a bar to order or even pick up orders. Our research shows orders skyrocket throughout the whole day, especially hot days, in this particular scenario.

Hotels can’t be, or have, everything for guests, so RoomOrders is connecting hotel guests with surrounding vendors of all sorts of products and services on or off-site, expanding the guest experience by bringing anything, anywhere to their feet wherever they may be around the hotel or resort.

 

What has been the impact of COVID on the state of mobile ordering?

COVID has been a double-edged sword. While it has suspended business for many hotels, particularly during lockdowns, it has also increased the urgency of digitalization, particularly contactless service, ie QR code ordering and payments. Mobile ordering is moving quickly from a trend sector to a booming sector, and in that respect we see it as a bigger revolution than food delivery – which is basically restricted to fixed addresses and extremely expensive.

I think Covid-19 has sped up the dawn of a new age, the fourth industrial revolution. Everything will be digital and accessible remotely, starting with our jobs. The adoption of new technology, particularly QR code ordering and payments will move from a trend to boom sector and like Asia, we will no longer carry credit cards or wallets. Our mobile phones will be a lifeline, the centre of our world and essential to survival. Accessing our phone as fast as possible will be key, so QR codes may be replaced by something faster, but right now it seems RoomOrders will be busy improving people’s lives by fast ordering and secure payments. I honestly cannot see a hotel or resort without RoomOrders or a competitor service.

 

Are there misconceptions amongst hoteliers in this emerging category?

It’s true, hoteliers think it’s expensive, when it is actually free, zero capital investment. Other fallacies include preconceptions that guests want human contact with waiters or that older people are technophobes. The reality is that newer generations want immediate glorification, on-demand service. Amazon and food delivery has changed their expectations, to the point of even compromising quality for efficiency. Seniors are actually the fastest growing segment of adopters of social media, Sure they were a bit slower, but when they sense that old methods are fading, they adapt just as easily as other groups, provided that the experience is intuitional, or in other terms, easy.

Are there any stories that stick out to you where RoomOrders delivered outsized impact for clients?

Just before the pandemic, I arrived on a late flight into Las Vegas to speak at a conference about the threats facing hospitality in the digital era, and I was really hungry. As the hotel didn’t provide room service in the evening, I picked up a flyer and ordered pizza delivery by phone. I had to go outside, passing restaurants in the casino lobby and there were about 20 or so others waiting for their delivery too, even though it was past midnight already, There was so much confusion, it was a horrible guest experience that gave us the idea to not only integrate all the surrounding restaurants of a hotel, but other vendors too. It also gave me fodder for my speech, which offered RoomOrders as a way to combat the threat of aggressive food delivery services preying on local restaurants and hotel guests. The last year has demonstrated without dilemma that we have deeply entered the era of contactless ordering and payment

 

 

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HOTEL TECH REPORT

 

Hotel Tech Report is the world’s largest online community for technology insights and digital transformation strategies in the massive hotel industry serving over 145,000 hoteliers each month. We arm hotel owners and managers with the tools they need to leverage modern digital technologies and solve real-world business problems.

 

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Can undaunted, splurging guests revive hotels and resorts?

Pent-up desires have created a new breed of guest that is bent on splurging in the post-corona recovery, all hotels and resorts have to do is provide good reason for them to part with cash they have piled up during hibernating lockdowns.

So there I was, on a deckchair, perched on a slab of rock overlooking the pristine Adriatic Sea in front of me, and sparkling cliff- edge hotel pools to the right and left. Smack in the middle, was my belly, and it was rumbling.

And the scorching Mediterranean sun was making me thirsty.

Royal Hotels and Resort, Dubrovnik

I was on a brief, but well-deserved holiday in Kings Landing, Westeros – otherwise known as Dubrovnik, and I was experiencing what every single tourist at a summer hotel or resort would be feeling at least three times a day. Or in my case, all day, every day.

I was peckish, and my throat was dry. But as I was on a holiday, I was also lazy. I didn’t want to get up and find the bar or hail a waiter. Ain’t nobody got time for that!

I was also still in trauma from all the COVID-19 drama. Maybe this is just a respite, a cease-fire and the war is still on. I need to feel alive, and what better way to rejuvenate than to spend like a drunken gambler in a casino. I need to live more voraciously, spend more freely.

I had my spiel ready for the owner of the Royal Hotel and Resort chain, Canadian born Tom Zovko, when I catch him. Sure, the hotel is breathtaking and all that, and he’s got five stars from me, no problem. Only a man can’t go around in wet trunks and sweaty armpits foraging for nourishment.

I want my beer. And I want it now!

However, I could tell Tom was a shrewd businessman, who oversees every nook and cranny of this 600-room oasis on the scraggly coast of Croatia like clockwork. He didn’t look like he had time to just shoot the breeze with a chatty Aussie bloke.

So, I said: “Tom, mate (I’m Australian, remember?), your resort is beautiful beyond words, but when I’m hungry, or thirsty, I get hangry, and thangry, and foosty, bla, bla, grrr!”

Tom Zovko GM of Royal Hotels and Resort

 “Your point is, Mr Salesman?” he quipped.

“My point is Tom, Dubrovnik is a tourist Mecca and it’s half empty now. Corona has devastated the industry and everyone is wondering how to bring about recovery. While you cannot influence borders and flights and travel, I have just come out of corona prison I am desperate to find the closest bar and brothel…” Sorry, wrong movie. 

“What I’m saying is, I have post corona blues Tom, and I have money, lots of money (government’s are subsidising almost everyone, including me) and I want to give it to you. I want to eat and drink, and be merry. All you have to do is give me a reason to fork over my extra dollar.”

What do you say we start the post-covid hospitality recovery by enabling the few brave guests to spend cash they have saved during quarantine?” I ended my Eddie Murphy-esque rant.

Tom was thinking:

Could this be the answer to my staffing headaches?

Could convenience be the key to a memorable guest experience?

Then I calmly explained to Tom in rational terms how RoomOrders could digitalise his entire resort and allow ordering and payment from any corner of his resort. Seamlessly!

“Just like clicking your fingers, anywhere, anytime,” I said. “And voila, your beer or finger-food would arrive before your feet.”

Tom’s eyebrow arched, I could tell he was becoming more intrigued when I told him how much extra revenue per room he could earn. It’s all about RevPAR for these hotel types, tap, tap, tap, they calculate it in their heads in a flash.

It’s a no-brainer. No CAPEX, no training. No risks or lock-in agreements.

RoomOrders creates a digital poolside or beach for hotels and resorts, like when your spouse discovers a walk-in-wardrobe in the room. Oh my God! Where did this come from? How did they do it? Amaaaazing!

I was like a stranded whale through most of my stay, and getting me to go and fetch supplies must have felt like rolling an orca back into the ocean for my wife and two daughters, 6 and 7. Understandably, it was a bit of a hike, plus I don’t think the other guests really wanted to see my behemoth gut manoeuvring clumsily up to the bar. Plus it was hot. Really, really hot.

Had I been able to order on my phone, by just scanning a QR code on my deckchair, I would have been filling my stomach with beer on tap – a fancy brand of course, I was after all at a 5-star resort.

Tom and I shook hands right then.

Luckily for my kids, Tom could not introduce RoomOrders right that moment – even though we have really fast implementation – so I spent the extra cash riding jet skis with the tikes.

Snooze, you lose.

Special thanks to Tom Zovko, we really loved the Hotel Princess and will definitely come again. I can’t wait to test RoomOrders from my favourite cliff nest above the cobalt blue sea next time.

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Has corona killed your waiter?

Has corona killed your waiter?

When the vax shores up our collective immunity, allowing the hospitality sector to truly fling open its doors to the world this summer (* looking up into the skies, please God), you will probably notice a 250-year-old mainstay of restaurant dining gone missing.

You may look around, and call out: Garçon!

And to no avail.

Nobody will be around to hear you.

Or serve you.

Just like clicking your fingers and voila!

The COVID-19 pandemic could well have killed your waiter – only figuratively speaking, I hope of course – and replaced them with your phone (most probably already powered by 5G).

Disposed of contaminated paper menus, like rubbing a genie bottle or clicking your fingers, you will simply scan a QR code, or tap an NFC tag, and order what you wish. And it will appear out of thin air: voilà!

It won’t matter where you are; in a hotel room, a rooftop bar, pool or beachside deckchair, a golf course or casino, your food or drink will find you. It’s likely that the genie will be in the form of a drone.

Seamless ordering and payment

From the first day a French proprietor of a humble soup shop invented the menu in the early 1800s, waiters have been at our beck and call, greeting us upon arrival, recommending dishes, taking and delivering our orders, filling our drinks, clearing our tables, processing our checks…

They have survived all manner of automation, including vending machines, self-service canteens, walk-through cafeterias, BYO, take-away trucks, hotel smorgasbords, bicycle deliveries and teppanyaki as well as sushi trains.

Video killed the radio star and it seems digital is killing our waiters.

But is it really? And if so, how? Or why?

While I don’t think waiters are on the verge of extinction, I’m sure their numbers will dwindle considerably in the next five years. At the end of the day, waiters cost a lot to keep and hospitality is exiting its biggest ever crisis in history since World War II.

Rather than serve, waiters that endure will probably become more like exotic, endangered creatures. They will primarily welcome or entertain – in some way or another, they will be tasked to improve the guest or customer experience.

A niche audience may pine for the past, when hospitality was a comfort, when it had a human touch.

I blame Netflix.

Everything has become on-demand.

While we grew up hanging on suspense, prolonging our desires for almost everything, like a letter in the mail or our favourite TV show every Sunday afternoon, the new generation wants everything now!

Waiters, err sorry, I mean waiting. Waiting is for losers.

Yes, waiting. Not waiters.

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We care about guest experience. Yeah, but really?

Every hotel and resort decision-maker would tell you that the most important thing in hospitality is guest experience. Yeah, but do they really think that?

Trying to run the show at RoomOrders – a guest self-service ordering and payment solution, this question has often kept me up at night.

RoomOrders is used in over 200 leading hotel brands around the world, so you can imagine I’ve gotten to know a lot of hotel owners, GMs, operations, food and beverage and IT managers. RoomOrders is also used in a lot of restaurants and bars, including chains like Burger King, so the notion I get is the same for hospitality at large.

On the other hand, I am also a glutton. I love to indulge in hotels and eat out every chance I get. So I pretty much have a good handle on what guests want too.

Honestly, I think hospitality providers do really think guest experience is foremost. The only problem is that they seem to have lost touch with what today’s guest considers a truly good experience.

Sure, contactless ordering and payment is no longer just a craze, it’s a necessity – ‘the new norm.’ And sure, everyone in hospitality is keen to digitalise, or as we like to say, bring hospitality into the new Low-Touch Economy.

Hospitality providers know this. Guests know this. Everyone knows this. And for those who don’t, the corona virus has hammered the message home loud and clear.

So what’s the catch?

The catch is that they don’t get what constitutes a great touchless experience?

It’s hard to blame hotel professionals, so many leading hospitality vendors find it easier to sell hotel-centric, rather than guest-centric solutions. Ironically, it’s the hotel-centric solutions that cost the big bucks.

A case in point, a sturdy POS system is expensive. It’s procured through arduous processes requiring negotiation and rubber stamping. And if you want to integrate cloud payment solutions for example, that would run up costs like licences, implementation, configuration, as well as staff training. But hey, this will ultimately save you cash; it should streamline operations and make management much easier.

Alternatively, you could just download an off-the-shelf solution and make life easier for the guest to order and pay on their own devices. They would even receive receipts in the mail.

It seems the secret is to strike the right balance. Not too clunky and fairly priced.

But, back to my thoughts. If guest experience is really paramount, what is the gold standard in guest experience?

I like to think that the best guest experience in the world would be something like sitting or lying down anywhere – a busy downtown restaurant, a remote sandy beach – and I could order whatever I conjured up, with just the click of my fingers. And voila! It would appear before my eyes, and I wouldn’t have to rummage through my pants or towel to find my wallet, to pay for it.

Ok, you are right, RoomOrders has not invented a genie in a bottle. But I think we’ve created the next best thing.

If you are a hospitality decision-maker, and you really care about guest experience, I would suggest you put yourself in the shoes of the guest yourself. The guest-centric solutions out there are low or even zero CAPEX. They do not disrupt usual operations, they do not require training and they vastly improve your business.

I won’t mention the bottom line. It’s astonishing what a difference digitalization makes to revenues, whether it be streamlined processes, easy monitoring, analytics and management or more than double the previous average check values.

All this sounds awesome, I know. But that’s so last year’s model for us at RoomOrders, we are not just digitalising operations for individual hospitality providers, we are already building digital ecosystems, interconnecting accommodation providers with entire communities of vendors, from food to leisure and experiences.

Imagine staying in a hotel or Airbnb in a foreign place and scanning a QR code that opens entire communities of local vendors at the touch of your phone. It doesn’t matter where you are, Brisbane, Boston or Barcelona, the same seamless guest experience – without downloading an app.

The trick is that people love technology. They just don’t love other people’s technology. They demand instant gratification and their preferred method is via their smart phone devices that they carry with them everywhere they go.

Did I mention busy downtown restaurants and remote sandy beaches?

 

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