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The Next Challenge for Hotels: 5-Star, Contactless Dining

By Robert Reitknecht, Guest Service Executive, Luxury Hotel Segment
19 October 2020
3 min read
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The latest 5-star restaurant concept in today’s pandemic-persistent climate is in-room dining. As hotels seek to create contactless experiences while upholding service standards, bringing the restaurant to the room is now the focus. The challenge is to personalize the experience and provide as much 5-star service as possible while maintaining contactless safety measures and encouraging distancing.

How will hotels achieve this seemingly impossible combination of touchless service with 5-star in-room dining? By thinking differently about what room service used to be. Here are a few of my thoughts on how to make this change:

Offer the full menu
Guests are used to having a limited menu when ordering room service. As you try to elevate the in-room dining experience for your guests, consider opening up the entire restaurant menu to all guests dining in-room during normal dining hours (breakfast, lunch, and dinner). While the worry here is that your kitchen staff will be strained by having to serve the full menu to the entire hotel, remember the demand for food and beverage from rooms during mealtimes will likely function as a substitute for the in-restaurant dining your hotel can’t operate right now.

Leverage technology to bring the sommelier to every room
Opening up the full menu to all in-room dining will have an impact on in-room dining service staff. These employees are not necessarily trained as restaurant servers or have fine-dining service experience, but you can still bring expertise to each guest by having the chef or sommelier record videos for selected menu items to offer explanations as they would in-person. The mobile technology exists to make this happen – many hotels have already embraced software platforms and tablets to personalize in-room experiences and help guests order take-out from local restaurants. It’s up to hoteliers to adopt it on an organizational level to do the same for their own restaurants.

If you’re willing to think even further outside the box, take a note from Hotel TRIO, a Northern California hotel with a 3-foot-tall robot named Rosé. What started out as a more entertainment-driven technology for the hotel became a necessity this year as contactless service was suddenly mandatory. The robot delivers all sorts of items to guests in their rooms, and is an inspiring bit of creativity for hotels looking to up the ante for their in-room dining. Perhaps robots like Rosé are the future of the 5-star in-room dining experience – delivering not just bottles of wine and appetizers but explanatory videos from your chef to elevate the guest experience.

Brainstorm in-room fixtures that introduce elegance
With no clear end in sight for lifting restrictions on social distancing and safety precautions, it’s worth investing in additions to hotel rooms to complement an in-room dining experience. The Carneros Resort and Spa in Napa has added Plum wine dispensers to rooms that preserve, chill, and serve by-the-glass wines from local vineyards. While this technology was more of a permanent change to rooms themselves, that is the mentality hoteliers should be taking. No one can foresee when hotel business will return to “normal,” so I recommend taking these creative steps today. After all, what guest won’t love an in-room wine dispenser even when COVID-19 is behind us?

The challenge of 5-star in-room dining is before us, but the tools and talent exist to take that part of the contactless guest experience and make it a memorable one. With technology and creativity, I believe hotel leaders can change the game for in-room dining, and I’m looking forward to the innovations they produce.