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HOTEL BUSINESS REVIEW
Have Millennials Killed Room Service? And
Is That a Good Thing?
By Thomas McKeown Executive Chef, Hyatt Regency Atlanta | ...
HOTEL BUSINESS REVIEW
Have Millennials Killed Room Service? And
Is That a Good Thing?
By Thomas McKeown Executive Chef, Hyatt Regency Atlanta | July 29, 2018
You may not have noticed, but you are probably not as young as you think you are. I had
a friend tell me recently that she feels like she is still the gal she was in high school,
footloose and care free. She is almost 80.
To some extent, if we are lucky, we all probably feel that way, like we are still the young
fresh faces we were ten years ago. It is easy to forget that we are not necessarily the cool
kids anymore. Ouch!
It may be painful, but this is a critical realization for professionals in our industry, who are
focused on serving consumers, and providing them with experiences that will make them
irrationally loyal to our brands. We talk about this a lot in our hotel: Who is our guest, and
what are they looking for? For one, we are finding our guest is younger than we think she
is (and as the trends go, she is probably getting younger).
We all have a stereotype of the “Business Traveler.” He is a “Mad Men” sort of fellow, an
airport road warrior checking in late with a crumpled suit and tie. But tak e a look at your
midweek guest and ask yourself, is that today’s business traveler? After taking a hard
look at our guests, we found our Businessman is not a man. Just over half of our
business travelers are women.
And travelers are younger than you might think. The Millennial Generation is not coming
into the workforce. In many cases they are the work force. Professionals in their 20s and
30s are the ones going on the road on behalf of their companies, making sales calls,
meeting clients, prospecting new business, and staying at our hotels. Our midweek
business guest is more likely to be wearing big, designer, over the ear headphones than
penny loafers. And our weekend guests are no different.
Much (maybe too much) has been written about the changes that Millennials have
brought us, good and bad, and how their generation has disrupted familiar mainstays like
newspapers, shopping malls, taxis and even hotels. Traditional room service may also be
on that list – but I am here to tell you that is a good thing .
We all remember room service from days past, like in the movies: A guest in a plush white
robe opens the door to her room, the room service attendant greets her in a nice uniform
(probably with a vest and bow tie), and rolls in with an enormous cart. He leaves a huge
tray on the table, heavy with dishes, all hidden in those round metal covers. There is metal
cutlery and white plates and glassware, and of course, who can forget, the little bottles of
ketchup and mustard?
The menu items room service broug ht up were pretty traditional as well. Eggs and bacon,
hamburgers, chicken tenders, personal pizzas. The problem with this scene is that this
experience is increasingly unfamiliar, and undesirable, to young consumers. Food delivery
does not work this way anymore.
Consumers at home are leveraging apps and technology to bring food to them, just like
they order car rides. Sure, home delivery is nothing new (think pizzas and Chinese food)
but today there is a robust list of providers in every market bringing c onsumers their
favorite dishes from their favorite restaurants. It is fast, within the average consumer’s
budget and, here is a big factor, convenient.
Even Amazon is in the food delivery business with Amazon Restaurants. And if Amazon
is doing it, that s hould tell us something.
At our hotel, we have thrown out the old model of room service, from menu to delivery, to
reflect what the consumer prefers at home. We started with what’s on the menu.
I have written before about the quality revolution that is h appening in hotel dining. We are
proud to be a small part of it. A century ago, hotels ran the nicest restaurants in town. But
over the decades, we almost killed our brand altogether by serving bad food at exorbitant
prices, treating the guest like they ha d no choice but to eat it.
Guests told us otherwise, and went elsewhere, making hotel dining almost as much of a
punchline as airline food. Hopefully that’s starting to change, and there are some
excellent examples of leading -edge, top -quality restaurants in hotels of all sizes across
At Hyatt Regency Atlanta, we partner with 70 local farmers and purveyors to bring the
finest, freshest ingredients to our guests, everything from chicken, bacon and peaches to
cheese and craft beer.
In Sway, our So uthern dining experience in the lobby, we’re using the same purveyors as
the best restaurants in town, a practice unheard of in hotel restaurants just a few years
Just one example, Sway’s fried chicken, is an all -natural, locally sourced bird that takes a
full 24 hours to marinate and prepare before it comes to the plate fresh, crunchy and
piping hot. We’re proud to say our chicken has been recognized by local media as among
the best in town.
We also have our own rooftop garden growing herbs, tomatoe s, strawberries and
peppers. And since 2013, we’ve established successful bee hives on the roof of the hotel.
We have two hives with tens of thousands of bees, which produce gallons of fresh honey
each year. We serve this honey in our restaurant dishes and desserts, as well as the
cocktails in our rotating Polaris rooftop lounge (where guests can actually look down on
the hives as they rotate by).
We’re not doing this for bragging rights. We’re doing it because our guests demand it.
Consumers today are more than ever aware of what’s on their plate and where it came
from. They want fresh ingredients that are responsibility sourced and with the highest
Hotels like ours are working harder than ever to deliver that quality, and that extends t o
Frozen chicken tenders are no longer on our in -room dining menu. Instead, we’re offering
the best dishes from our Sway restaurant to our room service guests. Branded Sway -To -
Go, guests can order everything from shrimp and grits to fried ch icken to fresh salmon
Even better, entrees are coming faster and fresher and without the cumbersome trays,
plates and glassware. Sway -To -Go meals come bagged and in
, just as if you were ordering from Amazo n Restaurants at home.
The back of house impact has been remarkable. Removing trays, plates and glassware
from the in -room dining process has significantly reduced staff time, waste and cleaning
costs. All our room service packaging comes from Eco -Products, an industry leader in
sustainable disposable products. The trays we use are compostable, while all the lids are
Guests have not missed the old room service. Satisfaction scores are up; largely because
the food is getting to the guest faster and fresher (everyone r emembers how bad room
service French fries could be). Guest can also quickly dispose of their finished meal,
rather than going to bed with dirty dishes by their lap top. And when they check out the
next morning, the hall is not cluttered with used trays an d napkins. The experience is
much more what the guest prefers and expects when they order food to their apartment,
and fits more with their busy, on -the -go lifestyle.
You may have noticed that guests are busier than ever. Our 24 -hour lobby Market is full of
guests working on their computers and phones through the weekday (and on
weekends). Guests traveling on business don’t always have time for a sit down lunch or
dinner. That’s one reason why our Market, which serves grab -and -go meals 24 hours a
day, sev en days a week, is our most popular dining option.
This translates to room service, too. Guests are frequently working in their rooms past
business hours (vs. binge -watching a TV show), and prefer a quickly served, quality meal
that’s seamless and conveni ent. One knock and dinner is served!
Given the success of Sway-To -Go with guests staying with us, we decided not to stop
inside the hotel. You remember I mentioned Amazon is now in the food delivery business.
Amazon Restaurants in 2017 expanded service to our market and we quickly partnered
with them to provide our Sway entrees to local customers in our area. We’ve always
wanted more local business in the restaurant, and scratched our heads about the most
effective ways to attract new guests to come in. N ow, we can deliver our best dishes
straight to the consumer, supported and promoted through the power of Amazon’s
marketing and logistics.
Amazon Restaurants has been a great early success with consumers in our
neighborhood, opening our dining options to new guests (who wouldn’t normally stay in a
guestroom) and driving new revenue for the hotel.
What’s more, we’re associating our brand with a new, technology -based service that is
more aligned with younger guests who are increasingly our most important cu stomers,
and miles from the old carts, and trays and little ketchups.
Mr. McKeown Before his current role overseeing Hyatt Regency Atlanta’s dining
experiences, Chef McKeown served as Executive Chef at Grand Hyatt Atlanta for five years. Born and trained in Europe, McKeown began his career at the Limerick Golf Club in Ireland. He completed his culinary training on both sides of the Atlantic at the Limerick Institute of Technology in Ireland and Johnson & Wales University in Rhode Island, where he earned a Master’s degree in Food Service Education. McKeown refined his knowledge of contemporary American cuisine at the Somerset Club in Boston. He then became Executive Chef at the Ellis Hotel in downtown Atlanta, where he concentrated on local sustainable cuisi ne. Thomas McKeown can be contacted at 404 -577 -1234 or
[email protected] Please visit http://www.hyatt.com
for more information.
HotelExecutive.com retains the copyright to the articles published in the Hotel Business Review.
Articles cannot be republished without prior written consent by HotelExecutive.com.
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