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At the outset, there's not much difference between this pilot and ordering GrubHub from your phone or computer as you normally would at home. However, if Hyatt Centric can make the program more seamless and integrate it into part of the hotel food-and-beverage experience, this pilot could point to the future of hotel room service.

On-demand room service, facilitated by online food delivery services like GrubHub, Seamless and PostMates could soon be the future of hotel room service.

At least that’s what Hyatt Centric, a full-service lifestyle hotel brand designed to appeal to travelers with a Millennial mindset, is looking into with its newest pilot program in partnership with GrubHub. Called Restaurant To Go, the pilot encompasses a curated selection of takeout options from local restaurants to be delivered via GrubHub, as well as two other in-room dining options for guests provided by the hotel itself.

“We see this as reimagining room service,” said Jonathan Frolich, vice president of global brands for Hyatt. “It’s making room service better, frankly. From the learnings we’ve seen and from the feedback we’ve been receiving, we’ll make it even better and more integrated [following the end of the pilot]. We want to reimagine the room service experience in the guest rooms. It’s takeout with a twist.”

Online, on-demand food delivery services and restaurant delivery overall is on the rise nationally. According to foodservice research from The NPD Group, restaurant delivery, excluding pizza, is growing strongly, up by 33 percent since 2012. Hyatt’s findings regarding room service sentiments may also speak to a larger desire among some consumers who prefer staying in over going out, as profiled in a recent New York Times piece, appealing to travelers who want a more home-like experience when they’re on the road.

The concept is first being tested at three of Hyatt Centric’s seven properties: Hyatt Centric The Pike Long Beach in California; Hyatt Centric South Beach Miami; and Hyatt Centric Park City in Utah. The pilot began on April 18 and will end in mid-July. The Hyatt Centric brand debuted in 2015.

To come up with the specially curated GrubHub menus for guests at each of the three hotels, Hyatt Centric asked its employees working in the respective pilot hotels to personally recommend at least eight different local restaurants that deliver via GrubHub. Those menus are available in each of the guest rooms, and guests can choose to order from those restaurants by using the GrubHub app or using a vanity URL listed on the menu, or by calling the front desk. If they call the front desk to order their food, the GrubHub order will be added to their final hotel bill.

The Restaurant To Go menu for the Miami property, for example, lists SuViche, a local Peruvian-Japanese restaurant recommended by the hotel’s own executive chef, as well as Cheeseburger Baby, which is open late at night and was picked by “James” in the food and beverage department.

Frolich said that following the pilot, there’s a possibility this program could be expanded to other Hyatt Centric properties and other brands within the Hyatt portfolio, and the ability to order restaurant food from GrubHub could be integrated into Hyatt’s own mobile app.

In addition to the ability to order via GrubHub, the participating pilot hotels offer a Restaurant To Go menu from the property’s own on-site restaurants. The food is delivered to guests in their rooms in eco-friendly packaging and what Frolich described as “a nice-quality branded bag” that’s like “food delivery to your home, but to your hotel room.”

Additionally, guests who are in a hurry can order from a special Express Menu that is smaller than the regular Restaurant To Go menu with items from the on-site restaurant. It’s available to guests 24/7 and is guaranteed to be delivered to guests’ rooms within 20 minutes of ordering.

Bringing Local Food Into the Room

Frolich said that although the Hyatt Centric brand is known for “putting people in the heart of the destination and fueling exploration and discovery,” guest feedback demonstrated to Hyatt that there was a need for a new kind of room service experience.

“Our target customers told us they didn’t want the traditional type of room service experience with trolleys and white tablecloths. They want a high-quality experience with a lot of options that gives them a taste of the best food from that destination,” he said.

In coming up with the pilot program, Hyatt decided to reach out to fellow Chicago-based company GrubHub, a food delivery platform. “GrubHub is really the best in the business when it comes to this type of offering,” Frolich said. “When we were looking at the variety of different companies that provide these services we approached GrubHub because of their scale, quality, and passion for innovation.”

A Growing Hotel Food Service Trend

Hyatt Centric may be the first hotel brand to officially partner with GrubHub to test a new room service concept like this, but it wasn’t the first to try to revolutionize traditional room service and the concept of on-demand food delivery.

In 2013, the New York Hilton Midtown, one of the largest hotels in Manhattan, eliminated room service, only to bring it back a month later with paper bag deliveries, similar to what Hyatt Centric is offering. The service is limited to breakfast and dinner hours from the hotel’s on-site Herb ‘N’ Kitchen restaurant.

Currently, extended stay brand Homewood Suites by Hilton is testing its own pilot program whereby guests can order discounted meal delivery kits from Atlanta-based PeachDish, allowing them to cook up their own meals using the full-size kitchens in their rooms.

Ordering food delivery during a hotel stay isn’t a new concept, either. In 2014, GrubHub conducted its own analysis of a year’s worth of 8,000 orders delivered to hotels and the data suggested hotel takeout orders jumped in popularity by 125 percent from Jan. 1, 2011 to July 2, 2014.

GrubHub’s analysis also found that hotel diners spend, on average, 11 percent more on their GrubHub orders than non-hotel diners. Men are also 54 percent more likely than women to order takeout meals while staying at a hotel, and most orders are submitted early in the work week. The majority of orders (72 percent) are also placed during dinner and late-night hours.

Depending on the success of Hyatt Centric’s pilot with GrubHub and the attributes of a particular hotel brand, this program could evolve into an industry norm whereby hotels could outsource their room service to platforms like GrubHub and other online food delivery services.

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Tags: grubhub, room service

Photo credit: The Master Suite at Hyatt Centric The Pike Long Beach. The Southern California hotel is one of three Hyatt Centric properties piloting room service in partnership with GrubHub. Hyatt Hotels & Resorts

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