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Online food delivery services have increased people’s appetite for eating in, including in hotel rooms, and hoteliers have little choice but to swallow the trend.
The trend’s popularity is represented at TripAdvisor, which in May integrated Grubhub’s restaurant network in the U.S. and Canada into TripAdvisor’s website, mobile Web and app, and most recently expanded the meal-delivery service globally with London-based Deliveroo.
TripAdvisor’s newest partner claims a roster of some 20,000 restaurants and 30,000 delivery riders in 140 cities across 12 countries, including the UK, Ireland, France, Germany, Spain, Italy, Belgium, the Netherlands, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Hong Kong, and Australia.
With a familiar source like TripAdvisor, travelers may be further encouraged to dine in while previously they might have hesitated because of not knowing the local restaurants or who’s best at delivering food in the market. In Singapore, for instance, aside from Deliveroo, there’s Foodpanda, UberEATS, Food Matters or What To Eat, to name a few.
Hotels Are Adapting
A TripAdvisor restaurant listing of one of Deliveroo’s partners carries an Order Online button. Click, and consumers are brought to Deliveroo’s online or mobile platforms to place an order. Typically, delivery services to hotels alert the front desk to call the guest to pick up his/her food in the lobby.
“We do allow our guests to receive food from delivery services,” says Loh Lik Peng, CEO of Singapore-based Unlisted Collection, which owns and operates 27 unique boutique hotels and restaurants in Singapore, Sydney, London and Shanghai. “I think it would be rather high-handed to do otherwise. It’s a matter of choice for them and they should be allowed to order food from wherever they want so long as it’s not a nuisance to other guests.”
Arthur Kiong, CEO of Far East Hospitality Management, Singapore’s largest owner/operator with 22 hotels and serviced residences, says the chain allows external deliveries.
“This what innovation is about — identifying a need or want and finding a better and more cost-effective way of fulfilling it. TripAdvisor Restaurants and Deliveroo have done just that,” he says.
Reinventing Room Service
Alas, hotels have not. Innovation or reinvention of room service, the area most-affected by online order-takers, is yet to be celebrated. Many guests still perceive room service prices as exorbitant while the time taken to get food to the room, especially in peak hours, can be long (or then the doorbell rings at the most inconvenient time).
“Hotels will be concerned. Whilst most do not ban the delivery of food into their premises, it continues to put pressure on in-house services where hotels have seen a continual decline in the use of room service. These services are often viewed as expensive when compared with outside takeaway offerings,” says a senior analyst at UK-based Juniper Research, Lauren Foye.
When asked if the Singapore Hotel Association (SHA) is discussing the impact to hotels, Loh, who is vice president, says, “SHA is discussing many issues with the authorities, from Airbnb to hotel licensing. I think the climate is changing rapidly. It’s really hard for the regulators to keep up. I think it’s just as hard for the industry to keep up as well, actually.”
He adds: “I think it’s inevitable that many of these online services are converging and we should not see it as a bad thing but an opportunity to make things better and more convenient for our guests. It’s going to happen whether we like it or not, so it’s better to embrace the movement and make it better than to try and hold back the tide.”
Winners are Deliveroo, which should see increased consumer interest from people visiting from outside the local area, local restaurants and food outlets that sign up, Foye says. Through the partnership, Deliveroo gets another advertising and monetization channel for its businesses, and TripAdvisor gets to add another service, Foye adds.
Juniper also foresees that the service could see increased popularity with guests at short-term rentals of private properties. “TripAdvisor also hosts listings for holiday rentals, allowing consumers to book properties, as such with a booking that may not have cooking facilities or room service on offer, food delivery is an attractive alternative,” says Foye.
Rich Grub for TripAdvisor
All this is potentially rich grub for TripAdvisor, which is in a midst of a multi-year implementation of a strategy to grow non-hotel revenue businesses.
TripAdvisor is compensated for helping to facilitate deliveries, says senior vice president of TripAdvisor Restaurants Bertrand Jelensperger, although he declined to say the incremental revenue he expects from food delivery service, or release the terms and conditions of the agreement.
Loh, who is also a restaurateur and considers Deliveroo “the leader and the most productive platform for us,” alludes to the costliness of these platforms. He says “typically they take a large cut of the revenue.”
Incremental revenue aside, Jelensperger says the idea of adding food delivery service is for TripAdvisor to be “a one-stop shop” for diners globally. “With tens of millions of reviews for four million-plus restaurants globally, reservation services in the Americas, Latin America and Europe, and now food delivery globally, we believe we are on our way to building the best place online for consumers to find interesting places to dine around the world,” he says.
Jelensperger is pleased with the consumer interest he’s seeing with Grubhub in the U.S., although he won’t release figures, saying it is early days. He expects the same with Deliveroo.
Deliveroo Singapore’s general manager, Siddharth Shanker, also declined to share what percentage increase in food delivery he expects to see from TripAdvisor, only saying “in general, this partnership represents great potential for growth”.
“This partnership allows us to tap into one of the world’s most trusted food review and recommendation sites, expanding our reach from primarily local residents to consumers who are traveling, away from home or hunting out a new food experience,” he says. “It’s part of our ongoing efforts to build the brand in Singapore and around the world.”
Based in Singapore, Raini Hamdi is a business journalist and has been covering the Asian travel trade and the hotel industry for more than 20 years.