Home delivery service seems to be the new normal for hospitality business
Hotels are experimenting with new concepts such as the contactless menu, contactless delivery and contactless payment
Even as the coronavirus pandemic cripples the hospitality industry, it has also brought about a transformation in some parts of its operations, particularly on the F&B front.
The industry, known for its home-away-home experience, is now delivering dining experiences right at people’s doorstep. With plummeting revenues and single-digit occupancy owing to the travel ban and lockdown, most luxury hotels such as Marriott, Accor, Hilton, The Leela and ITC are leveraging on their F&B offerings and services to reach out to their guests. It is also a way to test the waters and develop an F&B concept that may pay off as contactless dining becomes the ‘new normal’
The hotels have curated special lockdown menus for guests so that they don’t miss out on their favourite dishes and can relish them from the safety of their homes. Hotels are experimenting with new concepts such as the digital menu, contactless menu and contactless delivery.
“The world has changed with the COVID crisis. Being at the forefront of responsible dining, we are evaluating the perfect model for takeaway and delivery of food to the guests. These will be 'responsible menus' that are well-suited for delivery while ensuring the food is nutritious,” says Anil Chadha, COO, ITC Hotels.
Apart from coming up with a delectable menu, the hotels have ensured that the price is minimal so that more customers can avail the service. We offer a lowdown on what different hotels are doing to ensure that the quality of food remains topnotch, in these testing times.
Roseate Hotels & Resorts
Roseate House is the first hotel in the world to install a live camera in their kitchens, which will offer their guests access to what is happening in the kitchens via a mobile link. The guests will not just be able to see their food being prepared in the kitchen by the chefs while they are seated in the restaurant or their suites and rooms, once Roseate opens, but even from their homes when they order home delivery. The hotel believes this will help the hotel to strengthen their hygiene standards and quality.
Hospitality major Marriott International is making the most of the lockdown to leverage its F&B offerings. Its brands such as JW Marriott, Sheraton, Ritz Carlton and Four Points are offering guests an option of either a takeaway or home delivery. The once MICE-driven hotel Sheraton Grand Bengaluru Whitefield Hotel and Convention Center has turned to home delivery because of several reasons.
“Apart from business continuity, the core idea of starting this service was to reach out to people who are not able to venture out to shop for groceries and fresh supplies, people who don’t have help at home or who feel cooking is not their forte and is a cumbersome task,” explains Faiz Alam Ansari, the hotel's complex general manager.
The hotel is catering to residential communities, families and bachelors alike, who are located in and around the hotels. “A lot of customers are expressing interest in the various options we have. We are receiving a lot of orders, but our primary concern is on the operational hygiene and the delivery method front for all our customers,” adds Ansari.
At present, the hotel is operating with minimal staff. Given the challenge, it is ensuring timely delivery of services. “Our restricted numbers of associates stay at the premise and are completely safe, secure and contained. This ensures the safety of our staff and guests since their well-being is the most critical factor. Given the challenges, we are delivering the food services with stress on hygiene and social distancing being the new norm,” states Ansari.
Apart from F&B offerings, Sheraton Grand Bengaluru Whitefield Hotel and Convention Center has also started laundry services. The hotel picks up and delivers laundry and caters to the same group of people.
Hilton Chennai’s experience in catering to large delivery meal boxes for their corporate and events clients has come into good use.
Given their entry into personal delivery space, Hilton Chennai has minutely fine-tuned their offerings and come up with a full-fledged menu in a bid to reach out to people in the neighbourhood. Their delivery menu includes a blend of global and local cuisines and consists of appetisers, main course, combo-meals and deserts. Hilton Chennai is offering a variety of Asian, Indian and Western packed food boxes for breakfast, lunch, dinner and high tea. The delivery menu offers several options for both vegetarians and non-vegetarians.
Gourmet meals are designed in lite, express versions too for different quantity needs. Besides, the hotel offers customisation features so that the chefs can prepare meals to match needs such as with less spice or more vegetables in a dish. “This menu engineering ensures that diners can enjoy excerpts from the full-fledged menu of the hotel while dining at their homes. We have also taken care to ensure every dish is suitable for transit in the meal cases used by delivery aggregators too. Thus, it’s designed combining elements of a tasting menu, but we send out large portion sizes that match our restaurant’s a la carte menus —ideal when dining-in,” says Ruban Das, the hotel’s general manager.
The home delivery service offered by Hilton Chennai has so far received a good response, even though the delivery timings are restricted and people, in general, are more restrained about eating food that is not cooked in their kitchens. Among their special offerings, the gourmet Easter lunch @ home garnered an overwhelming response from customers.
While Hilton Chennai is churning out some exquisite dishes, there were ample of challenges faced by the hotel while running their home delivery services. “The most challenging aspect is to maintain a fine balance between protecting the luxury meal experience, the hygiene and reliability aspect of the meal and ensuring it is packed in a manner that is easy on logistics too,” avers Das.
There are a numbers of factors to be considered before starting on this service. “We ensured that we are relevant from a pricing perspective, given that we work with aggregator partners who support us with the delivery,” adds Das.
Further, he states, “In the delivery model, we are not vying with just other competitor luxury brands but some fantastic standalone restaurants too which offer great value for money and delicious meals. So, the luxury meal experience —how the garnish looks, the temperature of food, the quality of the meats, the freshness of the salad or temperature of the dessert becomes a key differentiator. In the feedback we receive, this is what stands out for us.”
Apart from challenges, Das even got candid about the invaluable learning that this personal delivery model has offered. He says, “It has been a great learning experience to enter the personal delivery space. It’s fast-paced with multiple touch-points to manage and the order patterns are dynamic. Patterns change every few days, so the ability to react quickly is the key. Unlike corporate or bulk delivery business where the menu is fixed and we can bulk cook, pack and dispatch at fixed times.”
As an FSSAI five-star certified hotel, Hilton Chennai is practising all the safety and hygiene standards as prescribed in FSSAI and HACCP guidelines. “We are adhering to proper labelling practice to ensure food is consumed within the stipulated time, especially the freshly cooked gravies, desserts, biriyanis, salads etc. We have an in-house food hygiene and microbiology lab that monitors all our food, safety and hygiene-related touch-points for personnel, product and premise and how to keep it contactless, efficient and yet very experiential,” he adds.
Conrad Bengaluru has put together a home delivery menu that comprises of a healthy variety of continental and Indian dishes from their in- house kitchens, including their all-day dining restaurant Caraway Kitchen and speciality restaurant, Indian Durbar.
On being asked about the experience of running a home delivery kitchen, Srijan Vadhera, General Manager, Conrad Bengaluru, says, “The response has been encouraging and is growing by the day given our database of over 3,000 customers, including Hilton Dining Program members.” There is a huge opportunity for star hotels to explore a new avenue of revenues perspective and spreading the net to cater to another audience alike.
While for Vadhera running the home delivery kitchen is similar to regular kitchen operations, certain nuances need consideration. “Hygiene and serving temperature is something that should be consciously looked at. The menus have to be framed keeping in mind possible reheating of food for which the customer needs to be educated well,” he asserts.
Intending to reach out to a large number of people, Conrad Bengaluru is not just accepting orders directly but also through delivery logistic partner platforms to provide convenience to guests while placing the order online. “Ware encouraging payments through our wireless EDC machine for card transactions,” says Vadhera.
DoubleTree by Hilton Gurgaon
DoubleTree by Hilton Gurgaon has aptly named its home delivery menu as ‘Lockdown Menu.’ The offerings are primarily Indian and Asian and cater to the palate of the Indian and Asian diaspora residing in the vicinity of the hotel.
As a strategy to reach out to people, the hotel is offering their signature dishes like Saag Wala Meat, Asian Greens Dumplings and Butter Chicken that feature on the menu, at very competitive pricing.
DoubleTree by Hilton Gurgaon has recently started their home delivery service and has tied up with food delivery companies so that guests can easily order their favourite dishes from the comfort of their homes. Sharing his experience, Samir Avasthi, General Manager, DoubleTree by Hilton Gurgaon, says, “We have just begun the delivery model recently and it’s too early to comment. But, yes, we have started seeing traction and are very upbeat that the demand will pick up.” However, the challenge he says, “Is to compete with stand-alone restaurants in the market. To have that edge, the pricing has to be competitive and the taste has to be excellent.”
Accor properties have started food delivery through online delivery applications such as Zomato and Swiggy. Few of Accor hotels such as Novotel Chennai OMR, Novotel Chennai Chamiers Road and Novotel Visakhapatnam Varun Beach are also offering home delivery and takeaway services, whereas Novotel Mumbai Juhu Beach is offering only the takeaway option.
Based on demand, ordering patterns and preferences, Novotel Chennai OMR has a home delivery menu offering a variety of cuisines such as Asian, Chinese as well as Indian for the home-style comfort food. The hotel so far has been getting a sizeable number of orders every day through delivery aggregators.
To keep up with the standards of personal delivery space, the hotel’s F&B managers and chefs are increasingly being exposed to the nuances of the delivery segment by taking up webinars on dark kitchens, trends, wellness food segments, packaging, merchandising and keeping up with the personalised demands of the guest.
A few instances from the AccorHotels group.
Novotel Mumbai Juhu Beach
Novotel Mumbai Juhu Beach is only offering a takeaway service during the lockdown period. The beach hotel has curated a select menu that includes favourite dishes from their restaurants (the all-day diner The Square, Indian restaurant, Bageecha, Italian restaurant Olio and Chinese restaurant, Sampan).
The menu comprises starters, sandwiches, main course, grills, pizzas, pasta and desserts. For the takeaway service delivery, the hotel has adopted contactless delivery service, wherein the guests are asked to pick the food from the hotel’s main entrance.
The takeaway service at Novotel Mumbai Juhu Beach took off in April. Sharing their experience, the hotel’s spokesperson said, “For us, it is a good learning experience. There are operational challenges that we are facing with on the manpower, sourcing of ingredients and delivery of food items, especially fresh produce fronts. However, overcoming these challenges by managing our team allocation, looking for alternate ingredients or easier methods of cooking has helped us overcome these challenges.”
Novotel Chennai Chamiers Road
As a part of their home delivery service, Novotel Chennai Chamiers Road is offering dishes such as sushi and other Asian grill dishes in the menu. The hotel is driving demand from their regular guests as they are ordering their favourites from the specially curated menu. With the home delivery service, Novotel Chennai Chamiers Road is doing business of Rs 15,000 to Rs 25,000 every day.
Hyatt Regency Delhi
Through their award-winning restaurants —La Piazza, The China Kitchen, TK’s Oriental Grill, Café and Sidewalk, Hyatt Regency Delhi are now delivering this service throughout Delhi. The menu has been curated by Executive Chef Ivan, who has chosen signature dishes such as Pizza La Piazza, Minced Chicken Salad, Yellow Prawn Curry, Gong Bao Chicken, Tiramisu and more from across their F&B venues.
Speaking about the challenges, Julian Ayers, General Manager, Hyatt Regency Delhi says, “The coronavirus pandemic and the subsequent lockdown has made us more cautious in terms of judicially utilizing resources and ensuring minimal wastage. We continue to source most fruits and vegetables from our farm. Managing the manpower is another concern since the safety and security of our employees remains our foremost priority.”
Along with food and employee safety, the hotel chain is also encouraging people to make payments digitally. They are looking at QR codes as a long term plan since contactless menus are the need of the hour. Besides, Hyatt Regency Delhi is also in the process of building a home delivery website wherein the whole procedure from placing an order to making the payment will be digital.
The Park Hotels
THE Park Chennai started their home delivery during the lockdown. The menu curated by Ashutosh Nerlekar, executive chef consists of the favourites from the all-day dining restaurant —Six 'O' One and includes classics such as wood-fired pizzas and signature pasta. “We also offer our famous shawarma wraps and sandwiches as part of the European menu. The famous Thai curries from Lotus (the Thai speciality restaurant) are on offer as part of our pan-Asian offerings,” he says. As part of the Indian cuisine offerings, the hotel has included its signature biryani and curries.
At THE Park Kolkata, the menu curated by Chef Sharad Dewan offers a variety of Indian and International popular items —such as signature biryanis, Chinese, kebabs, Club kachori, samosas, Indian curries, Bengali specials such as Malai Curry, Mutton Kosha, bread, authentic wood-fired pizzas, and pasta.
At THE Park Bangalore, Chef Krishna Sharma, Executive Chef has curated two menus for food delivery including happy meals a la carte and Happy meals weekly menu subscription.
Talking about the guest’s response to this service, Chef Ashutosh Nerlekar, says, “The demand has been encouraging. We are catering to about 30 or 40 orders a day. This service has opened up a new vertical of sorts for the 5-Star hotels who never ventured into this online space. We believe this is going to be the new normal.”
At THE Park Bangalore, says Chef Krishna Sharma, “the demand in the market is fairly well due to the presence of delivery partners such as Swiggy.” While the personal delivery services have created a demand in the market, it has also posed several challenges.
The Chefs at THE Park Bengaluru, Chennai and Kolkata say, “Logistics of organizing supplies is a challenge during these times. However, our vendors are supporting us. The menu is also curated keeping in mind the dishes/ ingredients availability. At times we are dispatching our vehicles to get the product directly from the vegetable markets and other traders.”
Chef Nerlekar mentions how they do not have an opportunity to “fix things” if the guest does not like the dish. “Guests are going to be particular and picky about the food they eat but considering the lockdown, we would not be given a second chance. The food has to be fresh and served correct the first time following all parameters. Food portions and recipes which are standardised have to be followed to the last bit to ensure consistency. The deliveries have to be on a timely basis”
Chef Sharma sums up the experience as “good. We are trying to reach out to single and old people who are living alone and looking for reliable sources for food delivery. We have kept the pricing minimal to encourage more people to order which will be helping the society.”
The Leela Bengaluru
The Leela Palace Bengaluru has started self-takeaways and home delivery service from their Citrus restaurant kitchen. The contemporary luxury hotel is using platforms such as Swiggy and Dunzo to serve their customers. With the personal delivery service, the hotel has managed to earn approx. Rs 50,000 per day.
Among the challenges that the hotel faces, says the spokesperson, are “limited resources and supplies forcing chefs to curate a menu that travels well. Each dish is best made with regular recipes using ingredients that are easily available in the market. For example, we do not offer thin crust pizza, as it gets soggy in the process of delivery. To maintain the Leela quality, we serve sourdough pizza that remains crispy throughout,” a spokesperson from the hotel said.
Sarovar Hotels & Resorts
Balaji Sarovar Premiere, Solapur has started ‘Meals on Wheels Home Delivery’ service. “The menu is kept very simple and economically priced. Since we operate with a skeleton staff, the menu has 99% Indian touch. Apart from main meals, the menu also offers a choice of confectionery cakes such as rich dark chocolate, butterscotch, choco mocha and others,” says Berzin Master, the general manager of the hotel.
According to Master, the ‘Meals on Wheels Home Delivery’ has found great acceptance from most citizens of Solapur. “We have got decent earning through this concept.”
Master claims that right from the start he was sure they would deliver the food in a hotel car, which was a far more secure delivery system than a two-wheeler. But that means the hotel takes on the additional cost diesel cost. “One major initial challenge was exposing our staff to guest contact. When we did the first simulation and incorporated social distancing, we were relieved that in this manner our staff would be safe.”
For hotels, home delivery seems to be the way to go to earn some much-needed revenues and keep the kitchen fire burning. In the long run, this could pay off in a way of new guests from the neighbourhood, who may have never used the hotel facilities before.