Lunch, packed and delivered by the ITC. A bartender from The Park shaking martinis in your living room. Blazers dry-cleaned by the Hyatt. Sounds like the film star life?
Well, this is real life in 2020. This year has forced the world to change rapidly as companies and professionals pivot, finding innovative ways to stay afloat. As they weather this storm, the learnings from the last three months are likely to permanently influence the hospitality business.
Faced with empty rooms, restaurants and banquet halls, luxury hotels around the country have diversified into food deliveries, laundry and housekeeping.
COVID-19 and lockdowns around the world have kept diners and travellers from going to hotels. So instead, the hotels are going to them: and in true five-star fashion, they are doing it in style.
Order Peshawari’s signature mutton raan, dal makhani and chicken kebabs, and it will arrive in a chauffeured car, with a butler in tow. Their newly-launched ‘Gourmet Couch’ menu has a minimum order of ₹5,000 for free delivery to a radius of 15 kilometres around the hotel.
Set in cane baskets, the food is packed in plant-starched clamshell boxes, and biodegradable bags. The biryani and dals come in colourful handis, sealed with dough. A label on each dish gives details on date and time of preparation, as well as specific heating instructions. Need help? Just ask the butler. If you prefer a more low-key dinner, the hotel is also now on Swiggy.
The show must go on
“Every industry, in the current scenario, is thinking of sustainable ways and means to rediscover the way their businesses are run,” says Chef Ashutosh Nerlekar of The Park Chennai.
The Park is taking their restaurants to clients’ homes, where they will cater for anything from two to 50 guests. They are also launching a Home Bartender segment after lockdown. With this, guests can avail mixologist services. Or, they can opt for a Bar Takeover. “The hotel’s bartender will turn up at your house with chasers, glassware, cocktail syrups and garnishes. Only liquor needs to be provided by the guest,” says Kiron Kumar, F&B director at The Park Chennai.
At the Hyatt Regency in Gurugram, the general manager Vishal Singh says they started home delivery in April with cakes. It proved popular, so they went on to create a multi-cuisine delivery menu, competitively priced 25% lower than the hotel’s regular in-house dining rates.
He admits that it took a change in mindset to move to a delivery platform, adding “As hoteliers, we are equipped to adapt. We also learnt things from Swiggy and Zomato on how this model works.” Though the hotel has resumed all operations (except pool, gym and spa) since June 8, the number of deliveries are still higher than footfall.
This is why hotels are also beginning to diversify now, finding avenues beside F&B for generating income.
Out of the comfort zone
“We started our laundry services last month,” says Vishal, explaining that with most households not having domestic help and with dry cleaners and launderers not functioning, this seemed like a good idea. “Also in North India, this is when people dry-clean and pack away their woollens,” he says. Though the volume of demand for this is not as big as home delivery, they get between one to three orders in a day, and are hoping to grow as word spreads.
Stating that they have a pick-up and drop-off option, Vishal says, “We deliver after 48 hours. As safety is top priority, we have a hygiene manager. Our biggest advantage is that we have an in-house laundry on our premises, as opposed to other laundries which are collection points, which send the clothes to a laundering facility.” Everything is machine-washed at a high temperature, chemicals are used to disinfect, the garments are then ironed and steamed.
The hotel is now in talks with corporate clients and complexes to take over housekeeping.
The Green Park hotel in Chennai, is one of the first players to enter the housekeeping business, post lockdown. They started in mid-May and have so far catered to 25-odd corporate clients. While the terms ‘sanitise’ and ‘disinfect’ might be in use a lot these days, these are standard procedures at hotels. “Any good five-star hotel, will have at least 60 to 100 housekeeping staff alone. These professionals have mastered the art of cleaning rooms and sanitising places,” says Sudip Sen Gupta, vice-president operations, at Green Park.
“With offices reopening, workspaces need disinfecting. So we started doing that here, as well as in Hyderabad and Vizag, where we have our properties,” says Sudip. “Now, it has become mandatory for corporates to sanitise their buildings. We also train their housekeeping team to deep-clean effectively,” he explains. Rates vary depending on the square feet, starting at ₹3 and going up to ₹6, depending on the kind of cleaning required.
Meanwhile, The Oberoi, Bengaluru, has been receiving queries from corporations who are looking for independent or group work spaces in hotels.
“We have ample choices with us, starting from our business centre meeting rooms, board room, independent work stations and even our alfresco restaurant spaces which are ideal for work with fresh air and lush green views,” says Visheshwar Raj Singh, vice president and general manager of the property. Apart from a slew of measures that the hotel says they have undertaken, the other benefits of working from a luxury hotel include customisable food and beverage menus available.
Given that a few companies are shutting down their physical office space and moving towards a permanent WFH platform, Visheshwar believes there is potential for this segment to see reasonable growth, “especially with many corporates seeking a neutral, peaceful, non-cluttered environment for their work hours keeping safety and convenience both in mind.”