Guest facing technologies: guest delivery robots by EVENT Hotels

Hotels are increasingly turning to technology to fill the gaps left by a shortage of skilled workers. EVENT Hotels’ chief information officer Gerald Scheurmann-Kettner explains how guest facing technologies are being used to enhance the hotel experience.

In recent years, the hotel industry has started incorporating automation as a way to streamline processes. This is not so much to save employees, but rather to fill the gaps that have arisen due to the shortage of skilled workers.

A hotel should still offer excellent service and strive to provide the customer with all-round care and satisfaction. However, this is becoming increasingly difficult because, on the one hand, the demands of guests have changed significantly, particularly in the last ten to 15 years, and, on the other hand, because fewer and fewer people are willing to provide the service - especially on weekends or at night or on late evening.

To fill these gaps, the hotel industry is focusing on platforms that guests can access anywhere, such as apps, as well as technologies offered inside the hotel, for example, tablets in guest rooms, media control centres and check-in machines.

All of this should provide services that the guest can request independently as required, without the hotel having to directly provide employees. Chatbots also play a role here, suggesting that the request is dealt with directly, while also acting as a time-saving solution for hoteliers. For example, if a guest orders a pillow via chat, the chatbot can provide immediate feedback on the request, leaving housekeeping free to bring the pillow to the room in a reasonable time.

When it comes to robotics, people's opinions differ completely. Some are extremely afraid that robots can replace humans and others assume that complete processes and process chains can only be represented by robots. The aesthetic appearance of robots also plays a key role. Some people want to have robots that look relatively human, whereas others would prefer that robots to maintain a robotic appearance.

In the private sector, the use of robots is booming, this can be a vacuum cleaner robot or lawn robot. However, these machines can only perform one process and nothing more. A Hoover robot can vacuum-clean but cannot change or empty the bag. With these types of machines, the “human-to-machine process” always comes into play.

Finding the right robots for EVENT Hotels 

At EVENT Hotels, we have been dealing with the subject of streamlining processes and designing them efficiently for years, with the aim that the remaining employees spend time for, and with, the guests and they can fulfill their core tasks. We have therefore decided to introduce delivery robots that can move things from one place to another automatically and autonomously. Robotics or robots are not something that can be bought off the shelf, but are to be considered in each individual case, area of application and hotel as a separate project.

In the first step we defined what the robot should do: bring goods from the reception / bar / restaurant to the guest room. After that, we defined the purpose: to supply guests with goods without the receptionist having to leave their workplace, but the guest still gets full service.

We started looking for the right manufacturer, one that could deliver a robot for use in the hotel business and didn’t cause a cost explosion. The robot in the hotel must be familiar with it. It must be able to operate the elevator to get into the guest corridors, it must have a loading facility that prevents goods from being removed by strangers during transport and it must act so safely that no living creatures (human being or pet) are injured. And finally, it has to interact with the guest in some ways.

After many searches, appointments and meetings, we came across the company Awabot from France, which has started selling the robot from Savioke from the USA in Europe. EVENT Hotels has decided to use a full service three star plus hotel with 160 guest rooms as a pilot property.

Valeries, one of Birch’s two restaurants, will offer guests all-day casual dining.

How does it work?

The delivery robot is usually required between 6:00pm and 11:00pm, i.e. during the heavy check-in time. But this is exactly when the employees are dealing with the guests. Commonly, a maximum of two receptionists work in a three-star hotel at the same time, so you don't necessarily have the time to take care of other matters. Additional staff are deployed in the service, who also serve guests at the bar and restaurant at this time. The robot should now support these employees.

It is a relatively simple proceess: the guest calls the reception and asks for drinks, toothbrushes, or pillows, then the receptionist accepts the request and places the requested item inside the robot which is stationed in a charging booth near the reception. Once the staff member has fillied the robot and entered the designated room number, the robot drives to the elevator completely autonomously, calls it and indicates the correct floor. The robot drives into the elevator and gets off it on the correct floor. As soon as the robot is in front of the guest room, it calls the guest on the room phone and informs them of the arrival. The moment the guest opens the door, a lid on the robot opens and the guest can remove the ordered goods. After closing the lid, the robot returns to the charging station and awaits the next order.

The entire process takes a maximum of ten minutes. The guest is happy about the delivery and the reception is relieved not to have to worry about bringing the goods to the guest.

The pilot phase has now been successfully completed and the robot integrated into everyday life.

EVENT Hotels is now planning to install it at other hotels.

Birch will host events year-round, designed to offer guests an escape from everyday life.