Have you ever ordered hotel room service? Sure, in terms of the prices, it’s a scam. But it’s one of those fun unique elements people enjoy about staying in a fancy hotel (kind of like a bidet!). Most hotels don’t have restaurants and so they’re using food delivery apps like GrubHub to substitute for room service, but with the ability to order from a smart device in your room and earn hotel loyalty points for your Chinese food delivery. Here’s how we can take this practice and modify it for the hostel scene.
Here’s an idea for the laziest of hostels. Take the delivery menus from your local restaurants (they’re probably dropping them off without you even asking) and post them in your kitchen or dining area. This will be particularly helpful if you don’t have a 24-hour kitchen. Imagine, the kitchen door is locked. Instead of your guest walking away in a hangry rage, they already see delivery options posted on the door. Crisis averted. Posting the menus in the dining area reinforces the idea that this is where guests should be eating. If you post menus in the room, don’t be surprised to find guests eating in bed. A subtle nudge towards ordering food might even help your kitchen stay cleaner. The most tired, lazy guests who are likely to leave the kitchen dirty are probably the most likely to be tempted into getting dinner delivered.
Instead of just posting what’s available and letting your guests figure out what’s good and what’s not, add value to your guests by curating a list of suggestions. A hostel in any city probably has more than a dozen delivery options. Help cure analysis paralysis by letting your guests know which spot has the best pad thai and which pizzeria delivers quickest. Post this information in your dining area and also at reception so that when a guest asks a new staff member, "Know any restaurants that deliver Indian food?" their first instinct isn't just to open Google.
You’re on the internet researching ways to improve your hostel, so we already know you’re not the type of manager to half-ass it. Here’s the real way you can use food delivery to make a difference. Approach your local delivery restaurants and ask them for a special deal for guests of your hostel. It could be a plain discount like 15% off your order, or a special menu item like a combo meal for $5. This is how you really add value to your guests’ experience. “Wow, if we had stayed at the Airbnb down the street we wouldn’t be eating this enormous pizza for only $10” is what they’ll be saying. Here are some tips on making it happen:
This is probably only going to work with locally owned restaurants. Even if backpackers love McDonald's, you’ll never convince someone corporate to give your hostel a discount. Besides, you're a small business that wants to support other small businesses. Aren’t you?
You can negotiate a deeper discount by suggesting that the offer is only available if the customer orders directly. Hopefully, you’ve realized that GrubHub and UberEats are middlemen who take a cut the same way Hostelworld and Expedia are. Expect restaurants to be more generous to your guests if they don’t cost the restaurant a commission.
You shouldn’t partner with any restaurant you know has mediocre food or service. Your deal is an implicit endorsement of their restaurant. Even if a lousy restaurant offers your guests a great deal, if their food never arrives, and you recommended the restaurant, their grievances might appear in your Booking.com review, not their Seamless review.
What’s more exciting; ten restaurants that will offer 5% off, or 3 restaurants that will offer your guests dinner for five dollars? Offering your guests only a few, high-value offers instead of numerous low-value offers will make a bigger impact on your guest experience. Being selective with your partnerships can help inspire some competition between restaurants. With only a few restaurants gaining the majority of your hostel’s delivery business, your guests are likely to receive better quality service because of how valuable the partnership can become. Imagine if one pizza place is used to getting orders from your hostel every day. Their drivers know exactly where to park and your reception staff trusts their familiar faces to drop the food off directly to the guests in the kitchen.
Partnering with delivery restaurants offers convenience and value for your guests. It’s not a direct way for your hostel to make more money, but it’s a low-effort way your hostel can add to your guests’ overall experience. This is something leading hotel chains are already doing. They make it more convenient by giving guests a tablet in the room they can use to order food. We make it more convenient by giving guests menus for the best food options in town. They add value to delivery food by offering their guests what they really want: loyalty points. We offer value to delivery food by offering our guests what they really want: a good deal!
Byron has worked with hostels big and small, city and rural. His first job was as a receptionist in San Francisco and his favorite was leading the events for a 500-bed hostel in Sydney. Besides all things hostel related, he enjoys motorcycle riding, especially because it's the perfect way to get from hostel to hostel!
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