Tuesday September 21st, 2010 - 10:44AM
DALLAS—It is widely accepted that as travelers get more sophisticated in their personal lives, they expect the hotels they patronize to do the same. Things like Internet access and Wi-Fi are increasingly becoming something savvy travelers insist on. But as smart phones and connectivity flourish, those same travelers are beginning to expect properties not just to offer access, but to find innovative ways to take advantage of it, as well.
The Sheraton Dallas Hotel is one of two Starwood properties to roll out a new option for guests to order room service, among other technology-related amenities. “Our focus is to provide ‘best in class’ technology solutions in all areas of the hotel,” said Ray Hammer, general manager for the hotel.
The new offering is an e-dining website that allows guests to place orders via the Internet access in their room or anywhere on the property including meeting rooms, the Link@Sheraton service offered throughout the property, or via a mobile device such as an iPhone. The other location offering the service, the Sheraton Denver, currently only offers access via the Link@Sheraton service.
At the moment, Hammer noted that about 75 percent of the food menu is available to order via the online system. “These are the most popular items, and enable us to offer our guests a quick and easy ordering experience without overwhelming them with choices,” he noted.
For now, the service is limited to those items from the room service menu. However, Hammer said, there are plans to extend it in the future. “Phase One, is only food requests. For Phase Two, we will be implementing the ability to order amenities to be delivered to a guest. For example, a friend, family member, business associate or co-worker will be able to use the website to order an amenity for a guest and purchase it with their credit card.” He also noted that future versions could include allowing guests to schedule wake-up calls, or request other hotel amenities, such as extra pillows, via the site.
Part of the appeal of the online system, Hammer noted, is that guests have more convenient options. They can, he said, order from a taxi on their way back from a meeting. Another way it can be used is to pre-order items to be delivered at a later time, such as after a conference is over. Guests can also choose to have the items delivered not only to their room, but to any location in the hotel, making it a very flexible offering.
Guest feedback, Hammer said, has been very positive so far. The hotel is offering a 10 percent discount on items ordered via the new system to encourage its use.
Taking tech further
However, the online eMenu system isn’t the only piece of technology the Sheraton Dallas has implemented. “Our robust technology features address the needs of our guests who are accustomed to these options in their home office environment,” Hammer said. “Our focus is to establish a community within our hotel that speaks to our brand values, providing a warm, connected, community.”
Some of the projects the hotel is working on include a Cisco Telepresence, life-size video conferencing center, which will be one of only 30 worldwide. Guestrooms have HD televisions with a Connectivity Pack, which allows a guest to easily connect their computer, iPod, DVD Player or game system. “We’ve [also] installed an extensive electronic reader board system to assist guests with finding their way about the property and to their meeting rooms,” noted Hammer. “In Draft, our sports and media lounge, we feature two private karaoke rooms and four Wii stations, complimentary to customers.”
And the Sheraton Dallas is using technology to help the environment, as well as make guests’ stays more enjoyable. “Technology has been the cornerstone of our hotel’s green initiatives,” said Hammer. “For example, our laundry plant, through its technology support, has reduced our water consumption in this area by close to 70 percent. Also, our guestroom energy management system has infrared detection, is interfaced with our property management system and finally the system self-updates close to 100 times per day to accommodate for climate changes, reducing our power consumption significantly. VFD technology, along with infrared technology, now controls everything from our escalator systems, fresh air returns and kitchen ventilation operations.”