At Virgin Hotels in Chicago, Dallas and Nashville, and coming to Las Vegas early next year, the company’s app was made more robust this year to control room lights, temperature and television. Room configurations separate the back bedroom from the dressing room near the hallway with a barn door behind which guests can remain, allowing attendants access to make deliveries without contact.
“We don’t make you sign the room-service check,” said Raul Leal, the chief executive of Virgin Hotels. “That’s an archaic accounting tool.”
Pop-up dining and robotic servers
Not every hotel can offer outdoor dining year-round. Neither can their restaurants thrive with the capacity restrictions forced by social distancing requirements. The solution: Make the entire hotel a dining area. And throw in robotic servers.
“This is meant to be an answer to how do you deconstruct the restaurant experience so you don’t have to eat in one small place,” said Ron Swidler, the chief innovation officer at The Gettys Group, a Chicago-based hotel design, development and consulting firm. The Gettys Group recently convened with a consortium of 325 industry professionals from Hilton, Marriott and Cornell University, among others, to come up with the Hotel of Tomorrow project, collaborating on future hotel innovations. (The company has a track record with the workshop; in the early 2000s, it came up with the idea of a robotic butler, later developed by the Aloft brand of hotels as the Botler).
The think tank envisioned delivery units of various sizes that could keep food hot and drinks cold and provide video or music for entertainment.
“Maybe these robots have personalities and hang out with you,” Mr. Swidler added.
Even without robot partygoers, existing hotels have a great incentive to repurpose their now underutilized meeting rooms, ballrooms and even event lawns.
“We’re thinking the whole dining experience could change,” Mr. Ito, of Gensler, said. “You can create spaces around the hotel that aren’t necessarily in the restaurant, but become pop-up areas for private dining. It’s all about personalization and creating a unique experience.”