HOTELS Interview: Room service — the need for speed and beyond

When Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts, Toronto, launched a room service offering about two years ago focused on fast delivery — 15 minutes in most hotels, 20 minutes in some resorts — the goal was to serve mainly business travelers. Today, Executive Vice President of Product and Innovation Chris Hunsberger confirms the program has evolved to cater to a variety of guest needs and represents 15% to 20% of Four Seasons’ overall room service business. He recently discussed the program, as well as broader room service trends, with HOTELS.

Chris Hunsberger
Chris Hunsberger

HOTELS: How have individual properties adapted Four Seasons’ 15-Minute Room Service program to fit their unique needs?

Chris Hunsberger: Our Scottsdale (Arizona) property has done a lot not only with the idea of what we can get to you in 15 minutes, but also how we can package it up. So if you want to be going offsite or if you happen to be leaving the property at the end of your stay and want to take food with you, they’ve come up with fun to-go packaging. They’ve got something they’ve called, for instance, “Removing the Cork” — in there is a bottle of red wine, olives, chorizo, a baguette, cheeses and things like that. And it’s all packaged and ready to go for you. 

Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North in Arizona offers a Bakery Fresh breakfast featuring a croissant with jam, muffin, granola yogurt parfait, juice, water and fresh fruit delivered in a wooden crate within 20 minutes.
Four Seasons Resort Scottsdale at Troon North in Arizona offers a Bakery Fresh breakfast featuring a croissant with jam, muffin, granola yogurt parfait, juice, water and fresh fruit delivered in a wooden crate within 20 minutes.

They’ve also got a series of items designed for kids — everything from PB and J and apple wedges to grilled cheese — all things we can package up and get to you to go in 20 minutes.

Keeping with the core tenets of the program, every one of our properties has been encouraged to have some fun with it. Our property in Florence, for instance, changes their menus a bit more frequently, and they’re always focused on a lot of seasonal items on their 15-minute room service menu. People think of Florence as one of those great food cities, and they wanted to embrace the local favorites and seasonal items.

HOTELS: Does Four Seasons mandate certain staples that are on the 15- or 20-minute room service menu around the world?

Hunsberger: No. We’ve asked everybody to make sure there are some healthy items, to make sure there is a selection that appeals to all three meal periods. Outside of that, we’ve really encouraged hotels to make it local and specific.

HOTELS: How do you expect this program to continue to evolve going forward?

Hunsberger: Time is one of those luxuries people just can’t buy. So we believe that a focus on our ability to get things to guests when they want it on their own terms is very important, whether we’re talking about room service or other things.

We do believe this part of the menu will continue to grow. It initially started with pretty much an in-room focus; many of our hotels now have a to-go section that also is available in 15 to 20 minutes because more guests are on the fly.

This year we’ll be rolling it out the option for guests to order from the full room service menu through an app or an in-room iPad. Again, that speaks to guests wanting to be able to do things on their own terms. We piloted that over the last year or so in five or six hotels, and they’ve had great success with that. From that now we’re beginning to roll that out to another couple dozen hotels, and eventually it will be something we do across the board. You can do that with an app or on the in-room iPad, and the next iteration of the app will be a Four Seasons global app. Right now those apps are local. Later this year we’re rolling out a Four Seasons global app so as you travel from one Four Seasons destination to another, you’ll be using the same app.

With all the focus on speed and convenience and giving things to guests on their own terms, equally as important to us is maintaining the quality level. We’ve done a lot with sourcing foods locally. All of our hotels are encouraged to buy as much local product as possible, and we feature a lot of that on the 15-minute room service menu.

HOTELS: What are your thoughts about the long-term viability of room service overall?

Hunsberger: Our room service numbers have continued to be pretty consistent. We don’t see it waning. Our guests have high expectations; we see it as an important part of our offering.

There once was a time when the room service menu might have looked like the King James Bible or something like that, and it had 50 pages. In many cases, based upon the destination, we have slimmed that down to think about what items are most important. A lot of those items now you would find in one or more of the restaurants the hotel has. Giving people the items they want has been a huge focus of ours.