The Aloft Dallas Love Field, which officially held its grand opening on March 9, 2017, is now the newest Aloft property to have its own robot delivery service for guests.
HOTEL MANAGEMENT first reported on Relay the robot in 2015, but now the bot can be found deployed in a number of hotel properties throughout the world, including the Aloft Miami Doral and Aloft Cupertino (Calif.).
When in action, the Relay robot provides low-level deliveries to guestrooms. Tessa Lau, chief technology officer at Savioke, designer of the robot, said guests frequently schedule Relay to provide wake-up call coffee deliveries in the morning, late-night bottles of wine and even guest groceries at extended-stay properties. In many cases, hotels have the option to use the Relay delivery as a upselling opportunity, with Lau saying one Residence Inn with a robot charges $2 per coffee delivery.
"In this way, they recoup the cost of the robot quickly," Lau said. "Some hotels charge an additional fee like this to deliver grab-and-go items from the hotel's mini-mart to the guestroom, which results in pure profit for the property."
According to Perry Molubhoy, CEO of Atlantic Hotels Group, the management company behind the Aloft Dallas, the new hotel chose not to upcharge guests, and considers the delivery process experiential in its own right.
"We think roomservice in such a high-tech fashion is interesting, and we want all of our guests to be able to experience it if they choose," Molubhoy said. "We feel like it's the right fit for our guests' age group and demographic. And guests are amazed, it's a novelty and a niche necessity at the same time."
Aloft was able to rebrand Relay as Botlr, a robotic butler affixed with a bowtie graphic, providing it a unique identity while on property. The new Dallas Aloft was even able to provide dual-branding for the hotel's second half, which is an Element hotel. Lau said a Residence Inn with a Relay robot held a naming contest among staff members to choose a name, deciding upon Wally, and said hotels can choose to customize the robot with visual wraps.
In order to make a delivery, Relay is stocked by a staff member who then inputs the correct room number for the robot to travel to. Once there, it detects when the guestroom door opens, and then reveals the delivery and prompts guests for feedback via a digital screen. The Dallas Aloft does not offer a traditional roomservice option, and Molubhoy said the robot isn't replacing anyone.
"I see it as a novelty," he said. "If guests truly want something they will come to the lobby, but now they can order a delivery for the experience. I don't see it as an incremental income source, and I don't think a machine could ever replace a human. Botlr gets guests engaged with the property and excited for new technology in robotics, but hospitality needs humans."