With the number of people who can socialize in bars and restaurants limited (if, indeed, the bars and restaurants are even open) and guests spending more time in their rooms, hoteliers are facing new challenges in keeping guests fed and comfortable.
Sweden-based Dometic, a supplier of refrigerators, minibars and electronic safes, has been adapting to the new demand with new products, said Fatiha Babou, head of business development, hospitality at Dometic Group. In the 50 years since the company launched, Dometic has pivoted numerous times, finding new ways to help hotels stand out.
In the middle of last year, the company reorganized its verticals, bringing some divisions that were locally and regionally managed into global verticals. Its erstwhile lodging department was renamed hospitality, with offices in most major markets and a dedicated division for healthcare.
Keeping the hospitality segment global, Babou said, gives the team a “far higher” level of agility when it comes to answering customers and dealing with market requests. “In this way, rather than developing for local, very niche geographies, we tend to look at the big picture,” Babou said. “Our market on the hotel side is very much international, so we have to respond on an international basis.”
Dometic was among the first suppliers to offer a drawer-style minibar for hotel guestrooms, and 10 years later, these units are the company’s most popular product for new-build hotels in the luxury segment. “The beauty of this unit is that it [is] totally silent,” Babou said, adding that silence has become a luxury and a major key performance indicator, with noise levels defined by some regional green legislators as a kind of pollution. Beyond low noise levels, the minibars also meet energy ratings for environmental certification.
The minibars, she said, let designers of upscale and luxury hotels be more creative and have fun with their concepts. “We have allowed these architects and interior designers to think through the room in a different way, and to think through the guest experience in a totally different angle and surprise the guests with having a different construction.”
To make the minibars and refrigerators blend in more seamlessly with a room’s decor, the company also developed a unit that is available with two different door styles—one with a finished front that works as a quick “plug and play” solution, and the second with a “naked” door. “That allows the designer to actually think [up] a panel that would match the decor of the bedroom,” Babou said, adding that the team has seen the minibars paneled in leather and glass as well as traditional wood.
With customers around the world, Babou has seen different demand for different types of products in different markets. In North America, hoteliers tend to want minibars rather than undercounter refrigerators for the upper-upscale to luxury segments. The economy through upscale hotels tend to prefer undercounter compressor refrigerators. “In the rest of the world, it starts from midscale right up to luxury where our customers require minibars in their bedrooms,” she said. The higher you go into the scaling of the hotel industry, the more unique [the] solutions the customers will want for their guests.”
New products are catering to evolving needs. Last March, for example, the company rolled out its MoBar series of outdoor beverage carts, meeting the ever-evolving trend of outdoor and rooftop bars. The units are more in-demand today as hotels pivot to outdoor socializing due to the pandemic, and Babou expects the carts to support properties’ bottom lines until indoor dining and socializing returns to prepandemic norms. Dometic also launched a line of wine refrigerators that, like the carts, started out in the company’s residential vertical.
Demand for these products has grown as hoteliers seek new streams of revenue in spite of limited capacity in restaurants and bars. For guests who want to unwind in their rooms, the company has developed smaller wine refrigerators that can fit under standard counters in hotel rooms. “So that has also attracted a lot of attention for some of our most premium luxury customers,” Babou said.
Clicking with Clients
While Dometic has offices worldwide, connecting with hotels during the past year has been a challenge. Despite delays and issues, the company has been focused on getting its products to clients, especially the new-builds and renovations that have been ongoing despite the pandemic, Babou said. “And that has been about keeping in touch with procurement companies, architects, contractors [and] supply chain companies,” she said. But on-site visits are limited, she noted, and the company has put “very strict traveling restrictions” in place. While team members have not been able to visit their customers as they used to prepandemic, she said, the salespeople dedicated to the hotel segment are reachable “almost everywhere in the world.”
Logic in Logistics
After 50 years, Dometic has long-term and established relationships with a wide range of architects and designers involved in the hotel industry. “We listen to them,” Babou said. “We work together, and they [are] looking forward to playing with other kinds of equipment to feature in the rooms that they design.” By developing products that can adapt to a wide range of room types, she added, “[we] allow these architects and interior designers to think through the room in a different way, and to think through the guest experience in a totally different angle and surprise the guests.”