A web-based technology called Porter is powering up a new digital era of food service at hotels, starting in Los Angeles but with its sights set on growth across the United States.
Porter, a business transformation platform that fundamentally changes hospitality, is now operational at the H Hotel Los Angeles from the Curio Collection by Hilton, Homewood Suites by Hilton LAX and the Courtyard by Marriott Los Angeles LAX/Century Boulevard. Together with seven limited-service hotels near the company's headquarters in Oregon, these properties are the first in the United States to integrate Porter technology into their food and beverage operations and demonstrate how its success can be replicated nationwide and eventually globally.
With a name inspired by the vital role that hotel porters play in making guest experiences better, the Porter technology platform similarly makes life easier for travelers by handling food ordering, delivery, payment and tipping in a single smartphone transaction. Users simply scan an in-room QR code to launch a web interface that allows them to browse restaurant menus, select food and beverage orders and handle all the monetary details - all without having to use the hotel room phone, interact with a hotel employee or download a special app.
The hotels selected Porter to power up their room service not only because of social distancing during the current pandemic but also because this type of convenient self-service technology is what 21st century travelers expect for the long term.
"Consumers today are accustomed to using their smart devices for all kinds of transactions wherever they go, and we want to provide them with the same level of sophistication when it comes to the dining experience at our properties," said Annie Saville, Complex Director of Operations, H Hotel/Homewood Suites LAX. "This type of technology helps please our guests and streamlines our back-of house operations. It's a win-win."
Porter is designed to be flexible, allowing for ordering and delivery of food from an in-house restaurant in hotels where one already exists - as is the case with the three LAX hotels, all served by The H Hotel's Waypoint Kitchen - and, more uniquely, connecting hotels with limited or no food operations to a curated selection of local food and beverage vendors, thereby creating a "taste of the neighborhood" experience for guests.
For example, in the case of the seven hotels in the Eugene-Springfield, Ore., area, these limited-service properties now feature a high-tech form of room service, with food and beverages provided in partnership with PublicHouse, a nearby hub of food pods, a beer hall, an outdoor bar and a whiskey bar. PublicHouse has a dedicated vehicle and driver to facilitate deliveries to the Porter-empowered hotels. Those currently include The Maverick, Candlewood Suites, Comfort Suites, Tru by Hilton, Fairfield Inn & Suites, Courtyard Eugene-Springfield and University Inn & Suites. Porter is expecting to partner with another group of limited-service hotels in the area in the coming months.
Not only restaurants, but also hotel sundries/gift shops and other points of purchase can be added into the Porter interface. In fact, this kind of multi-vendor order processing is exactly why Porter was built, its creators explained. "The idea for Porter originated after observing patrons of a local beer garden splitting up and spending more time standing in lines to place their individual orders than sitting together with their parties," said John Barry, co-founder and "Chief Porter" of the company. "This seemed like a missed opportunity, both for the enjoyment of the guests and the profits of the business."
Developed by an all-star team of restaurateurs, designers, entrepreneurs, and computer programmers, the resulting platform was dubbed Porter. It is the first mobile technology to manage orders and payments from multiple menus and multiple vendors, seamlessly behind the scenes, in a single transaction. The first businesses to adopt and use the technology proved its potential to significantly increase check sizes and tips, which has become a key selling point.
After introducing Porter to restaurants in its home state of Oregon, the company refined its focus and now targets venues that combine multiple food and retail vendors, such as hotels, food halls and sports stadiums.
"For many hotels, especially smaller boutiques, food service is a complicated operation that can be eased by partnering with Porter," Barry said. "We customize our technology to work with their local capabilities, whether that's an in-house café or nearby restaurants, bars and food trucks. This way, hoteliers can offer guests a taste of the unique local culture without having to add lots of staffing and infrastructure. No other company is doing that."