Delivery robots are the newest hires in the service industry as staffing shortages continue.
Newport Beach-based hotel investment group Seaview Investors LLC has added a service robot to each of the eight hotels in its portfolio.
Seaview’s properties across the West Coast now include Relay robots developed by San Jose-based Relay Robotics Inc., previously known as Savioke.
Seaview’s first robot was introduced to the Residence Inn LAX as an experiment shortly after the hotel’s opening in 2015.
After the Seaview executives witnessed a change in guest and associate engagement and a rise in service scores with the daily integration of the robot, they expanded the automated assistant to the rest of its properties as its portfolio grew.
As of April, the Relay robots are included in every Seaview hotel from LA to Healdsburg, allowing hotel staff to focus more on the guest experience, officials said.
These innovations are led by Bob Combie, the hotel group’s senior vice president of technology. Seaview founder and President Bob Alter was introduced to the robot concept by Combie as the executive team looked at what robot service technology could add to operations.
“The robots contribute to the forward-thinking approach each Seaview property represents to our guests and gives us a competitive advantage in the markets we serve,” Combie said.
Robot Room Service
The robots perform low-level tasks and deliveries—such as room service—at all hours of the day using the hotel elevators.
With sensors to detect its surroundings, the 3-foot robots have its respective property mapped out to deliver pillows, towels and groceries to guests loaded by hotel staff. The associates enter a password on the display board to access the task menu and begin the delivery process.
The Relay robots can reach a room in four minutes and are sanitized at the end of each trip.
The robots are also tailored to older hotels such as the Courtyard LAX, which Seaview purchased in 2019. When the regular robots couldn’t communicate with that hotel’s older elevator system, Relay designed a newer robot with an extendable arm for pushing buttons.
Since the full rollout, Seaview’s reservations department have reported the robots’ popularity among guests along with positive feedback referencing the technology on social media and reviews.
“Robert Alter is very forward-thinking in terms of adopting what’s new,” Director of Asset Management Tiffany Bevins told the Business Journal. “This really separates us from our competition.”
Each Relay robot has its own name as well, from Wally at Residence Inn to Ace at AC Hotel Beverly Hills.
Seaview’s hotels are now at 85% occupancy through May year-to-date, 92.5% of 2019 levels and on the brink of recovery, according to Bevins. New trends, like limited housekeeping and grab-and-go dining, continue to develop as leisure and business travel return.
Seaview was the first commercial customer of Relay Robotics in 2015 upon opening its first hotel.
Founded in 2013, Relay says it has delivered over 1 million robots to companies in the hospitality, healthcare and food service industries.
With the increasing labor shortage and the change in face-to-face interaction, businesses are more willing to look at technology according to Relay’s founder and Chief Technology Officer Steve Cousins.
Robots are “the new team member, not to replace people but coming in to help staff,” Cousins told the Business Journal.
“Robots are coming along to make the jobs we do have more value as they can do the same thing over and over again day in and day out.”
Relay Robotics’ newest model, the Relay+, is set for full installation in the fourth quarter.