PUNE/GURUGRAM/CHENNAI: When five-star hotels line up to offer laundry services, and also have your clothes picked up and dropped at home, you know the world is changing.
Across cities, these emblems of luxury and the good life have diversified in previously inconceivable directions to find new channels of revenue as the Covid-19 pandemic runs its disruptive course through businesses. In Gurugram and Pune, for instance, the Hyatt Regency is offering “crisp laundry at your doorstep”. The service covers everything from your bed sheets to pashmina shawls.
Shubham Chandra, general manager of Conrad Pune, which is also offering a premium laundry service, told TOI, “In times of uncertainty and rapidly changing market conditions, it’s important for businesses to evolve with the environment. We identified a gap in the market and we had the means to deliver. When the hotel was functioning normally, we did not have the bandwidth to extend our laundry service to the local market. Fortunately, we do now. So, we decided to expand it.”
Why laundry, though? Across hotel chains, executives said the market had presented an “opportunity” because of hygiene concerns in people’s minds about how their clothes were being handled as the pandemic swept across India, and five-stars felt they had the right credentials, and credibility, to put those doubts to rest. The other advantage they saw was that it allowed them to connect with new customers who might return later for other services. “The chemicals and machines we use are not something commercial washers will. Amid the Covid-19 risk, we are sanitising garments and linen,” said Adhish Poddar, executive housekeeper at Conrad Pune.
Hyatt Regency Pune and Residences in Vimannagar has also started providing pickup and doorstep delivery of garments laundered at the hotel. Yogesh Deshmukh, the head of the housekeeping management at the hotel, said, “The pickup and drop service is complimentary for customers within 5km radius of the hotel. People living beyond are requested to pay a charge for doorstep delivery.”
Hotel Green Park, a five-star at Chennai’s Vadapalani, has also been offering housekeeping services for the past month. Sudip Sengupta, vice-president (operations), said, “This is a new business vertical we launched along with a tie-up with apartment complexes for offering food deliveries during the lockdown. Since many offices reopening with minimal staff do not have the expertise, we offer our service in disinfection and sanitation,” he said.
The Ritz-Carlton in Pune said staff had been specially trained to use disinfectants across 203 different touchpoints on the hotel premises and their hygiene protocols included workers wearing PPE.
Other than laundry, this ‘new normal’ of five-star offerings includes drive-through food takeaways, home delivery of bespoke dishes, and even learning the chef’s little secret behind that unforgettable chicken masala so that you can attempt it at home.
The Oberoi, Taj City Centre and Hyatt Regency in Gurugram, and the Ritz Carlton and Marriott hotels in Pune – under the Marriott on Wheels initiative — have all started home deliveries with menus that are smaller than the elaborate fare the hotels normally offer.
Ritz-Carlton general manager Vineet Mishra said, “Our hotels have taken this stance positively in the light of the current situation by introducing menu signatures and favourites for our guests. Prepared with uncompromising levels of hygiene, the delicacies are delivered contact-free.”
He said, “As we navigate and adapt ourselves to the new-normal in all aspects of life, there will be a new balance in everything we do. Carving new trends in this space have included menu options such as do-it-yourself meal kits, customized menus on request, celebratory offerings, corporate meals and other variations. We are using sanitised, transport including our London Taxi at the Ritz-Carlton Pune and Delivery Truck at The Courtyard by Marriott Pune, Hinjewadi.”
Ajay Kanojia, the general manager of Sayaji Hotel in Pune, which recently started food delivery from its fine dining resto, said, “We currently have minimal staff. But we have resources in terms of pulses and grain stock. Thus, we decided to use them instead of a complete shutdown of business in these tough times. We have chauffeurs and cars to deliver hygienically prepared food from our fine dining restaurant to the patron’s doorstep.”
The Westin in Gurugram is offering a bouquet of select dishes as part of its “Drive-Thru” service. Customers can place their orders and collect the food after 45 minutes from a dedicated pickup junction at the driveway of the hotel. “We take pride in being a part of their dining conversations even in the comfort of their homes — through our delivery and drive-through pickup services. We are leaving no stone unturned in delivering impeccable hospitality and service standards with utmost care and precaution,” said Rahul Puri, multi-property general manager for The Westin in Gurugram and New Delhi.
Chef Ramit Kohli of the Taj City Centre in Gurugram shared his recipe for chicken khubani masala on a social media platform, turning the recipe into a story. “This recipe has passed down generations… from my grandmother to my mother and I have been fortunate to recreate it! I still remember that my mum used to set aside some khubani for the dish and I used to quietly sneak in to devour some of those — the joys of childhood! I hope you try this at home and enjoy it as much as my family does,” he wrote.
Krishnakumar Menon, general manager of Aloft Chennai (OMR-IT Expressway) said Covid-19 had changed the business dynamics of the hospitality sector. “Now, we deliver food to work stations. We are also under discussion to launch ‘Food on Wheels’ on international standards in the city,” he said. Restaurants that account for 10-15% of the total income for star hotels have become the significant revenue churners. Venkat Reddy, general manager, Ambassador Pallava, Egmore, said the hotel was offering takeaways to customers who use to frequent restaurants before the lockdown. “We also home-deliver food within a limited distance depending on the value of the order,” he said.