⚠ We would appreciate if you would disable your ad blocker when visiting our site! ⚠

Self Service as Guest Service

Order a reprint of this story
Close (X)

To reprint an article or any part of an article from Hospitality Upgrade please email geneva@hospitalityupgrade.com. Fee is $250 per reprint. One-time reprint. Fee may be waived under certain circumstances.


March 01, 2009
Bill Geoghegan - Bill@LGTConsulting.com

View Magazine Version of This Article

© 2009 Hospitality Upgrade. No reproduction without written permission.

During the late 1930s, while the country was mired in the Great Depression, the drive-in eatery evolved, taking advantage of the mobile society.  Individuals, families or a carload of friends frequently enjoyed taking their cars to drug stores and eating establishments where they could order hot dogs, hamburgers, soft drinks, ice cream sodas and milk shakes delivered to their cars.  The server who took the order and delivered the food was compensated almost entirely by tips. With jobs and money hard to get, the servers became competitive over each opportunity to serve each car. Seeing a car approaching, one or more of the servers would hop on the running board of the vehicle before it even got to a parking place, fighting to claim that car as his customer.  These carhops, as they were known, were mostly men and their aggressiveness to claim the car frequently caused more than a little discomfort amongst the occupants.  As women joined the ranks, restaurant owners found that a pretty face sold more food, and most restaurants employed women as carhops.

Notwithstanding the fact that running boards are seen less often today than Elvis, safety issues and concerns for the customers’ comfort level changed the carhopping to waitresses taking orders from the occupants of a parked car and returning with their food and drinks.  To expedite the travel from car to kitchen and return, many carhops took to roller skates, and the image we have today (from American Graffiti and Happy Days) is just that.

To instill efficiency, some enterprising drive-in owners installed two-way intercom communications from a car side speaker/microphone device (to which a menu was typically attached) to a person inside the restaurant taking orders.   This reduced the number of trips for the waitress from two to one, and eliminated the time spent waiting for the driver or passengers to make up their mind as to what they wanted. 

While taking away the social aspect of flirting with the carhop, this was a much more efficient way to take and deliver orders.  It allowed fewer carhops to service the same number of cars, and substantially sped up the ordering and delivery process.  This method soon became the standard for drive-in restaurants.

In today’s casino and resort environment, guests expect to be able to order beverages at a slot machine, while playing at a table or poolside.  In the casino, cocktail waitresses circulate among the slot machines and gaming tables soliciting drink orders from patrons. After filling these orders at a bar station, the waitress returns to the slot machine or table game patron with the drink.   There is a psychology at work that suggests that the delay in returning with the order will keep a guest at the machine or table longer than otherwise would be true, perhaps causing him or her to put an extra $20 into the machine, or buy in for some more chips at the table. Frequently, however, the guest will walk away before the order arrives, causing extra work for the waitress without the possibility of getting the gratuity for which she works, and additionally dumping the free drink at a cost to the establishment.  When poolside, a quick delivery is desired by both the resort and the guest, so the round trip required for ordering and delivering is problematic.

In today’s economic climate, many resorts and casinos have reduced the effective staff of servers, whether through lay-offs or reduced work hours, severely reducing the level of guest services to which players and guests have become accustomed.

Much like the communication device did for the drive-in, there are new technologies and implementations that allow a guest to place orders without directly interacting with a server.  Poolside installations like Tiare Technology’s intelliChaise  offers benefits to both the guest and the resort.  In addition to reducing the time to delivery, the guest can order at any time, without having to flag down a server or wait for the normal rounds. The information on the small touch-screen display can also be used to upsell and make offers from other revenue centers, allowing the resort to maximize its revenue while providing better services at a lower cost. Servers can handle more guests, and provide more personalized services than would otherwise be available. A higher-end, larger touch-screen device is available for cabanas. These systems can operate stand alone, or be integrated into the resort’s POS system.

Tiare Technology is porting its intelliChaise system to the casino with VIP Seat, an ordering and guest interaction system designed to be placed at a slot machine and provide a drink ordering facility to the player. Tiare Technology has installations underway in both Atlantic City and Las Vegas casinos.  Like the intelliChaise system, it can operate standalone or integrate to a POS.

Slot machines offer an interesting opportunity for direct interaction with the guest, in that virtually all of the recent machines are full touch screens.  International Game Technology (IGT) has developed its sbX™ Service Window interface which will allow third-party developers the opportunity to interact with the player directly on the slot screen. Las Vegas Gaming, Inc., has developed its Beverage on Demand application utilizing this interface, wherein a small dynamic screen (the service window) slides into view over the game when the guest activates the request, allowing an order to be placed immediately.  Communication with The LVGI system is facilitated by IGT’s sbX Service Window, but does not require any intervention on the part of the gaming device, which simply provides the display window.  As an alternative to the actual game window, IGT also has an upgraded touch-screen display that is a small separate window, the sbNexGen™. Taking the place of the PIN pad, this screen offers multimedia possibilities in a two-way communication with a player.

The opportunities with these types of delivery are enormous.  Once a guest has inserted a player card into the reader, offers can be directed to that individual player based on known preferences or as recognition of their level of play. Drinks can be ordered at any time, without having to wait for the server to make her rounds, and providing the guest a much better level of service at a lower labor cost.

In an era of staff reductions, these types of technologies can provide a better level of guest services without resorting to the roller skates.  Self service by the guest can in fact increase the level of guest service at a lower operating cost.

Bill Geoghegan is a consultant in Las Vegas. He can be reached for comment at Bill@LGTConsulting.com.

Articles By The Same Author

want to read more articles like this?

want to read more articles like this?

Sign up to receive our twice-a-month Watercooler and Siegel Sez Newsletters and never miss another article or news story.