In the eight months since opening Chicago's
art-and-science-themed Hotel EMC2, general manager Christine Wechter has yet to
get a complaint from a guest about the hotel's two robot butlers.
Quite the opposite.
"When both robots are in use from a high call volume
and we have to send a human up, people actually get annoyed," Wechter
Three years after debuting its first Relay hotel robot at
Silicon Valley's Aloft Cupertino, the robots' maker, Savioke, has placed its
machines in about 70 hotels worldwide. The privately held company, founded in
2013, says its 3-foot-tall, rolling robot butlers are moving beyond being used
by edgier select-service hotels for menial tasks such as toiletry deliveries.
Now they are being sought by full-service hotels as crowd pleasers and
With higher-end, full-service hotels such as the 195-room
EMC2 and the Renaissance Las Vegas deploying multiple robots,
Savioke is looking to more than double its distribution by adding at least 100
robots at higher-end hotels this year. It was scheduled to show off one of its
robots at this week's Americas Lodging Investment Summit in Los Angeles.
In addition to broadening its delivery capabilities to items
such as grab-and-go food and coffee, the robots, which are equipped with
covered 1-cubic-foot delivery compartments and are leased by hotels for as much
as $2,000 a month, are more often being used by guests for services such as
delivering clothes and shoes to the front desk for dry cleaning and shoeshines.
While largely associated with Starwood Hotels' futuristic
Aloft brand upon the robots' first deployment in 2014, Relay robots have also
been adopted by hotels including Marriott International's Residence Inn,
InterContinental Hotels Group's Crowne Plaza and Hilton's Embassy Suites, in
addition to Marriott's Renaissance and independent properties like Yotel Boston
and the EMC2, which is part of Marriott's Autograph Collection.
Additionally, Savioke has leased a robot to the Ten Thousand
luxury apartment complex in Los Angeles's Century City district, according to
Savioke co-founder and chief technology officer Tessa Lau.
"We're growing the market at the same time as we're
growing the company," Lau said. "All of our customers are still
really happy with them, and for the most part, everyone's been keeping them."
The social aspect is a relatively new wrinkle, however.
While the robots can't talk, they can "introduce" themselves via text
on its screen, beep and burp like R2-D2 of "Star Wars" fame, and
twirl, making them fodder for the social media age.
With that in mind, the Renaissance Las Vegas has taken to
naming its robots ("Elvis" and "Priscilla," of course), as
has the EMC2 ("Cleo" and "Leo").
"Naming the robots was a project in itself,"
With labor advocates long debating the risk of robots taking
the place of human workers, such usage has raised questions in some hotel trade
events about whether their use poses risks to hotel staff, especially among
lower-paid housekeeping workers.
Both Lau and Wechter denied that the robots are being used
to replace labor. Instead, they argue, they build business by both improving
service efficiency and providing a buzz. Both noted that more robots are used
to deliver "human touch" kinds of items like balloons and chocolates
Wechter said staff members use the devices to deliver items
such as shampoo and shower gel to one another when cleaning rooms.
"They're almost a requirement here," she said. "We'll
have them indefinitely."