The Time Has Come for Amenity Dispensers

The Latest Guestroom Standard, Thanks to the Economic and Environmental Benefits They Deliver

One of my favorite authors is Malcolm Gladwell, who among other books wrote The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference. As Malcolm adeptly put it, the “tipping point” is that magical moment when an idea, trend or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire. Another definition of tipping point is “the point at which the buildup of minor incidents reaches a level that causes most to do something they had formerly resisted.”

Since 1994, I’ve been extolling the virtues of using amenity dispensers in hotel guestrooms. You could call me the Johnny Appleseed of amenity dispensers. However, until the past few years, industry interest in amenity dispensers was underwhelming. Some interest came from hoteliers, who recognized the myriad economic benefits: significant savings in product packaging costs, amenity consumption and housekeeping labor since they no longer had to store, inventory and replace all of those little plastic bottles.

Some interest came from those who understood the environmental benefits. Some interest came from enlightened pioneers who understood both benefits: a greener bottom line and a greener planet.

Most of the interested hoteliers were independents or owner/operators of limited-service properties or national and state park lodging facilities. But the good stuff rolls uphill, and amenity dispensers have since caught on like wildfire at midmarket and upscale properties across the globe.

What’s led hospitality to this most-welcomed amenity dispenser “Dripping Point”? There are five key drivers to increased use of dispensers in hotel bathrooms:

Waste not. When times are good, it’s very easy to just keep doing things the way we’ve always done them. Since 1994, the lodging industry has been pretty robust—with the exception of two recessions (2001-2002 and 2008-2010). We’ve seen interest spike upward in amenity dispensers each time the economy trended downward. Lately, however, a lot of owner/operators are looking to save wherever and whenever possible—and this includes amenities. What our industry appears to have learned at this tipping point is amenity dispenser savings make sense in any economy.

Money talks. Hotels can save 30% to 70% by switching from individual bottled bathroom amenities to dispensed amenities. It depends on several factors, but any experienced supplier of amenity dispensers and products should be able to assist you with customized savings calculations for each of your properties.

The 17,000 amenity dispensers installed in Drury Hotels are estimated to yield $750,000 in annual savings—an average of $44 per room annually. Multiply that average $44 savings by the four million hotel rooms in the U.S. and one realizes the industry could save $176 million annually. Sounds like real money.

Guest satisfaction. Hoteliers can’t afford to lose any guests due to the implementation and use of amenity dispensers. But thanks to sleek new dispensers and quality amenity products, there are no more worries.

Drury Inns tested dispensers for 10 months prior to making the switch. Starwood tested amenity dispensers before determining to make them a brand standard in Element, Aloft and now Four Points. In all cases, guests were appreciative of the move. Most people want to stay at hotels that are controlling costs and reducing waste. I’ve been privy to results in both branded and independent hotels of similar trial programs. Each time, the amenity dispensers pass with flying colors with hotel guests.

Sustainability. Believe it or not, we’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg regarding the greening of America. Early adopters like the Saunders Hotel Group and the Hotel Triton in the early- to mid-1990s really helped get the green hotel movement started, but it reached the tipping point in 2004 when Florida and California established Green Lodging Programs. It’s a natural and logical step to eliminate the large carbon footprint of manufacturing small amenity packaging while eliminating or reducing any transportation and disposal of the same.

Aesthetic appeal. The first dispensers I encountered were “bag in the box”. I became GM of the Holiday Inn Fresno (CA) Airport in 1980, shortly after the previous manager had installed these dispensers in 10 guestrooms. They were ugly and when we tried to order refills the supplier had gone out of business.

Interestingly, the Holiday Inn brand standard back then was two bars of soap in each bathroom. No shampoo, conditioner, lotion, bath gel, etc., was required. The amenity norm and amenity dispenser savings certainly have expanded exponentially the past three decades.

Thankfully, the amenity dispensers that began to appear on the scene in the early- to mid-1990s were more sturdy and functional, but I still don’t think I called them stylish by any stretch. Fast-forward 15-plus years and it’s clear stylish dispensers and luxurious dispensed amenities have arrived. Attractive amenity dispensers now are available in a wide variety of styles and finishes from a growing list of suppliers. An ever-increasing number of greener hotels, resorts and inns are executing comprehensive environmental programs including the use of amenity dispensers.

If you remain a “doubting Thomas,” you owe it to yourself, your property owner and your guests to at least give amenity dispensers a test drive.

Ray Burger is president and founder of St. Charles, Mo.-based Pineapple Hospitality. A former hotelier, Ray has served the industry for four decades. For a complimentary review of your current amenity program and a customized cost savings analysis, please contact Ray today by calling 636-922-2285 or e-mailing ray@pineapplehospitality.net.

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