With the pandemic having exacerbated challenges around staff retention and rising energy costs for tourism and hospitality businesses across the region, Maldron Hotel identified SPARK EPoS as having a solution for their business challenges.
After receiving a £16,800 match-funded grant through the North of Tyne Combined Authority’s (NTCA’s) Hospitality, Innovation, Tourism, Supply Chain (HITS) programme, led by NewcastleGateshead Initiative (NGI) in partnership with Food and Drink North East and Northumberland Business Services Limited (NBSL), Maldron were able to invest in this technology to boost their room-service orders and to ease staffing needs during unsociable hours.
Since training the Hotel Robot or ‘Butlerbot’ to use the lift and bring room service orders to guests, staff at the Maldron have found that room service orders have gone up by 15%, bringing in an estimated £4,000 of additional revenue so far.
The grant scheme opened in November 2022 and almost all of the £300,000 fund has now been allocated to 15 innovative projects being delivered by businesses in the North of Tyne area.
Shona Hendrick, Partnership Manager, NGI, said: “Through regular conversations with our destination partners and industry, we have seen the increased need to support the tourism and hospitality industry to find new and innovative ways of working that can help to mitigate some of the key challenges they are facing.
“Innovating can often feel like an expensive and time-consuming task for businesses, so the HITS programme and grant funding is a way for us to support businesses to take the leap.
“It has been really exciting to see Maldron’s robot in action and bringing something unique to the city. It also reflects our ambitions of being a smart city and leading the way in not just the visitor economy, but also across digital and tech.
“I’m looking forward to seeing how this robot further boosts business for Maldron and explore other cutting-edge ways our tourism industry can overcome challenges.”
North of Tyne Mayor, Jamie Driscoll, said: “Our HITS programme was designed to bring new and creative ideas to the hospitality and tourism sector in the North East to improve the visitor offer.
“When we set up the scheme, I don’t think anyone would have thought that a robot hotel assistant would be one of the concepts to emerge!
“Having seen Butlerbot in action, I am sold. It’s a novel way of making life easier for guests at the Maldron and proves, once again, how we are supporting innovation in our region.”
Anna Wadcock, General Manager, Maldron Hotel Newcastle said: “Driving innovation in hospitality is a key focus for the hotel and the support of the grant was a key driver in being able to procure the UK’s first Butlerbot.
“The use of technology has developed immensely within our everyday life and hospitality as an industry within the UK needs to grow alongside this trend.
“Since the implementation of the Butlerbot it has not only grown our room service revenues but also greatly supported the operational team. Room service is an area of hospitality where guests generally prefer a more private interaction which the robot delivers with a high-tech edge.
“As room service then does not require a team member to leave the floor, it allows the team to stay focused on the guests within the bar and restaurant, delivering our fantastic Geordie hospitality.
“Our clients and team have welcomed the new addition to the team and the robot is also bringing new clients to the hotel just to experience this service.”
Eric Guo, Co-founder and CEO, SPARK EPoS, added: “As a technology company based in Newcastle, we SPARK EPoS take pride in driving innovation in the hospitality sector through our EPoS systems and robotic solutions.
“Thanks to the support of the HITS programme, we recently introduced a technological advancement at Maldron Hotel Newcastle, called ButlerBot W3.
“This state-of-the-art technology offers features including welcoming guests, navigating autonomously within the hotel, utilising elevators for deliveries, providing round-the-clock service and being self-charging.
“In light of the COVID landscape where challenges like staff shortages and the need for innovative solutions are on the rise, we are excited to be leading this technological revolution.
“Our goal is to enhance efficiency, improve the well-being and productivity of our human staff members and contribute to the evolution of the hospitality industry.”
The grant funding comes from the NTCA-funded HITS programme aimed at helping businesses in Newcastle, Northumberland and North Tyneside to meet the challenges tourism, hospitality and supply chain businesses are facing following the pandemic by innovating and finding new business solutions.
The HITS programme has now ended but the supply chain platform, podcasts, webinars and training resources are still available online. Find out more from the NGI website.