Expect more travel brands to extend their reach into the dining experience going forward, especially since consumers have to eat every day and may only travel on occasion. And after all, the way to anyone's heart is through their stomachs, right?
— Deanna Ting
The company announced partnerships with both Grubhub and OpenTable to give IHG Rewards Club points to its members who use IHG channels to book restaurants on OpenTable or order food from Grubhub. IHG channels include the IHG app, its website, and IHG Connect, the company’s on-property Wi-Fi.
While airline and hotel credit cards often reward cardholders for dining out, this is a unique initiative whereby a hotel company is incentivizing its loyalty members to dine out and order in by using its own branded channels, working in partnership with more established food delivery and dining platforms to power the transactions.
It’s a way for IHG to play a more active role in its loyalty members’ in-destination travel experiences, as well as their everyday dining experiences, as well.
“The benefits that we offer IHG Rewards Club members are based on extensive research into what they want from a loyalty program,” said Liz Crisafi, IHG’s head of loyalty, partnerships, and portfolio marketing for the Americas. “Members have told us they would like more ways to earn points while dining. These collaborations allow us to provide benefits that enhance the food and beverage experience for our members, whether ordering delivery to their hotel room or dining on or off property.”
IHG, Grubhub, and OpenTable wouldn’t give exact details about how their respective collaborations came about, but all three companies expressed optimism about the new partnerships.
How the OpenTable Integration Works
IHG says that its partnership with OpenTable, one of the world’s leading restaurant reservations systems, is global. It currently applies to any OpenTable restaurant in the U.S., and will eventually expand to restaurants in the U.K. and Australia by the end of 2017.
IHG Rewards Club members earn 500 points for their first completed completed OpenTable reservation booked via IHG channels. For every OpenTable reservation booked thereafter using IHG channels, they earn 300 points when they dine at a restaurant at an IHG hotel, and 150 points for any other restaurant reservation. IHG says this is in addition to an already existing benefit for its members that allows them to earn 10 points for every dollar spent at restaurants at IHG hotels, excluding Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, and billed to their guest folio.
There is a catch here, however: OpenTable members hoping to double dip and get both IHG points and OpenTable points for making restaurant reservations will not be able to do so.
An OpenTable spokesperson told Skift, “Diners earn OpenTable Dining Points when they make and honor reservations made through OpenTable.com, or our mobile sites and apps, so OpenTable points are not a part of this initiative.”
Moreover, “There is not an IHG points redemption option on OpenTable,” the spokesperson noted. IHG Rewards members cannot use their IHG points toward a meal booked via OpenTable.
IHG’s Crisafi said that a far as global expansion of this program goes in relation to Asia, the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America, “We see an opportunity to expand into other countries, and we’ll continue working with OpenTable to determine how we can provide the most valuable benefits to our IHG Rewards Club members.”
How the GrubHub Integration Works
IHG’s partnership with Grubhub will only be available in approximately 1,000 hotels in the U.S. that fall under IHG’s three select-service brands — Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge Suites, and Candlewood Suites brands. So, unlike IHG’s partnership with OpenTable, you must be a staying guest at one of these IHG hotels in order to earn points from ordering on Grubhub.
IHG Rewards Club members earn 500 points the first time they order via IHG channels with Grubhub and 250 IHG Rewards Club points for each subsequent Grubhub transaction via IHG channels.
Reinventing Room Service By Outsourcing It
This isn’t the first time that Grubhub, one of the largest food delivery platforms in the U.S., has teamed up with a hotel company or other travel brand.
In April 2016, Grubhub participated in a pilot with the lifestyle-focused Hyatt Centric brand. That pilot has since been expanded to Hyatt Centric hotels throughout the U.S. Grubhub’s partnership with Hyatt Centric gave hotels guests access to a curated, customized list of local restaurants from which they could order food via Grubhub, but it did not include a loyalty component.
Earlier this year, the company also announced a partnership with TripAdvisor whereby people browsing TripAdvisor’s restaurant listings for the U.S. can order food from those who are Grubhub partners. There was no loyalty component to this partnership, however.
Loyalty does, however, appear in Grubhub’s partnership with IHG; however, there doesn’t seem to be the inclusion of a curated lists of restaurants for guest to peruse as there is with Hyatt Centric. Instead, it appears that guests can order from any restaurant in the local vicinity of the hotel as long as they participate in Grubhub’s delivery system.
Stan Chia, Grubhub’s chief operating officer, said in a statement, “We’re always looking for new ways to make it easier for our diners to find the food they want from the broadest, best set of local restaurants. Through our collaboration with IHG, we’re excited to allow hotel guests to discover food from the best local restaurants and have it delivered directly to their hotel room.”
One interesting facet of Grubhub’s partnership with IHG is that it is limited its hotel brands that don’t always have their own full-service restaurants or extensive food-and-beverage options for hotel guests.
Crisafi said, “Grubhub aligns well with IHG’s limited service brands in particular. Guests at our Holiday Inn Express, Staybridge Suites and Candlewood Suites hotels are typically looking for a quick and easy F&B [food and beverage] experience, which makes the Grubhub collaboration a great fit.”
Staybridge Suites is classified as an upscale extended stay hotel brand, while Candlewood Suites is classified as a midscale extended-stay hotel brand; both brands’ guest rooms include full kitchens, and their hotels have grab-and-go food outlets instead of full-service restaurants and bars. Holiday Inn Express, considered an upper midscale brand by STR, includes breakfast for its guests, but doesn’t have in-room kitchens or on-site restaurants.
By limiting its loyalty partnership with Grubhub to apply to these more limited-service hotel brands, it’s a clear sign that IHG is looking to Grubhub and other third-party food delivery platforms to serve as replacements for the kind of traditional room service that you might find at a more upscale, full-service hotel. IHG wants to reward its guests who may choose to dine by ordering in when staying at these hotels, versus dining out, and outsourcing that service to a provider like Grubhub can also make financial sense, too.
“The collaboration with Grubhub is about making guests’ entire travel journey easier and more seamless,” Crisafi said. “Now, they can order takeout or delivery to the hotel and get rewarded for doing so. For our extended stay guests in particular, who are often at our hotels for weeks or months at a time, this collaboration with Grubhub gives them the chance to explore the neighborhood and try new restaurants when they don’t want to cook in their suite.”
There’s certainly a clear demand among travelers for food delivery services that dates back years. In 2014, Grubhub conducted its own analysis of a year’s worth of 8,000 orders delivered to hotels and the data suggested hotel takeout orders jumped in popularity by 125 percent from Jan. 1, 2011 to July 2, 2014.
Grubhub’s analysis at the time also found that hotel diners spend, on average, 11 percent more on their Grubhub orders than non-hotel diners. Men are also 54 percent more likely than women to order takeout meals while staying at a hotel, and most orders are submitted early in the work week. The majority of orders (72 percent) are also placed during dinner and late-night hours.
Simply put, hotel guests are already ordering in via services like Grubhub, Uber Eats, and the like. However, it appears hotels are just now beginning to differentiate or distinguish this type of food delivery, whether via curated menus like Hyatt Centric, or via loyalty like IHG is doing.
Chia told Skift, “We’re excited to work with leaders in the travel space such as IHG, Hyatt and TripAdvisor to make it even easier for our diners to order whatever they’re craving when and where they want it. We have no other news to share today, but stay tuned.”
Reinventing Travel Loyalty with Reservations Platforms
As far as we can tell, this is the first time that Priceline-owned OpenTable has partnered with a major hotel brand to provide this kind of loyalty play.
OpenTable said that partnerships are nothing new for the company, however. “By further way of context, we have integrations with nearly 600 partners; our API [application programming interface] makes partner integrations relatively seamless,” said a spokesperson for OpenTable.
As for why IHG chose to work with OpenTable over other reservations platforms, Crisafi said, “OpenTable is the world’s leading provider of online restaurant reservations. We wanted to work with a company with a similar global footprint to IHG’s, and working with an organization like OpenTable with significant global scale made sense. Many restaurants at IHG hotels are already leveraging the OpenTable platform to promote their restaurants to OpenTable users.”
Not only that, but this partnership has added perks for IHG hotel restaurants, too. “This new benefit enhances the value of those agreements since IHG restaurants get featured placements, with the ability to earn 300 IHG Rewards Club points per complete reservation,” she said. “In addition, this allows IHG guests to benefit from OpenTable’s restaurant aggregation to explore local dining while on the road or at home.” IHG also includes information on its platform for restaurants that aren’t using its reservations system, for example.
Crisafi also noted, “This new benefit with OpenTable is a separate collaboration and doesn’t impact IHG’s current relationship with Priceline.”
In a statement, Scott Jampol, OpenTable senior vice president of marketing, said: “We’re excited to help IHG guests reserve the perfect table at must-visit destination restaurants as well as help them discover hidden gems that offer authentic, local experiences. Whether IHG guests are traveling somewhere new or dining at their favorite neighborhood restaurant, we’re looking forward to serving as their dining passport and connecting them with tens of thousands of our restaurant partners.”
In September, Skift looked at Airbnb’s integration of Resy, a rival upstart reservations platform. Airbnb users can now book restaurants reservations powered by Resy on the Airbnb website and via the Airbnb app.
Giving its users the ability to book restaurant reservations enhances the in-destination experience not only for travelers but locals, too. But a crucial piece of Airbnb’s partnership with Resy, Skift noted, was the lack of a loyalty component: both Airbnb and Resy don’t have loyalty programs of their own. But IHG and OpenTable certainly do.
OpenTable’s loyalty program allows diners to earn points that can be redeemed for dining rewards or Amazon gift cards. However, its program isn’t synced to any of The Priceline Group’s other brands or loyalty programs, which include Booking.com, Priceline, Kayak, and Agoda. And its program doesn’t play into the IHG integration, either.
IHG’s OpenTable integration also only allows for the earning of points; members can’t redeem their IHG points for dining experiences. Going forward, however, it’ll be interesting to see if that’s at all possible.
For now, Crisafi said, “These collaborations are a new points-earning benefit, and there’s no additional cost for members to use the services through IHG channels. We continue to offer our members many valuable options for redeeming their points. We offer an array of redemptions at virtually every point level, including Reward Nights, experiences and merchandise, including restaurant gift cards. Members can redeem for Reward Nights for as little as 10,000 points, and they can combine their points with cash to earn Reward Nights faster. There’s no point redemption required to book a reservation on OpenTable via IHG channels.”
When asked about how the pending Kimpton Karma loyalty program integration may figure into this new loyalty initiative, Crisafi said, “The integration of Kimpton Karma and IHG Rewards Club will take place in early 2018. Members will be able to earn IHG Rewards Club points for booking OpenTable reservations at Kimpton Restaurants via IHG channels.”
And to get the word out to loyalty members, IHG will market via its app, website, email communications, and the IHG Connect MyStay page, which appears for loyalty members when they are on property at an IHG hotel.