IRIS is leading hospitalty technology platform that assists global hotels and restaurants in enhancing revenues, minimizing costs, and offering a seamless contactless guest experience. Leading IRIS’s sales and marketing operations is Graham Rushin, a seasoned IT professional with extensive experience in the hospitality industry. In this interview, Rushin discusses the unique features and benefits of the IRIS platform and shares his vision for the future of hospitality technology.
Can you tell us about your journey from being an electronics engineer to becoming the VP Sales and Marketing at IRIS? What drew you to the IT sector and specifically to the hospitality technology space?
The simple answer to this is ones and zeros. As part of electronics, we learnt the fundamentals of what made a computer tick. As a bursary student through college, I was obliged to work out my time at a sponsor. When I arrived and realized they had nothing electronic and everything pneumatic, I very quickly realized that was not where I wanted to be. I bought myself out and found this small startup hospitality company that appeared to be doing everything on a green screen. I was instantly hooked. I transitioned from repairing everything for the green screens over to installing and understanding the language that made the green screen do its magic. I have never looked back.
Can you describe your core role at IRIS and how your team manages major account partnerships?
At IRIS, my core role is leading the sales and marketing teams and managing our major account partnerships like Marriott. As a global provider of guest experience platforms to some of the leading hotels of the world, it’s a privilege and joy to work with some of the great leaders of hospitality to help them develop and enhance their digital ordering experience for guests and staff alike. I work closely with our product teams too, to ensure we’re delivering a functional and feature-rich solution that meets our client’s needs and delivers exceptional benefits.
We pride ourselves on a partnership-first approach. Whether that’s working with hoteliers to understand their challenges, or collaborating with fellow hospitality technology companies to build our network of integrations and add value to our client tech stack. The absolute most important part of a partnership is being able to translate the group’s desires into a technical format for the awesome development team to then be able to deliver what is really wanted as opposed to what they think is wanted.
Can you provide a brief overview of IRIS’s technology platform and explain how it helps hotels boost revenues and drive down costs?
Since it first launched in 2010, IRIS has revolutionized digital ordering for the hospitality industry. Built with hotels and restaurants front and center, it provides guests with a flexible and convenient mobile ordering experience and as a result, reach and engage with more guests in a way that suits them, whilst at the same time driving ancillary revenue.
Our core features operate across digital F&B ordering, guest directory and concierge solutions. Each one makes it easier and faster for guests to manage their own stay and browse, order and pay for items and services across multiple outlets from the palm of their hand, whilst at the same time enabling clients to reduce their operating costs.
What sets IRIS apart from other technology solution providers in this space in terms of technology and the client benefits you deliver?
Honestly, our robust, scalable platform where we have focused on true integrations (not database matching) is probably the biggest technical asset we have today. The decision years ago that if we were going to do integrations, we were going to do real integrations has set us apart from 90% of the rest of the pack. The impact that we have on client revenues, efficiencies and guest experience continue to raise the standard for the industry. On average, our clients report that following the implementation of the IRIS platform, they see an increase in average guest spend and F&B revenue of between 20%- 40%. This is in addition to a time saving of around 10 minutes labour per order.
As a result we are chosen and trusted by a growing global client base which includes many of the leading hotel groups of the world: Marriott, Four Seasons, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, IHG and Ennismore.
As we are cloud-based we have both the agility and capability to scale on demand and implement our multi-lingual platform and suite of solutions across multi-group and multi-brand client bases.
How does the IRIS F&B Ordering system help restaurants deliver better digital experiences to their guests and staff?
From a guest perspective the demand for mobile ordering technology continues at pace. Guests have grown accustomed to the speed and convenience that mobile ordering offers, not least because they are empowered to order and pay at a time and place that suits them. Coupled with the maturation of the internet-first Generation Z and this demand looks set to increase even further in the future.
In line with evolving guest expectations, new features and functionality are continually being released to meet this demand. The IRIS platform now offers guests the option to open a tab; order items in advance of their stay, search, and filter items according to allergens, and our split bill feature makes it much easier for larger groups to settle bills. From a guest experience point of view, it then delivers more accurate ordering and reduces wait times.
For staff the need to manually upload orders is eliminated as guests self-serve and their orders are delivered straight to the bar or kitchen to be fulfilled. Less time and focus needed on the administration of a guest order means waitstaff are able to spend more time providing great service and crucially getting to know the guest and build their relationship and loyalty. Swifter digital ordering means staff are then equipped to serve more covers, with fewer resources and less stress.
How does the IRIS Guest Directory help hotels manage up-to-date information for their guests?
The digital guest directory offers an efficient, accessible, and more sustainable alternative to the traditional in-room printed directory, complete with all the information guests expect including hotel facilities/services, maps and local area recommendations. A more environmentally friendly solution with no printing costs, all of which can be easily updated online to keep the content relevant and fresh.
Guests can access this information wherever they are in a property, at their convenience for real time visibility and understanding of the hotel’s offers. Being able to access and update also means hotels can showcase current offers and promotions to support their wider sales and marketing strategies. There are endless opportunities for the Marketing team to put up something fresh multiple times a day, if desired.
How does the IRIS® hotel app provide outstanding digital experiences to guests and staff? Also, can you elaborate on how the IRIS® mobile concierge service requests prevent miscommunication or language barriers for international guests?
The core ambition of the app is to empower and support both guests and staff. That really comes from the breadth of functionality and seamless UX that we strive to deliver across every feature, whether for a member of staff or guest.
Our approach first and foremost is to evaluate what will enable the guest to have a better experience and what will equip staff to do a better job? Using our innate understanding we then build solutions that are not only fit for purpose but really add value. Guests can view information and order from the comfort of their own device from anywhere in the property, without being restricted by having to find a physical menu, flag down a waiter or wait for a staff member to take their order and pay. Fully integrated with POS, Payment and PMS operators, likewise staff can save on resources and improve service times as orders are processed directly in the kitchen and guests pay online. This increases turnaround time, operational efficiencies, and profitability.
The IRIS Mobile Concierge solution was developed to enhance guest communication and help operators overcome the challenge of language barriers which is commonly felt. Our solutions can be branded in line with a hotel’s own branding and UI and UX journeys are rigorously, regularly tested to provide guests with accurate instant requests and booking facilities, on the go. To cite an example, the Mandarin Oriental in Munich installed our digital ordering and mobile concierge app and makes full use of our language support feature to assist overseas guests. Operators and guests can access translated content in just one click, and new information can be updated in real time to ensure it is always current and eliminates the risk of mistakes and misunderstanding. This includes Arabic text which is written from right to left in the correct cursive style.
Who are some of your customers? What categories or types of hotels are likely to benefit most from your platform capabilities?
Our broad and growing global client base includes many of the award-winning and leading hotel groups of the world; Marriott, Mandarin Oriental, Ennismore, Hilton, IHG and Four Seasons to name just a few. Currently we support over 70 brands in over 90 countries.
Given the breadth of our operations worldwide we are able to cater for a broad range of hotel types to support multiple brands, tenants and languages. We have the scale and flexibility to be able to take a bespoke approach to supporting our clients whether they are a smaller operator or have a larger, global footprint in the market.
Can hotels quantify the benefits in terms of cost savings, incremental sales lift, and/or other financial metrics? If so, can you share some recent success stories?
As a solutions provider we are acutely aware of the need to demonstrate value and return on investment for each client. Introducing new software and platforms requires time, training as well as financial resource. Understanding the impact it has is fundamental to understanding the return on that investment and how it is adding value to operations. Particularly in the current climate when the need to reduce costs is still a top priority for many operators.
Some of the metrics we use when analysing the performance of our app include cost savings and incremental revenue. Mobile ordering is proven to increase average guest spend for guests who generally spend more per transaction and order more frequently online – guests no longer have to wait for a member of staff to order, and the app is accessible to 100% of the hotel’s guests wherever they may be Cost savings come from reduced printing, automated processes and minimised resources.
To put into wider context, a selection of results after implementing the IRIS app speak for themselves: Sheraton Grand Mirage, Port Douglas increased their F&B revenue by 51% year on year; Mandarin Oriental Wangfujing boosted the number of in-room dining orders by 113% which resulted in their revenue rising by 120% year on year; F&B revenue increased by 46% at W Boston and Sheraton Phoenix Downtown doubled guest spend and saved 15 minutes per order.
Can you tell us about the new features that IRIS launched earlier this year to enhance hotels’ ordering and payment capabilities? How do these new features help hospitality operators realize their operational and revenue potential?
Each of the new features launched this year were developed to enable hospitality operators to realise their operational and revenue potential at a time when wider market conditions have meant inflation and recruitment continue to present challenges. Each one supports a different stage and potential requirement of the guest journey.
These include a new search and filter function for allergens to enable guests to personalise their menu choices, clearer pricing displays, and open tabs. Furthermore, we introduced a new split bill feature (to ease group bill settlements), call wait staff function (so guests can call for a member of staff via the app), digital staff ordering and advanced grocery ordering (for guests to pre-order groceries and toiletries ahead of their stay so operators can tap into the all-important second wallet pre-arrival).
How does IRIS plan to continue innovating in the hotel technology space?
Our R&D team are committed to evolving and enhancing our complete suite of solutions to support both operators and their guests. The trend for the adoption of mobile technology from both sides of the menu (and front desks) continues to grow and we look forward to leading the charge as pioneers within the space with new innovations such as dynamic pricing and centralised concierge solutions.
Much of this ambition will be aided by the work we do with our hotelier network and like-minded integration partners toremain at the forefront of understanding what current challenges are either within the industry or from guests and working together to build and deliver the solutions to meet them.
What are some of the challenges you foresee in the hospitality technology sector and how is IRIS preparing to tackle them?
The pace of technological development can be a challenge for hospitality operators to keep up with, particularly when faced with the broader challenges of managing costs and staffing. Likewise training staff and having access to a Support portal to ensure they are getting the best ROI can make the prospect of installing new solutions, particularly in a market that has high staff turnover and new product launches, less daunting. As that landscape continues to broaden, taking the time to work with clients to ensure they understand the necessary considerations for choosing the right technology partner and the steps needed for a successful installation will be even more important. This is the guiding ethos of our partnership approach to working with clients and was the reason we created our buyer’s guide.
In a similar vein the number of new entrants to the hotel technology space is incredibly exciting and inspiring as it not only grows the market but also its capabilities. This then paves the way for greater diversification. Rather than a challenge I regard this as an incredibly valuable opportunity for us and our clients. However in order to seize it, it is vital we maintain an open dialogue with our peers and support industry colleagues so that across the board we continue to nurture the sector and develop its capabilities together.
Lastly, what is your vision for the future of IRIS and the role it plays in the hospitality industry?
To keep doing what we do best which is delivering solutions for a wider network of operators and guests and acting as ambassadors for the wider hospitality technology sector as a whole. Its acceleration since the pandemic has been incredible to watch. There is an ever-increasing understanding of how technology can support an industry which has been through one of its most challenging periods.
Our ambition is to continue to exceed the expectations of operators and their guests by growing our own network of partners, and continued investment in our own platforms so that we can continue to push the boundaries and raise the standard for hospitality technology and the guest and staff experience at a global level.