Don’t ‘Turndown’ What Guests Want

Services once considered standard, like chateaubriand carved tableside, a menu featuring aspic, complimentary matches, or even the lobby pay phone bank, are no longer prevalent in our hotel culture. Likewise, turndown service is generally a non-valued amenity that we continue to provide at substantial cost. Originally intended to be a second “light clean” for heavy use and longer term stay rooms, reduced length of stay and changing consumer trends have lessened the value proposition and even necessity of this service as a standard.

Demand for Services
In addition to consumer research, Post Script Hospitality followed room attendants in several full-service, lifestyle, and luxury properties. What we found was that the majority of the rooms rejected the service—turndown attendants arrive at a guestroom to find either a “Do Not Disturb” sign and services are not provided or a guest actively does not want the services and services are not provided. That leaves turning down empty rooms where services are provided regardless of guest intention or for the few guests who want the service.

Based on our analysis of shadowing turndown attendants, only an average of 11 percent of guests actively accept turndown service.


Also of interest, over 20 percent of one of the hotel rooms surveyed received both a check-out cleaning and then a turndown service before the guest even checked into the room.

Furthermore, across all three service segments, we observed: Guests were often confused by the service, some asking “What is turndown service?” before turning the attendant away. Guests were annoyed with the disturbance as they viewed the return to the room as a housekeeping blunder and made remarks like, “I didn’t call for housekeeping, you already came once” and “I told you yesterday not to come back and bother me.”

Cost Implications
During a recent Post Script Cost Efficiency Project at a luxury urban property, we quantified that turndown service costs at $9.28 POR—two-thirds in labor expenses and one-third in other expenses (linen, guest supplies, water, etc.).

In an effort to better compete, wouldn’t it be better to reallocate this towards a service or amenity that drives guests to come to your hotel? Or, as we look ahead toward a challenging 2017 and beyond for most hotel markets, is this $9.28 in rooms POR savings a way to help us make up some of the margin we have the potential to lose?

Solutions to Modify Cost
Despite the cost, there will always be a small percentage of properties who retain the service, such as luxury resorts with a long length of stay and/or heavy guestroom usage. For those, we recommend continuing to offer the service to every guest during the pre-arrival or check-in process. This allows the guest to have the option of whether or not they would like to receive turndown and will result in better cost management, (allocating turndown labor only to the rooms where it was requested).

At urban hotels, consider only offering turndown to BAR rated or longer length of stay (LOS) customers. For example, some corporate negotiated rate codes or guests staying one night may not welcome or require the interruption or check-in too late to benefit from it.

Eliminate turn down for one night LOS reservations. To put it into financial context, the same aforementioned luxury hotel has the opportunity to reduce this cost by 57 percent by just eliminating the service for one night LOS reservations and continuing to offer it to all other guests in the same manner they were previously.

Guest amenities and service requirements are evolving with changing consumer preferences. The cost-benefit of the service strongly suggests eliminating or amending the execution of this traditional service.

About the Author
Saxton Sharad is president of Post Script Hospitality.

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