Why Hotels Need to Copy The Sonder Operating Model

By February 11, 2021December 14th, 2021hotels
Why Hotels Need to Copy The Sonder Operating Model

“In a hyperconnected world, there is only ‘good’, ‘better’ and ‘best’” - said author and New York Times Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Thomas L. Friedman. He wasn’t talking about the post-Covid hotel industry, but frankly, he might as well have been. In today’s hyperconnected, online, and on-demand world, hotels that do not adapt risk falling behind completely.

As the globe relies on high-speed, super-fast and intuitive technology more than ever, hotel guests and consumers have also come to expect high-quality, super-connected services too.

When travel finally begins to open up post-Covid, record numbers of remote workers are set to take their laptops back on the road (Upwork’s Future Workplace Pulse Report from December 2020 found that one in four Americans will be working remotely in 2021, equivalent to 39 million people).

As a result, modern travelers will be expecting the same level of ease, reliability, cost-effectiveness, and convenience as they have come to expect at home - whether that’s working on high-speed internet at their laptop, or kicking back on the sofa in front of the latest 4K Netflix must-watch smash.

Customers are eager to connect with brands on a familiar, regular, and personalized level too; as shown by the undeniable boom in the monthly subscription-based model for everything from TV, software, beauty products, coffee, dog treats, grocery boxes, financial services, vehicles and even air travel.

And all this from the comfort of their own smartphone or connected device. 

In fact, a 2019 report by Zion Market Research found that the subscription billing market is expected to reach $10.5 billion by 2025. 

Customers now expect to be able to select, customize, order, pay for, track, amend, and even cancel their items or experience at the click of a button - via a central, super-easy and intuitive online system.

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Operto helps you get rid of your front desk while improving your guests' experience.

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The future of hospitality

Expectations for travel and hotel stays are no different.

The hotels that survive in this hyperconnected, post-Covid world will need to satisfy these fast-paced demands or risk falling behind. But how can hotels - reopening after months of pandemic disruption and loss - continue to survive and thrive in this “subscription living” era? 

The answer is to follow the “Sonder model”.

As it sounds, the “Sonder model” is named after the apartment-hotel company of the same name, whose distinctive operating style has been described as “the future of hospitality”.

It prides itself on offering short-term serviced apartments that combine the home-away-from-home feel, authenticity and familiarity of Airbnb; with the high-end design, reliability and consistency of traditional hotels, with hyper-connected technology at its heart.

First founded as Flatbook in Montreal in 2012, by founders Francis Davidson and Lucas Pellan, Sonder is now worth more than $1bn, and recently raised £255 million in its most recent funding round.

Its modern design and super-streamlined technology offers both guests and managers a seamless, consistent experience throughout. The system is as easy to use as it is reliable, efficient, and scalable.

Customers staying in a Sonder hotel never need to wait at a front desk. There are no keys that are easily lost; no keycards that may demagnetize without warning; no rickety or insecure lockboxes; and no annoying issues or security concerns that require a visit to “Reception” to solve.

Instead, guests receive a secure keycode sent to them in advance of their arrival, for completely contactless check in. They do not even need to use their smartphone to access their room; removing the problem of phones “dying” or not getting signal in a new country or city.

Sonder-style hotels help guests and managers control all aspects of the booking, check-in, guest experience, check-out, management, maintenance and housekeeping processes together, automatically and remotely, via one easy-to-use, personalized portal.

The system is efficient, simple, streamlined and centralized.

01 - Sonder benefits screenshot showing self check-in, professional cleaning, and good design

Guests can even customize their experience - for example, the guest room energy control options allow them to change the temperature of the room or turn on lights remotely - and through the same portal, are able to access 24/7 customer service if they have a question or issue. 

This enables staff to respond to concerns instantly, boosting customer satisfaction and ensuring guests feel taken care of throughout their stay.

Security concerns - such as suspected unauthorized access - can be addressed remotely and immediately, and managers can change keycodes and other settings instantly via the portal, ensuring security at all times, and removing safety concerns such as key lock boxes with codes that never change.

Managers can set the temperature and turn on lights before guests arrive to ensure the most welcoming experience; turn off heating and lights when guests leave to save on energy; and coordinate housekeeping, cleaning and maintenance too. 

Changing keycodes means housekeeping staff cannot enter when guests are inside, for example; and the readiness of a rental to accept new guests can be checked instantly and remotely via the portal.

It’s a new way of operating, but may soon be the only way.

Fewer staff, increased profit

With no front desks, the Sonders of the world need fewer staff, and can offer a more streamlined, contact-free experience. 

Fewer staff in a more efficient, less cumbersome and insecure system means lower costs and more profit, without passing higher costs on to guests. In fact, Sonder-style hotels can offer this level of modern security, safety and ease of access at costs up to 20% lower than hotels and short-term rentals of a similar quality.

As the hotel industry recovers from the impact of Covid, this is more important than ever - and implementing such streamlined technology could be the difference between survival and getting left behind forever, as guests demand ever-easier processes, for ever-lower costs.

Happily, the efficiency of Operto’s system means it can be implemented effortlessly at every one of your hotels or properties, at a cost that feels like a bargain to the modern consumer, who is used to getting an unparalleled experience at a low price. (A reminder that a basic Netflix plan starts at just $8.99 a month!)

As founder and CEO of Sonder, Francis Davidson-Tanguay, told Skift

“The fact that hotels still have a person typing in who-knows-what when you’re checking in at a hotel is a complete joke...It’s really laughable how far behind the hotel industry is from a tech perspective.”

Francis Davidson-Tanguay


Automation, automation, automation

So how can hotels actually implement the Sonder model? Two words: connected technology. 

Because, although Sonder focuses on design - and proudly uses its own in-house designers to create its unmistakable, modern, laid-back yet chic home-from-home style - it is technology that enables the system to run so efficiently.

In fact, despite often being described as an “apartment-hotel company”, Sonder actually refers to itself as a tech firm, such is the importance of a seamless system at the heart of its operation.

As Davidson-Tanguay adds: 

“A huge part of us having a competitive edge over a typical hotel is that we rethink and automate many processes.”

Francis Davidson-Tanguay


Any hotel that aims to implement the Sonder model must therefore also prioritize technology, and place connectedness at the heart of its operation. In this way, it does away with old-fashioned, discrete systems, and revamps all processes as automated, remote, tracked and managed with ease.

Streamlined software

Companies that help implement this model are popping up at speed - and we at Operto are among them. We are now proud to say we are a leading property automation software for hotels that want to implement a “Sonder model” with ease.

We exist so property managers can stop spending countless hours getting guests in and out of their properties, with no visibility on the status of their units, and trying in vain to convince them to turn off lights and thermostats when they leave.

We also share Sonder’s vision of how a guest experience should be: easy, and pleasantly-surprising - with a feeling of genuine control at their fingertips. 

Guests and staff have access to a centralized portal or dashboard, with everything connected in one space, allowing them unparalleled access to customer service, and customizable options such as room temperature, lighting, air conditioning, and more - without having to download an extra program or app.

Really though, all the control lies with the hotelier - meaning you can keep track of what’s going on in your hotel at all times, and simplify each stage of the process. 

This super-connected, remote access means that you can decrease operating expenses rather than increase them, and  - using our Connect operation system - you can link your guests, bookings, teams, and smart devices all through your PMS, in a single interface.

Systems such as this enable you to maximize the performance of your properties and increase revenue, save on energy and limit your environmental impact, all while continuing to provide the hospitality that guests expect and deserve.

connect operating system

Hospitality businesses that use technology such as Operto are by nature, scalable - meaning they are adapted to hotel CEOs and managers at all levels and at any size; whether your business is a cozy boutique collection of short-term rentals, or a full-on hotel-style operation.

With even traditional-style hotels waking up to the power of connected technology, and the demands of modern travellers in a post-Covid world, it’s clear that hospitality companies with a will to survive must implement a Sonder-style model or risk getting left behind.

Switching your hotel to a Sonder-style model - using technology and connectedness - is not only the future not only of hospitality, but quite simply the future of everything.

After months of being stuck at home due to Covid, guests are now ready to reclaim their freedom, demanding the flexibility of Airbnb and the luxury of a high-end hotel; without the uncertainty of most short-term rentals, or the inauthenticity, stuffiness and facelessness of a giant hotel chain.

Today’s consumers and remote workers expect hyper-connected, responsive, and automated services that are consistent, predictable and intuitive - ensuring a reliable, secure, customizable and authentic experience no matter where they are in the world.

Modern, cost-effective and completely connected, the hotels of the future will be - no, must be - as easy to operate as turning on Netflix; not only for guests, but for managers and CEOs too.

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Connect your operations

Operto helps you get rid of your front desk while improving your guests' experience.

Want to see how?