Comparing Limited Service and Full-service Hotel

06 April, 2023

Hotel Design

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Hospitality Strategy

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Investing in a hotel can be a lucrative business, but choosing the right type of hotel is crucial to its success. Two popular types of hotels that one can invest in are full service hotels and limited service hotels. Full service hotels offer a wide range of amenities and services, while limited service hotels provide only the basics. It is important to understand the differences between these two types of hotels to make an informed decision about where to invest. In this article, we will explore the advantages and disadvantages of each type of hotel, and help you determine which one is right for your investment goals.

We will discuss the major differences between a full-service hotel and a limited-service hotel, along with the aspects to keep in mind for both. We will go through the way they function, the clientele they target, architectural considerations, as well as staffing issues.

This article will serve as an introduction to the basic concepts of hospitality for potential investors, potential entrepreneurs who want to enter the space, or business owners who are already operating in the market and want to optimize or look for potential investors.

Hospitality can be a very lucrative business but at the same time competition is high, both from large hotel chains as well as smaller businesses. Because of this, having a complete picture of the landscape of how hotels operate will grant you a key advantage in how you tackle and develop the business.

What are Full Service Hotels?

Are you curious about what full service hotels are and what sets them apart from other types of accommodations? Look no further!

First, let's define what we mean by a full service hotel. Simply put, it's a hotel that offers a wide range of amenities and services beyond just a place to sleep. These can include on-site restaurants, bars, spas, fitness centers, conference rooms, and more.

Full service hotels have been around for decades and have evolved to meet the changing needs and preferences of travelers. Originally, they were popular among business travelers who needed a convenient and comfortable place to stay while on the road. But today, they cater to a much broader audience, including families, couples, and even solo adventurers.

So what can you expect from a typical full service hotel? For starters, expect a high level of service from friendly and knowledgeable staff. They'll be available to assist you with everything from checking in to booking local activities.

In addition, you'll likely have access to a variety of on-site amenities, such as multiple dining options, room service, a fitness center, a pool, and a spa. These features can make your stay more convenient and enjoyable, as you won't have to venture far from your room to find something to eat or do.

As you might expect, the price point for full service hotels can be higher than other types of accommodations. However, this can be well worth it for those who value convenience, comfort, and a more luxurious experience.

Overall, full service hotels cater to a wide range of travelers who appreciate the added amenities and services that come with their stay. Whether you're traveling for business or pleasure, they provide a convenient and comfortable home away from home.

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What are Limited Service Hotels?

Limited service hotels, also known as select-service hotels, are typically smaller hotels that offer a limited range of services compared to full service hotels. They first appeared in the 1970s and have since become a popular choice for both business and leisure travelers.

The primary characteristic of limited service hotels is that they offer a simplified experience that focuses on the essentials. These hotels typically have fewer amenities and services than full service hotels. However, they still offer guests the basics that they need to have a comfortable stay, such as:

  • Complimentary breakfast
  • Free Wi-Fi
  • Fitness center
  • Business center
  • Hotel housekeeping services
  • 24-hour front desk
  • On-site vending machines or small convenience stores

One of the main selling points of limited service hotels is their affordability. Compared to full service hotels, limited service hotels are often priced more competitively. This makes them a popular choice for budget-conscious travelers, such as families, students, and business travelers.

The target market for limited service hotels is typically people who are looking for a comfortable, affordable stay without the frills. Business travelers, in particular, often prefer limited service hotels for their convenient locations and efficient services.

Limited service hotels offer a simplified experience that appeals to budget-conscious travelers. They offer the essential amenities and services that guests need for a comfortable stay without the added cost of full service hotels. If you're looking to own a hotel, understanding the differences between limited service hotels and full service hotels can help you make an informed decision about what type of hotel to invest in.

Here are the 5 key differences between full-service and limited-service hotels, as well as a look at what lies in between. As someone looking to invest in or own a hotel, understanding these differences is crucial to making an informed decision about what type of hotel to pursue. By exploring the advantages and disadvantages of each type, you can determine which one aligns best with your goals and vision for your property.

A Full-service hotel and a Limited-service hotel generally have a different set of focuses and offer different experiences.

Limited service hotels will generally be located close to or around the potential points of interest of their target clientele. This can vary from touristic to business destinations, depending on the area or setting. In this way, they exist to fill a potential requirement for people who will travel to the area where they are located, without being a main point of attraction.

This is in contrast with how full-service hotels operate, which aim to create a complete experience with all the amenities, containing all the different types of services its guests might require.  They can be generally self-standing, creating a complete experience, without relying on other nearby touristic points of interest to bring in clients. It is designed from the ground up to cater to all the requirements its clientele might have. 

Guests that book into a full-service establishment will, in most cases not expect to encounter further significant costs and will also have different expectations from the service and staff. Clients who opt for a limited-service hotel, on the other hand, will have fewer expectations from the staff and available amenities. What this translates to, is that they will cater to very different client bases that will not overlap, with a few exceptions.

There are exceptions to this rule, such as economy or midscale full-service hotels. In this category, travelers are looking for a significant number of services, more than in limited-service, but at a more affordable price-point, similar to a limited service establishment. This functions as a bridge between the two, trying to bring advantages from each side to create a compelling offer to the part of the clientele who is looking for a more upscale option to limited service, while still being very affordable. 

They differ in the way they approach architecture and interior design

The difference in focus will also be reflected in the approach to both the architecture and interior design of the hotel. Because of its wider range of services and its larger focus full services hotels will generally be larger, with much more emphasis being placed on the architecture and interior design experience of the establishment. By contrast, limited-service hotels are going to have a much more streamlined architecture and interior design, keeping in line with the more focused experience they offer travelers.

Full-service Hotels

Full-service establishments are going to generally have a wide range of guest rooms of various sizes and typologies, ranging from simple rooms to apartments or suites. In addition to that, they also have reception halls meeting rooms, and restaurants. All these will need to have a unified and coherent interior design approach, with each individual design component complementing the other, creating a harmonious whole. This is where the larger scale of full service comes into play, as all these services will have specific spatial requirements in order to function. The back of house requirement will be much larger because of this, which will also lead to larger staffings.

Limited-service Hotels

Limited service hotels will be generally much more streamlined than their full-service counterparts. What this means is that the room variety and selection are generally going to be much smaller with normally one or two-room types on offer. The same can also be said about the amenities, limited-service hotels will generally have much more simplified amenities and not offer elements such as meeting rooms or a la carte restaurants, instead opting to either remove them completely or include a scaled-back version. For example, they might not have a restaurant but can contain offer self-service breakfast. In contrast to the full-service segment, limited service will have fewer requirements, and will have smaller facilities. 

From an architectural point of view, limited-service establishments will be smaller and focus more on integrating with the surrounding context, such as the urban landscape, while the full-service ones will be larger and stand out more.

This line of thinking will also expand to the approach to interior design. Full-service rooms and suites will generally have much more attention given to how they are designed and the included services, such as a coffee machine or bathrobes and slippers. Guestrooms in limited-service hotels, even the mid-price segment will have much more basic rooms, containing only the bare necessities and avoiding lavish decorations. Materials and furnishings used will also be of average quality, with only the basic furnishings used in the room. 

The interior design for the establishment will follow the same concept. Limited service hotels will have a more basic decor, with simple furnishings and spaces, avoiding anything sumptuous or grand. This is also true for the mid-price sector, which will have the basics but might have an interior design more in line with the brand or identity of the establishment.

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A Limited-service hotel and a Full-service hotel cater to different budgets and types of travelers

Both limited and full-service hotels target different target audiences. Full-service hotels will generally focus on clients with larger budgets, looking to have a complete set of services available to them, while limited-service hotels will focus on cash-conscious travelers, as well as the leisure market. This also ties in heavily with the category in which they fall.

Full-service hotels will in most cases fall into several general categories: midscale, upper midscale,  upscale, upper-upscale, and luxury, with key differences between them.

In the mid-price segment, customers are usually looking for full services at a limited services price point or close to it. They can also cater to business travelers and will be situated near highways, airports, or downtown areas. Upscale hotels start to have brand recognition and value customer loyalty, offering a wider range of rooms and special services, like concierge and room service. They will be generally located in larger cities with international airports or tourist destinations. Finally, luxury hotels have the largest palette of services guests could expect, and top-level quality and convenience. They are normally located in resort areas and the center of major cities.

Full-service hotel typical characteristics per typology:

- Economy hotels: Tend to have a mix of mostly K-type (king-size) rooms, offer only a self-serve breakfast and usually lack function space and recreational facilities.

- Midscale hotels: Usually have a mix of mostly K-type (king-size) rooms, offer self-serve breakfast only. They may have limited function spaces (if so I typically is about less than 1 seat per key) and offer fitness room and/or swimming pool.

- Upper Midscale hotels: Typically have a mix of mostly K-type (king-size) rooms, may offer full service or fast casual model F&B facilities. They offer a function spaces (about less than 2 seats per key), fitness room and may have a pool.

- Upscale hotels: Typically have a mix of mostly K-type (king-size) rooms. May offer full service or fast casual model F&B facilities. They offer a function spaces (about less than 3 seats per key), fitness room and swimming pool.

- Upper Upscale hotels: Typically have a mix of mostly K-type (king-size) rooms and Club level rooms, they will offer at least 1 full service 3 meal restaurant plus one bar or lounge. They offer a function spaces and business center(a minimum than 3 seats per key), fitness room and swimming pool and they might have a spa.

- Luxury hotels: Typically have a mix of mostly K-type (king-size) rooms and Club level rooms. Typicalle they have two or more restaurant plus one or two bar/lounges. They offer a function spaces and business center(a minimum than 3 seats per key), fitness room and swimming pool and spa facilities.

Learn more about hotel classifications in the STR website.

Limited services hotels typically services

In contrast, limited services hotels focus on offering accommodation at an accessible price point, while focusing on offering the most basic amenities, such as internet and television, among others. Large groups and businesses travelers are some of the key client categories for limited-service hotels. Groups, in particular, can be a very lucrative niche for limited-service establishments, creating a solid business relationship with the decision-maker and planner can be very important in building loyalty and retention in the long run. Similarly, corporate and business clients can be a good option for a lucrative business relationship, with the ability to build easy retainment. Limited service clients will also be very interested in the local attractions and offers, which further enhances the complementary relationship between limited-service hotels and the local context.

They offer different types of services

The biggest difference between full service and limited service is the inclusion of an on-site food and beverage component, which will be found almost exclusively in full-service hotels. Beyond this, limited service will offer fewer amenities than full service, although the gap is continuously shrinking in recent years.

Full-service hotels services

Full-service properties will focus on offering a wide range of services, scaling the offer based on the category of the hotel. Beyond the larger variety in guest rooms, they can also offer lounges, meeting spaces, workspaces, function spaces, ballrooms, fitness and spa centers, as well as a pool or even retail areas. They will go from a very limited selection in the mid-price segment, to a complete offer in the luxury category, as well as based on the location and type of establishment. All this will be on top of offering an onsite restaurant.

Limited-service hotels services

Limited service hotels in the vast majority of cases will not include a restaurant. This is due to the significant cost of investment required, as well as the difficult regulatory requirements for functioning. While initially, the palette of services offered by limited-service properties was small, it has expanded quite a lot in recent years. You can now find business amenities, fitness rooms, a pool, or even small workspaces, within limited-service establishments. Higher customer demands of receiving more quality at a reasonable price point have driven this shift, narrowing the gap between the two. It’s important to note, however, that while the number of amenities has increased, they are not at the level of full-service hotels, being smaller and of more average quality than their full-service counterparts.

Regarding the key missing amenity between the two, the food and beverage component, limited-service hotels have found ways of circumventing it in a few manners.

It’s now possible to find a very limited beverage component on-site, in the form of a coffee lounge, an included breakfast buffet, which does not require a complete a la carte service kitchen. It’s also important to note that they generally lack room service services as well.

These will not be at the high-quality level offered by full-service properties, but it’s an additional step in bridging the gap between the two typologies.

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A Limited-service hotel and a Full-service hotel are staffed differently

The differences in the services provided between full service and limited service will also result in different staffing requirements between the two categories, with limited service hotels requiring a smaller number of staff, as well as not as much specialized personnel. The difference in staffing levels will also lead to a smaller back of house requirement.

Hotel staff will be broken down into two general categories, the front of the house, the guest-facing component, and the back of the house, which keeps operations running smoothly. These will be present for both full and limited-service establishments, as well as in almost all hospitality venues. An essential part of hotel management is keeping a solid and working connection between the front and back of house operations, with a disconnect between leading to many issues and problems.

Front of House (FOH)

The front-of-house staff work directly and tackle all operations related to guests, like check-ins and check-outs, while also providing any potential assistance when a guest requires it. These vary from front desk agents to bell staff, to the concierge, to general manager, to name a few. They often work in shifts, so as to ensure constant availability to the clients.

Back of House (BOH)

The back-of-house staff, although sometimes invisible, are essential to keep operations running. They normally have minimal guest contact, working either in spaces that are completely separate from the rest or in the absence of clients. Unlike the front of the house, the back of the house works during normal business hours. Marketing and finance staff and housekeeping are some of the best examples for this category.

A special position in this system, in the case of full-service hotels, is the restaurant manager which is the only position that gaps both the front and back of the house. 

A hybrid between the two, the select-service hotel

With the difference between full and limited service shrinking, a new category has appeared, the select-service hotel, incorporating only the most used features of full-service hotels, but on a much more limited scale. They have the fundamental characteristics of limited-service establishments, with added amenities found only in full-service hotels.

Over the course of the past couple of decades, the difference between full and limited-service establishments has gotten blurrier, which eventually led to the appearance of this new category.  What this means is that in essence, they offer banquet and restaurant facilities, but on a limited scale and budget. The major difference between full and limited service has always been the food and beverage facility, and this segment tackles exactly that.

They offer affordable comfort, with the most familiar in-room amenities of full services, effectively closing the gap between the major categories. There are a few typologies of select-service hotels, such as boutique, which offer high-end select services tailored to a specific client niche, urban hotels, located in key urban areas offering clients access to the city in which they are established, hotels dedicated to conferences or conventions.

This is in contrast to more typical full-service hotels, which can fall under different typologies, such as luxury urban, upscale, upper-upscale, or luxury resorts. 

Are you pondering staying at a hotel for your following get-away? Are you perplexed regarding the discrepancies between full-service and limited-service hotels? Grasping these different sorts of inns is central to guaranteeing that you derive the most benefit from your journey experience. In this blog entry, we're studying the essential differences between full-service and limited-service lodgings so that you can make an educated decision when selecting your motel. We'll examine room divergencies, facilities presented, cost contemplations, and significantly more - all starting from both lodging proprietors'and travelers points of view. So let us plunge in!

Understanding the Basics: Definition of Limited-Service and Full-Service Hotels

Hotels can be categorized into two main groups: full-service and limited-service. Full-service hotels offer a wide variety of services, including restaurants, bars, gyms, spas, meeting rooms and concierge services. Conversely, limited service hotels provide more basic accommodation for those looking to find an affordable place to stay. However both types of hotel share the same purpose; providing guests with comfortable lodging as well as refreshment before continuing their journey. Price and customer service, along with amenities on-site, often distinguish full-service hotels from those of the limited-service type. To gain optimal benefit from a hotel stay, one should be aware of the fundamental disparities between these two varieties of establishments. Full Service Hotels provide comprehensive services to customers that include some or all features such as: reception desks for check in procedures; concierge desk help; lobby bars; restaurants providing dining options including room service and catering facilities.

Full-service hotels often offer an array of amenities, including spa treatments and fitness centers with swimming pools, business centers offering secretarial assistance and meeting/conference rooms. Limited Service Hotels typically provide more basic accommodations in smaller cities or towns that cater primarily to budget travelers who do not need or want elaborate extras such as room service or onsite restaurants/bars.

It is essential for travelers to research which hotel type best meets their needs - full service or limited service - before deciding where they will lodge during their visit away from home. This can be done by examining the amenities offered and also comparing prices between both types of hotels in a given area. Limited-service properties routinely cost less than comprehensive ones, owing to fewer staff members leading to reduced operating costs that guests benefit from through lower rates. Such establishments normally have reception desk services for checkin/checkout; vending machines offering snacks & beverages; complimentary WiFi access; laundry facilities; parking lot access; wake up calls and mailbox rental as well as complimentary breakfast (usually continental). Housekeeping services are generally available too.

Examination of room differences between the two hotels

In regard to business and leisure trips, individuals must consider the benefits of reserving a full-service hotel against those offered by limited-service hotels. Notable differences between these two types of accommodations can be seen in the room offerings. Full-service establishments generally provide larger rooms than their limited service counterparts; providing up to 500 square feet as opposed to 225 for many restricted services properties. Room options available at full-service hotels tend to be more premium than those found elsewhere; these may include separate sleeping and sitting areas, with amenities like flat screen TVs, luxurious linens and minibars. Limited service properties also occasionally offer upgraded rooms but do not have the same variety of choices that are standard in a higher end full service establishment. Moreover, guests staying at such an inn will typically benefit from 24 hour room services as well as complimentary newspaper delivery - both over and above the offerings present in other locations.

There is a considerable price difference between the room rates of luxury full service hotels and basic limited-service properties. Generally, customers should anticipate paying extra for larger rooms and more comprehensive facilities provided by these establishments. Additionally, certain limited service locations may charge fees for Wi-Fi usage whereas some full service hotels may provide it at no cost. Accordingly, travelers searching for an economically sound staycation option will likely benefit from reservations made through budget chains while those in pursuit of maximum comfort and convenience ought to consider upscale full service brands as their best bet.

Room Differences: Variations in Accommodation and Amenities

It is of immense importance to contrast full-service and limited-service hotels. When reserving a hotel room, one should take into account the particular services and conveniences proposed by the lodging. Generally speaking, full-service hotels usually provide substantial conference areas, assorted dining facilities, relaxation features such as health centers and swimming pools, business hubs; furthermore they offer laundry service as well as valet service plus luxury amenities like spa treatments. By comparison limited-services lodgings feature fewer amenities in addition to services accessible for their clients; moreover these locations are generally smaller than those offering complete range of accommodation choices without restaurants or fitness rooms onsite. Moreover daily exchange of bed linens with fresh ones together with towels probably will not be provided at restricted facility motels unlike full lodging that normally give turndown care every day throughout guest's stay period when being away from home either on vacation break or during leisure time experience called “staycation” .

Quality Standards in Full-Service Hotels

Full-Service Hotels offer unrivaled amenities and services that elevate the guest experience. These include comprehensive quality standards to ensure dependable, consistent service levels. Such establishments must meet certain mandatory regulations set by regional or national regulatory authorities in order to guarantee customer satisfaction and safety for those present on hotel grounds.

Regulation of hotels is undertaken by organizations such as the American Hotel & Lodging Association (AHLA) and The Global Hotel Alliance, which provide additional guidelines to ensure high levels of customer service and safety protocols. Quality standards for full-service hotels are comprehensive; from basic fire safety requirements in guest rooms to employing trained personnel with specific certifications. To gain approval these criteria must be met exactly or serious repercussions can ensue including fines or closure should corrections not occur promptly. Ultimately, this investment into monitoring quality standards pays dividends allowing full-service hotels to create an experience unavailable at limited-service accommodations that guests will remember fondly.

Impact of Services on Customer Satisfaction

Comparing full-service and limited-service hotels, the impact of services on customer satisfaction is a major factor. Both types of establishments offer differing amenities which can have a considerable influence on customers' experience.

Full-service hotels usually provide patrons with more amenities and services than their counterparts at limited service properties do. Some common facilities available in such settings include restaurants, bars, spas, swimming pools along with other activities like golf courses or tennis courts.

When comparing full-service and limited-service hotels, it is evident that the former offer more amenities and services, such as complimentary breakfast and access to a fitness center. Additionally, restaurants or bars may be unavailable in certain limited-service property establishments. The level of service can also drastically vary between these two types of hotel; whereas full-service personnel might be available throughout their visitor's stay for assistance needs, limited-services properties often only provide front desk staff during specific hours. As a result travelers need to research each type of accommodation carefully prior to booking so they are not dissatisfied on arrival by any unexpected limitations at the chosen destination due to lack of awareness beforehand about either particular option being suitable for them or not

In conclusion, travelers have the choice between two distinct types of hospitality options in full-service and limited-service hotels. Full-service properties offer more services, features and amenities than their counterparts do while limited-services can be cost effective for those looking to save on room costs. Hotel owners must carefully consider which type of hotel is right for them before investing so they don't end up with the wrong option.

Full Service Hotel vs Limited Service Hotel Conclusions

The difference between full-service and limited-service hotels is slowly shrinking, with many limited-service establishments offering more and better amenities, and the mid-price full-service establishments offering a great Learn more about hotel classifications in the STR website.cost to quality value for anyone looking to upgrade. With that being said, the major food and beverage component is still missing in limited-service establishments, the new ideas brought forward only cover this adequately. 

Cutthroat competition has given way to the appearance of select-service hotels, a new hybrid approach. While there may not be a lot of difference in profitability between limited and select services, the establishment costs are the real attraction, giving investors the ability to launch a hospitality service business, at a much more affordable investment point.

More and more hotels are investing in their services and expanding their offer, turning hospitality into a very competitive industry. Hotels are very interested in offering as many facilities as possible, creating the best possible offer to attract customers and potential walk-ins.

As such, it is essential that potential investors and entrepreneurs are familiar with what can be done and empowered with the knowledge to make the best decision.

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Yaiza Martinez

Founder and Lead Designer

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