Success Story - Sierra Meadows - youtip
SUCCESS STORY

How Sierra Meadows Uses youtip’s Digital Tipping Solution to Put More Money into the Pockets of its Housekeeping Team

Ahwahnee, CA

The cashless economy is having a direct impact on employees in tipping positions. Here we look at how one lodging operator is leveraging the power of youtip’s digital tipping solution to help employees earn more tip money and stay competitive in this time of staffing shortages.

The Challenge

Asked if the Sierra Meadows team is happy with their youtip experience, Spice replied, “Absolutely. I have already recommended it to colleagues in the industry. It’s a way to pay employees more without it costing you more. With just a bit of administration on our part, our team members are earning an extra $1 an hour.”

He added, “Typically, I like to tweak things to constantly make improvements, but youtip was as good as it could be right out of the gate. To be honest, I haven’t had much contact with the company because the technology runs so smoothly.”

During the pandemic, Reid Spice, COO of Sierra Meadows, noticed that his housekeeping team was receiving fewer tips, and it wasn’t due to low occupancy.

“Guests are carrying less cash today,” he explained. “Many international travelers don’t carry cash at all, preferring to use credit cards. And even when people do have cash, they often don’t have the right denomination.”

At many hotels and hospitality companies, housekeeping staff and other employees rely on tips to supplement their income, and Sierra Meadows is no exception. So when Spice came across an article about a fintech company called youtip that provides a digital tipping solution for the service industry, he was intrigued.

“It seemed like an easy way to help give our employees a little more money,” he said.

After reaching out to youtip and receiving a sample QR code, Spice was convinced of the guest and employee benefits. “For me, the fact that I could leave a tip, rate the property, and add a comment in less than 30 seconds was very compelling,” he said. “Being able to use my mobile wallet and pay with Apple Pay was a huge selling point.” Given the surge in demand for contactless services arising from the pandemic, youtip’s cash-free, touch-free solution was all the more attractive.

The Property

Sierra Meadows

Nestled in the Sierra Foothills in central California, just 20 miles from the entrance to Yosemite National Park, Sierra Meadows is a cluster of cozy private cabins set on 1,300 acres of hiking and biking trails lined with wildflowers, hidden art, ponds, and creeks. The property’s 27 units range from “micro cabins” to 2-bedroom cabins with kitchenettes. All cabins come with free Wi-Fi, playing cards, books and board games, in addition to the resort swimming pool, complimentary bicycles, and dog-friendly facilities.

There are no TVs, and that’s intentional. “Our goal is to provide a place for you to stay, relax and unwind without interruption,” said Spice, who purchased the property in 2015 with business partner Charlie Sheldon, converting it from a golf and country club.

The Setup

In April 2021, not long after receiving the sample QR code, Spice decided the time was right to implement youtip at Sierra Meadows. “Getting up and running was fast,” he said. “We did it in under a week. I sent youtip a list of our cabin numbers, and they generated a QR code for each cabin, along with instructions for guests on how to use them.”

Sierra Meadows Digital Tipping Sign
(Image: Digital Tipping Signage in Sierra Meadows Cabin)

Spice created a customized set of laminated cards with the QR code and instructions and posted them in each cabin. “We put them next to the thermostat by the front door to make them as visible as possible,” he said.

To leave a tip for housekeeping staff, guests simply scan the QR code with their mobile phone, and they are taken to a resort-branded, web-based landing page where they can choose a tip denomination. The amount is withdrawn from their mobile wallet using Apple Pay or Google Pay, or they can choose to enter credit or debit card details. youtip charges a nominal fee per transaction, which the employer can opt to cover, as Sierra Meadows has chosen to do. Guests can also leave a rating and comments about their stay if the property chooses to activate this optional, free function.

In addition to the in-room signage, guests are given another opportunity to leave a tip after departure. Sierra Meadows sends all guests a post-stay email thanking them for their stay and inviting them to post an online review of the property on Tripadvisor or Google. A link to the tip landing page is included in the email as a reminder, in case a guest was in a rush or forgot to tip for the great service during their stay.

The Results

In large, luxury hotels, room rates are high and tipping is common. At Sierra Meadows, cabin rates are more affordable and tipping is less frequent. Nevertheless, from the moment the property implemented youtip, the property began seeing favorable results.

“In just over a year, our guests have put an extra $7,000 into the pockets of our employees using youtip,” Spice said. “And our employees received 100% of that tip money.” About 15% of guests leave a tip, with an average tip amount of $13.50. On average, these tips have increased hourly wages by one dollar.

The tip money is pooled and distributed as part of biweekly paychecks according to the number of hours worked during the pay period. The more hours worked, the more tips an employee is likely to receive. In the most recent pay period, for example, the average payout per employee was $20. This includes staff who work only one shift; those working full-time receive considerably more.

Key Tipping Indicators (KTIs): Sierra Meadows

Tips earned through youtip to date (433 days): $7,000+
Average proportion of guests who tip: 15%
Average tip: $13.50
Average tip receipts per day: $16.60
Average tip income per employee: Approx. $1 per hour worked
Average guest review from youtip: 9.89/10

Guest Ratings & Comments

Guest feedback is a critical part of the success of Sierra Meadows, and the property earns impressive ratings on online review sites, with average rating of 4.92/5.0 on Airbnb and 5.0/5.0 on Tripadvisor.

To supplement online reviews, the property has opted for an optional feature within youtip that prompts guests to rate the property and provide comments about their stay after leaving a tip. Initially, the company set a rating system of 1 to 5, but then changed it to 1 to 10 to provide more granular measurements. To date, the property has received an average rating of 9.89 out of 10 on youtip—almost perfect!

“It’s a feature of youtip we appreciate,” Spice said. “We receive lots of interesting comments, and the feedback is helpful. We share it with our staff. Guest feedback is one of the most gratifying parts of our work. It feels wonderful when our guests tell us we exceeded their expectations and they can’t wait to come back.”

Impact on Guests and Employees

How have guests and employees responded to youtip? “It’s been well received by everyone,” Spice said. “A lot of our guests haven’t seen this type of application before, and they’re happy to be provided with such a simple, easy option to tip. As for our employees, they’re happy too, of course, because they love to earn more money. At first there was a lot of excitement, but now it’s part of the daily routine. It’s a line item on their paycheck every couple of weeks, something they look forward to and depend on.”

He noted that the additional tipping prompt in post-stay emails generates a significant proportion of the tip receipts. And because each cabin has its own unique QR code, he knows exactly which room types and team members are generating the most tips.

He has observed a positive correlation between the size of cabin and the size of tip, which he believes makes sense because larger cabins are more expensive and take more time to clean. At times he and his team have been overwhelmed by the generosity of guests who have tipped as much as $40 or more.

The youtip Experience

Asked if the Sierra Meadows team is happy with their youtip experience, Spice replied, “Absolutely. I have already recommended it to colleagues in the industry. It’s a way to pay employees more without it costing you more. With just a bit of administration on our part, our team members are earning an extra $1 an hour.”

He added, “Typically, I like to tweak things to constantly make improvements, but youtip was as good as it could be right out of the gate. To be honest, I haven’t had much contact with the company because the technology runs so smoothly.”

Ready to get started with digital tipping?

The world is going cashless, and you can make sure your team can be rewarded for their outstanding service.