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Business Observer Friday, Sep. 4, 2015 4 years ago

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Luxury hotel operators John Ayres and son James Ayres bring resort-style services to people's homes from a smartphone.
by: Jean Gruss Contributing Writer

As chairman of Naples-based Coral Hospitality, John Ayres knows what it takes to pamper luxury hotel guests.

Together with son James Ayres, they've launched a phone application called Relax and Order that promises to bring resort-style amenities to your home. Services include massages, yoga classes, personal chefs and auto detailing.

The father-son team plans to raise $2 million once they show investors how the application functions in Naples and Tampa, its first two markets. “We didn't want to go find investors until we knew it worked,” says John Ayres.

Once the Ayres have raised the capital, Relax and Order plans to expand to other states with multimedia advertising campaigns using digital, television, radio and print. Dallas, Phoenix and Seattle are some of the possible cities.

Unlike other programs that connect buyers and sellers of services, Relax and Order vets its providers with the same scrutiny as it does for its upscale hotels. For example, as few as one out of 50 bartenders make the company's cut. “You want to make sure you get the good ones,” says James Ayres.

Each city will be staffed with an ambassador who will oversee the operation and make sure the providers are delivering the services at customers' expectations. Customers will rate the providers after services are rendered so Relax and Order can cull the list of those who don't measure up.

To select about 80 providers in Tampa, James Ayres rented a house over several days and scheduled in-person interviews with them at specific times. “We make them as nervous as possible,” Ayres says. Anyone who was late or had friends in tow was crossed off the list.

The benefit for providers is they can choose the jobs they want to supplement their income. A sous-chef at a hotel restaurant, for one, might prefer only to provide personal-chef services one or two evenings a week.

Relax and Order makes money by taking an undisclosed percentage of each transaction. While it doesn't tell providers exactly how much they can charge, it might cost $25 per person for an hour of yoga, for instance. James Ayres says the Tampa market is so big it could potentially generate $6 million to $8 million in revenue a year.

All the transactions are processed using credit cards. So if a customer wants to add more people to a yoga class, he or she can add that with a function on the application.

Under the supervision of James Ayres, the president of Relax and Order, the company hired its own engineers to build the application, including its own GPS tracking system. “We didn't put the instructions up for the next guy,” Ayres says.

The GPS system is important because it automatically notifies the customer on his smartphone when the provider has arrived. “The notification piece is the most difficult part,” Ayres says.

John Ayres says the app's revenues and customers will attract investors. “Some of these apps raised $80 million and they don't even work,” he quips.

Follow Jean Gruss on Twitter @JeanGruss

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