Gone are the days when hotels’ grab n’ go offerings, minimarts and cafés could be only half considered and somewhat hidden. Today, hoteliers and guests demand they become stylish revenue-producers, equally accessible to locals as they are to guests.
GLOBAL REPORT—Travelers’ love of all things culinary has helped the hotel grab n’ go phenomenon to expand beyond just offering a few wraps and baguettes in a chilled display cabinet. Such offerings must now be stylish as well as boost properties as revenue centers.
The other fundamental ingredients, sources said, include the recent trend of incorporating local communities into the style and offerings, and having hotel grab n’ go outlets equally accessible to guests and locals.
Paul Greenwood, business development manager at food-and-beverage design consultancy Tricon Foodservice Consultants, said younger guests are demanding choice, style and convenience.
“With the wealth of lifestyle hotels specifically targeted at millennials, it is no surprise that hotels are focusing on delivering to this demographic,” he said.
One popular approach to hotel F&B development is to create destination lifestyle cafés that operate all day and are open to both hotel guests and the general public. As many brands look to generate a higher percentage of income and profit via their F&B operations, grab n’ go options are becoming more visible in more convenient spaces within hotels. In addition, these units can be a fixed design or a pop-up as needs and space dictate.
Dexter Moren, director of design firm Dexter Moren Associates, has fully embraced the spirit of designing hotels with grab n’ go offerings that connect with the properties’ neighborhoods.
One of his firm’s projects, the Hotel Indigo in Kensington, London, has a complete delicatessen that was designed as much for locals as it was for guests, Moren said. He added that the deli increases foot traffic and, therefore, retail transactions.
“This is a much cooler offer than the cooler cabinet of old,” he said. “It’s all about working around the individual hotel and the space available, its functional needs and brand character. Expected uptake numbers will always play a part in incorporating this offering, but it’s also about providing a service for the guest by presenting a varied and healthy choice that is convenient and also rivals any equivalent High Street café.”
Cool profit line
Simon Lazarus, owner and managing director of F&B consultancy Barmetrix and former VP of F&B for Europe, Middle East and Africa, at Hilton, said grab n’ go options and mini in-house supermarkets can be profitable, but margins are usually very low.
“Prices have to keep in line with those on the High Street, so hoteliers have to get that fine balance right,” he said. “Starbucks is more profitable simply (because) it has far more volume. For hotels, the idea will never be a loss maker, as prices have to be attractive or guests will go elsewhere.”
Success almost always derives from location and footfall, Lazarus said.
Hoteliers either decide to operate these offerings themselves, or they are outsourced—a pure lease proposition. In many instances, much to the surprise of the hotel owner, they make quite a tidy business, Lazarus said.
“It was certainly true 15 to 20 years ago that hotel operators saw F&B as a necessary evil,” Greenwood said. “However in recent years, five to 10, hoteliers have come to realize if done well F&B can contribute well to bottom-line profitability. There is certainly a trend towards de-risking F&B operations to the hotel by outsourcing to third parties and in some cases to well-known signature/celebrity chefs.”
Nila Pendarovski, GM of the Rove Downtown Dubai, said her property’s mini-market Zoom, despite being a chain offering, is an initiative that everyone at the hotel wanted to see stand out.
“Design is increasingly becoming important in these offerings,” she said. “The decision was to have a supermarket that fits into the design of the property but has everything—far more than is usual in a hotel.”
Moren said the design of grab n’ go areas is shaped by factors such as accessibility, functionality and flexibility, as well as by hotel brand standards.
One hotel in Neuwied, Germany, has taken F&B to a higher level by being a food- and supermarket-themed hotel—so far, management claims, the only one in Europe.
The Food Hotel—which partners with vocational training schools, employment agencies and hotel and catering associations—has food-themed art and guestrooms, several restaurants and a supermarket. The market, Food Akademie, is often used for events, seminars, training classes and even sit-down meals, with diners sharing the space with hotel guests and local grocery shoppers.
Calls and emails to The Food Hotel were not returned by presstime.