Avoiding these common F&B mistakes can bring your hotel’s offerings to the next level.
Food-and-beverage revenue is growing in importance as it relates to overall hotel profitability, a break from times past when it was considered a loss leader.
But the average hotel doesn’t pay much attention to cutting-edge trends in either in-room or on-site dining. Most have the opportunity to do a better job of feeding both guests and the bottom line. Below are some pitfalls hoteliers should avoid to take their F&B game to the next level.
No sense of season or place
A total of 21% of U.S. diners say they are willing to pay more for local food and drinks, and 41% of consumers say “locally sourced ingredients” influence their dining choices.
Many hotel operators underestimate their restaurant guests’ tastes and preferences and will default to staples from decades ago—such as the “must-have” Caesar salad, turkey club, a plain old burger without any local variation, etc.
Eighty percent of restaurant operators say guests are interested in locally sourced items, so capitalizing on that trend is an easy win. Labeling the hometown suppliers on the menu is an excellent way to convey this message, as is showcasing those notable local items, from gumbos and poutines to meats from an area butcher, regional barbecue and a locally farmed raw bar.
Another key opportunity is locally roasted coffees, craft beers, ciders and wines. Look at a list of “best bars,” and you’ll find themes ranging from a broad selection of tequilas and bourbons to pre-Prohibition drinks and molecular gastronomy cocktails. A hotel bar can compete by picking a theme and owning it, especially if it’s one that will resonate with its local audience and not just in-house guests.
A static menu
A restaurant in a trendy, stylish hotel needs to offer equally relevant cuisine, not just “me-too” fare. But even a restaurant in a mass-market hotel can show signs of life by staying on top of food trends as it moves into the mainstream. Some current trends include offering alternatives to dairy milk, varied protein portion options, more superfoods, gluten-free dishes, craft beers, small plates, rotating wine flights and interesting twists on classic recipes.
There are a select few properties that have responded to culinary trends. The Four Seasons Hotel in Chicago has an on-site mixologist who can be summoned to guestrooms to craft a cocktail to their liking. For those interested in something sweeter, the hotel also offers an ice cream man that will make sundaes to order. The Soho House chain of hotels provides a similar offer: a bartender who pushes a cocktail cart nightly to make pre-dinner drinks. The Four Seasons Hualalai offers a hot chocolate concierge over the holiday season.
Low-tech in-room dining
Hotels should take cues from the world outside their walls. In-house tablets with pre-programmed roomservice menus would be more seamless for guests and employees, as it cuts down on the number of wrong orders. Plus, studies have found that guests tend to order more food—and therefore spend more—when they use an online system versus the telephone. Furthermore, providing visuals and images of menu items on tablets is proven to increase the number of orders, as well as the average check per order.
With 20% of search queries on Google’s mobile app and Android devices now comprising voice searches, it’s a smart move for companies to be on the forefront of voice-activated technology, too. Marriott is testing both Amazon’s Alexa-powered Echo device, as well as Apple’s Siri, while Wynn Resorts became the first hotel chain to install in-room Echoes in December. At the Cosmopolitan in Las Vegas, guests can text with Rose, a chatbot who can offer cocktail recommendations or describe the ambience at local restaurants.
Little marketing and a lackluster (if any) website
Many hotel managers seem to think that mounting posters in the elevators is sufficient to fill seats in the restaurant. Same with in-room tent cards on the guestroom desk, a description in the hotel directory or a video on the hotel TV channel.
At best, most hotel F&B websites are woefully dated. At worst, they don’t have an online presence at all, making it difficult for guests to even encounter the property’s restaurant while searching for nearby restaurants on their phones or computers. With 70% of smartphone users viewing restaurant menus on their phones, it’s increasingly imperative to have an online presence, ideally one that updates consumers on new menu items.
Hotel restaurants can rarely turn a profit from in-house traffic alone. Capturing the attention of locals creates more energy for a restaurant and more frequent visits. An organized marketing effort to inspire a buzz among locals is a must. Changing the mindset to be competitive with popular local restaurants is imperative for a hotel restaurant to succeed.
Ignoring the non-operating hours diner
Guests who arrive at a hotel after the dinner hour could have been traveling all day and want something to eat, but not a full meal. Americans are replacing meals with healthy snacks more frequently.
An on-property restaurant typically is not prepared to handle those needs. Whether it’s through roomservice, a robust bar snack menu or a retail offering, the hotel is not providing a hospitable experience and forgoing an opportunity to capture additional revenue. But that doesn’t necessarily mean guests will reach for that $11 can of Pringles in the hotel mini-bar. Despite 94% of Americans snacking daily, only 13% say they visit the hotel minibar for a snack. Culinary trends like small plates, tapas and healthy to-go snacks haven’t quite made their way to hotel menus—which could provide a great opportunity.
Snacking is a culinary trend that hotels aren’t tapping into. Providing a limited late-night menu for service both at the hotel bar and via in-room dining can make the difference between a hungry and unsatisfied guest versus a well-fed and happy one.
The opportunities are plentiful
In order to remain competitive, hotels must incorporate the latest technologies—and take into account evolving dining habits—into their F&B programs and marketing strategies. There’s a unique opportunity for operators to set the benchmark—and carve out a niche in an industry that sorely needs one.
Feeding both the guest and the hotel bottom line are not mutually exclusive and can be paired together, somewhat like a nice glass of locally blended Pinot Noir and a selection of neighborhood artisanal cheeses.
Romy Bhojwani has more than 20 years of experience in the global hospitality and real estate industries. In his role as EVP of asset management at hotelAVE, he oversees a portfolio of luxury, and upper upscale hotel assets located in North America and Europe. He works with his team and leverages his expertise to develop and execute asset management plans that result in value creation opportunities throughout the investment lifecycle. Prior to hotelAVE, Bhojwani served as managing director of 360 Capital Advisors. He founded and led the advisory and asset management company to create value-enhancing solutions for global hospitality assets. Bhojwani previously served as SVP of real estate and asset management at Delta Hotels and Resorts. He led the asset management and acquisitions function for a portfolio valued at $750 million located throughout various primary markets in Canada. Bhojwani also has also held positions in real estate, asset management and operations at Jones Lang LaSalle Hotels, Hilton, Horwath Asia Pacific and Oberoi Hotels.
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