To keep enticing guests with new offerings, boutique hoteliers update themed drinks and seasonal ingredients, even incorporating fall colors into the menu.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—Whether it’s serving up a “spooky” cocktail or adding comfort food to the menu for fall, a quick food-and-beverage refresh is a good way to entice guests and locals to have a meal or drink at a hotel’s restaurant.
The Godfrey Hotel Chicago goes all out around Halloween with its Haunted Hotel celebration, according to Grant Gedemer, director of food and beverage at The Godfrey. This year, which is the third year the hotel has hosted the event, the hotel’s I|O rooftop bar will serve a Dia de los Muertos cocktail to give attendees a taste of the Halloween spirit.
The cocktail, which is created and made by the restaurant’s chef himself—putting less pressure on the bartenders—will be served from 23 October to 28 October, Gedemer said, which is the day of the Haunted Hotel event.
The seasonal creativity doesn’t stop at the drinks but continues with creating interactive experiences, he said.
Rooms on the fifth floor of the hotel, right above the I|O restaurant, will become a haunted house including actors that engage with guests—both around the hotel and behind the bar to make a drink or two, Gedemer said, providing a “fully immersive experience.”
Aside from themed cocktails, Gedemer said the hotel refreshes the restaurant’s menu options approximately four times per year in coordination with the seasons. It’s not a complete menu overhaul, he said, as favorites from the menu and the cocktail list stay year-round. The Godfrey will switch over to its fall menu on 1 November, he said.
Fall colors, new menus
The Townsend Hotel in Birmingham, Michigan, has two F&B outlets: The Rugby Grille and The Bakery, which has its own separate entrance outside of the hotel, said Steven Kalczynski, managing director at the hotel.
Menu items at The Townsend’s F&B outlets are updated seasonally, Kalczynski said, and the fall menu was introduced recently. The Rugby Grille’s menu has more fall items and comfort foods, he said, rather than lighter-fare foods that are served in the summer.
“So on The Bakery side of it, (we have) a fall look and feel to it, with orange colors, these kinds of things, in our pastries,” he said.
The Woodstock Inn & Resort’s culinary program focuses on “seasonality and relevance,” according to Gary Thulander, president and GM at the hotel, and much of the food for the hotel’s four F&B outlets comes from the on-property garden named the Kelly Way Gardens.
“During the holidays, a variety of themed specialty dinners are added into the mix as well,” he said. “There is often a cheese cart and a beverage cart in the lobby to provide guests a taste of local Vermont flavors.”
He added that specialty drinks, craft brews and ciders are popular at restaurant bars on property.
The Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., also updates its menu seasonally at the property’s Edgar Bar & Kitchen while concentrating on farm-to-table options, said Steve Smith, director of operations.
“Edgar does a seasonal refresh to its menu each quarter,” he said. “We focus on the farm-to-table concept, so we aim to provide guests with as much local produce as possible. We focus our cocktails and desserts to theme with the time of year. For example, we have fun with cherry blossoms in the spring as well as themed cocktails and desserts for summer, fall and the Christmas holidays.”
Hotel deLuxe in Portland, Oregon, has a few F&B outlets: Gracie’s, The Driftwood Room and The 19th Hole, a miniature golf and beer garden operation open in the summer, according to Kaitlin Dover, GM at Gracie’s and The Driftwood room at Hotel deLuxe.
“The menu at The Driftwood Room is a great example of how we tackle seasonality,” she said. “We update the entire cocktail menu (at) Driftwood Room each spring, summer, fall and winter, making sure that our cocktails embody the flavors and ingredients associated with the season.”
Why do hotels refresh their F&B menus and spaces? To keep customer interested and coming in during times when the restaurants might be getting less business, Dover said.
“We like to get creative and dream up new ways to make sure we’re maximizing our offerings and monetizing all our outlets and hotel space as much as possible all year round,” she said. “Our focus tends to be on creating interesting new experiences rather than discounting because we’ve found that our guests and the locals here are driven to seek out and happily pay for authentic, unique, delicious offerings.”
Restaurants at The Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, always have a seasonally fresh menu, as well as different options for holiday meals, said Sarah Eustis, owner and managing director of The Red Lion Inn and CEO of Main Street Hospitality Group, which operates the property.
Over the summer, the hotel hosted a few pop-up performances from musical and theater organizations, Eustis said, along with a few pop-up bars to accompany select performances.
She said the hotel’s new F&B director, Fabien Riviere, might continue the pop-up series and bring it back this winter, in order to continue drawing in guests and locals to the restaurants during holiday and peak seasons.
“There are some exciting programs under development by our new F&B director for the Inn,” Eustis said. “We’re exploring the concept of a winter pop-up series, similar to the summer pop-up, but perhaps around the wood-burning fireplace in the lobby.”