From creating unique menus to finding glassware to prevent condensation for outdoor outlets, boutique hoteliers detail the steps taken to build a good F&B program at hotels with multiple outlets.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—There’s a lot that goes into building a food-and-beverage program at a boutique hotel to make sure the experience at each outlet within the hotel is memorable for guests.
At properties under Marcus Hotels & Resorts, it’s important for the spirit and style of a hotel to connect with F&B experiences, Joe Jackson, VP of food and beverage at Marcus, said via email.
There has to be collaboration between F&B, branding, operations teams, owners and designers when coming up with the perfect F&B program, he said. This is currently happening at the soon-to-open Saint Kate – The Arts Hotel in Milwaukee, which Jackson described as a “first-of-its-kind independent immersive arts hotel.”
“We strive to connect the drinking and dining experiences with arts and the arts community,” he said. “As an example, at the Bar at Saint Kate, guests will enjoy a great line up of live performances and sip one of Kate’s locally brewed beers, whose label was designed by a local graphic artist. It is equally important for us that our guests have amazing dining experiences as it is for us to engage with local artists, crafters and brewers, too.”
Creating the right vibe sometimes means serving certain drinks exclusively at different outlets within a hotel. “The goal is to have beverage offerings that complement unique experiences” at restaurants and bars, Jackson said.
“As an example, at The Dark Room at Saint Kate, our premiere dining room at the property, our cocktail list is curated with some luxury-style offerings,” he said. “But, we also cross-train our mixologist to work in different locations so that they are familiar with all the cocktail recipes from across our hotels.”
It’s important to think about the audience and the ambience of an F&B outlet at a hotel when planning an F&B program, said Sarah Sparks, restaurant and bar GM at Provenance Hotels’ Hotel deLuxe, via email.
“While Gracie’s classic elegance and open floor plan caters to business groups during the week and families on the weekends, Driftwood Room’s cozy intimate setting attracts lovers for date night, and wedding after-parties,” she said. “Afternoon Tea, while served in Gracie’s, transports you to a traditional English Tea Service complete with fine china and a stunning grand piano, playing classical music.”
Hotel deLuxe, which is owned and managed by Provenance Hotels, had plenty of options for indoor F&B outlets, but Sparks said the hotel was missing a seasonal, outdoor venue, so the 19th Hole Beer Garden was created.
“All four outlets have distinct audiences,” she said. “The goal is to offer a unique experience for each guest when working with multiple outlets.”
Each outlet has a specific F&B selection that’s tailored to that outlet, she said.
“Afternoon Tea serves traditional English-style tea fare that wouldn’t translate to Driftwood’s menu, which offers a tapas style selection,” she said. “The in-room dining menu is an annotated version of Gracie’s main dishes. Determining what your stable, year-round dishes are is crucial to streamlining the in-room dining menu. This prevents waste and the cost associated with a seasonal menu change for 130 rooms.”
The 19th Hole has quick grab-and-go summer menu items, she said.
“Having multiple outlets is a dream for a creative executive chef and GM as you’re able to experiment with a wide range of food items; offering everything from caviar to Frito pies,” Sparks said. “Proper execution is crucial as seasonal menu changes occur at the same time across all outlets, a labor-intensive task that requires open communication with the entire F&B team.”
The Driftwood Room at Hotel deLuxe serves a variety of cocktails that have absinthe as an ingredient. (Photo: Provenance Hotels)
Plastic cups are sometimes needed for safety reasons at an outdoor F&B outlet, but another thing the Deer Path Inn considers is how much an ice cold drink melts in warm weather, Matt Barba, GM/Innkeeper of Deer Path Inn, said.
A particular type of glass is used at the hotel’s outdoor F&B outlets, as well as table cloths and napkins to prevent condensation so guests don’t end up sitting in a puddle of moisture.
Both of Deer Path Inn’s outdoor outlets are on flat ground, so there isn’t a risk of glasses dropping like there would be at a rooftop bar. Because of that, the hotel hasn’t turned to plastic cups for outdoor spaces.
“Ours is more to try to prevent the sweating. If you’re dining outside, the weather is probably warmer and you’ve got cold cocktails with ice melting fast,” he said. “We try to take into consideration the particular style of glassware and if it (promotes or decelerates sweating).”
The price of F&B offerings at each outlet within a hotel depends on the cost of food and drinks, the labor needed to operate the outlet and the ambience the outlet has to offer, Sparks said.
“Completing a comp analysis in your location is crucial and the first step to proper pricing,” she said. “The in-room dining menu, while boasting a smaller selection of our main dishes in Gracie’s, is priced higher due to the labor required to execute the service. The 19th Hole menu is designed to attract locals for a quick and tasty lunch, thus the comp analysis is with the large food cart selection Portland boasts.”
Jackson said pricing for Marcus Hotels’ boutique F&B outlets “begins with menu creations and aligning the offerings with the concept.”
“We also conduct market studies to assist with understanding the market as we want our prices to be competitive,” he said. “The study not only looks at hotels but local restaurants and bars as well.”
Barba said the Deer Path Inn charges more for drinks at The Bar and at its fine-dining outlet, The English Room.
“(We charge more at the) fine-dining outlet because we tend to have guests celebrating a special occasion where they are going to want to purchase something that’s a little more elaborate, a little more costly in celebration of whatever they’ve come to celebrate with us,” he said. “And then The Bar, there’s a little bit of an ego purchase where people see a Pappy Van Winkle on some sort of reserved list, or maybe it’s a wedding party where the groomsmen are going to come down to the bar after or at some point during (the reception).”