Owners and operators of select-service hotels typically shy away from more extensive F&B offerings, but some see an opportunity to try something different.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—The typical F&B model at select-service hotels brings to mind continental breakfasts, grab-and-go options, a small shop that sells snacks and maybe a bar with a limited food menu.
But with the right combination of vision, hotel brand and a supportive market, some select-service hotels have broken the mold with F&B offerings.
It all starts with the traveler, said Stacy Smith, GM of the Hyatt Place Washington, D.C./National Mall, which has two F&B outlets—including a rooftop bar—and a full-sized kitchen. What travelers want—to feel connected and engaged—has changed, and how select-service hotels approach F&B has changed with that trend, she said.
When Smith started as GM of the hotel, it was still under construction. Looking at the surrounding neighborhood, she considered what would attract customers to the property. By angling the hotel as the place of social activity, she felt she could capitalize on being something for both the in-house guests and the community at large.
“The thing that was lacking here was F&B,” she said. “There were probably two or three restaurants, and everything was either pizza or a deli. At five o’clock, all the delis shut down. I thought I had an opportunity to be the local watering hole for the community.”
HBS Hospitality had been looking at the Elizabethtown, Kentucky, market for a while, Principal and CEO Nimish Patel said. The 35-year-old company is based in Louisville, north of Elizabethtown, and set a goal to bring a hotel to that market with meeting space, amenities and a restaurant that guests and the larger community could benefit from, he said.
Patel said the number of visitors to the city showed a clear need for a hotel that offers more in its F&B outlets. Elizabethtown’s sports park welcomes more than 100,000 visitors and athletes each year from children in elementary school through high school teenagers and their parents.
“After the games are finished, they like to come back to the hotel to unwind,” Patel said. “They have a drink of the local craft beer or Kentucky bourbons and have a bite to eat. There’s a lot of opportunity. We’re thrilled to offer this authentic Kentucky cuisine they wouldn’t get anywhere else.”
The F&B outlets at the newly transformed Crowne Plaza Atlanta Perimeter at Ravinia in Dunwoody, Georgia, also take advantage of consistent demand drivers, InterContinental Hotels Group Area GM Sharon Kilmartin said. The hotel is located on the same block as dozens of offices and corporations, in addition to sharing a building with InterContinental Hotels Group’s U.S. headquarters.
“Due to the volume of weekday employees, group conferences, and transient business travelers coming through our location on a daily basis, offering top-tier food and beverage destinations was a priority,” she said. “Since opening, we’re proud to offer convenient breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee and happy-hour destinations for neighboring employees, members of the local community, and business or leisure travelers staying at the hotel.”
Trying something new
During construction of the Hyatt Place Washington, D.C./National Mall, Smith identified an opportunity to leverage a great view from the hotel’s rooftop to maximize F&B revenue, she said. She asked the owners to modify the design to include the CityBar Rooftop Bar, which she said would increase the return on their investment.
Once the hotel opened, Smith also helped to develop new menus, including for the bar, after guests responded unfavorably to more traditional offerings.
As is common in select-service, most Hyatt Place are assembly kitchens, in which prepared food is heated, plated and served. The new menu called for going beyond that, so the rooftop bar now has a full kitchen to accommodate it. During the winter, when the rooftop bar is closed, the hotel uses the full kitchen for its catering menu.
To help draw in the business community, Smith said she brought in live entertainment, such as jazz groups and a guitarist.
“Offering those additions truly helped in-house guests, the business community and residents who wanted to come over for a drink or a bite to eat,” she said.
Open since October, the Hilton Garden Inn Elizabethtown has found its footing with F&B, despite some early trepidation, Patel said.
“We stayed away from F&B for the longest time,” he said. “Our management company didn’t like that, because operations was a task. A lot of times for hotel restaurants, it’s hard to be successful. Hilton Garden Inn took that seriously in the relaunch (of the brand) and new design. It has been very successful.”
The new brand prototype allowed HBS Hospitality to make market-relevant customizations to its F&B offerings that adapted to guest preferences, he said.
“We can make our guests feel like they’re part of Kentucky when they’re partnering with us, not only through the local dishes and beverages, but through the regional products that are sold in the shop,” he said.
The Crowne Plaza Atlanta Perimeter at Ravinia has three distinct F&B outlets—Parkwoods, Backyard at Parkwoods and Lightwell—which Kilmartin said provides the surrounding businesses and Dunwoody community options for breakfast, lunch, dinner and afternoon happy hours. The outlets benefit from the spaciousness of the hotel and overall property, she said.
Parkwoods has “timeless and comforting classics” rooted in traditional Southern American cooking, Kilmartin said. Backyards at Parkwoods, an extension of the restaurant, is an outdoor space that will offer local craft brews and wines, as well as shareable snacks. Lightwell is an airy modern café located in the lobby with Italian-inspired food and drinks available. Along with being a café, it has a dedicated Plaza Workspace that allows customers to work and socialize.
The hotel is still going through the pre-opening phase for Backyard at Parkwoods, but the other two restaurants are performing well, Kilmartin said.
“Guest and staff feedback alike has been positive, and we’ve met or surpassed all of 2019 goals so far,” she said.