Hotel restaurants are customizing menus and creating special meals on the fly for guests with specific dietary preferences.
GLOBAL REPORT—Chefs and kitchen staff at hotels and resorts have found that guests with dietary restrictions and healthy lifestyles want customization when it comes to eating meals on-property.
Brett Patterson, VP of food & beverage for the Americas at Fairmont Hotels & Resorts, said the company’s properties used to create menus for guests who eat gluten-free, vegetarian or vegan diets, but decided to stop doing that once they discovered those guests wanted more personalized options.
“(Dietary restriction options are) so common across the board that we basically tell our chefs to make sure they have gluten-free (meal options) or whatever it is on standby,” he said. “They need to be able to make sure they can adapt to individual guest needs.”
Patterson said most Fairmont guests expect to have meal options custom-made to their specific dietary preferences, but tailoring meals to those preferences requires effective communication between the kitchen staff and servers.
“It’s become expected that (chefs) become flexible when people go to restaurants,” he said. “The waiters need to be trained. … Now it’s expected that the waiter needs to be in tune with what’s happening in the kitchen, needs to know what’s happening with the chef and needs to be comfortable translating what the chef is saying to the guest or bring the chef straight out to the guest.”
Specific menus work for some
Making special dietary meals on the fly works for some hotels, but others have had success in offering customized menus to guests with dietary restrictions.
Hermann Schäfer, corporate West Coast chef at Noble House Hotels & Resorts, said Noble House has offered gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options at its properties for about 10 years.
“Each property has its own menu, which are more locally-based, but Noble House also customizes menus, depending on the group or customer,” he said. “And we definitely always customize the menu to (guests’) needs to be more proactive than reactive with the menus, so that we have everything in place, and then, of course, we customize it.”
Schäfer said each Noble House location has a menu that reflects local F&B offerings.
“We try to stay locally and organic as much as possible,” he said. “It’s not like a McDonald’s menu where every property has the same menu, we try to customize (based on location).”
Accommodating F&B requests for large events
Hotel kitchen staffs have also found ways to accommodate special meal requests for meeting, banquet and special event attendees.
Romeo Penacino, complex executive sous chef at The Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino in Aruba, said all menus at the property have at least one vegetarian or gluten-free option, and the staff is “also very flexible with making customized menus.”
He said the kitchen staff at the property also works with an event planner to find out the specific dietary needs of attendees at various events.
“Prior to the event, we have a pre-conference meeting with the planner who will provide us with the exact number of guests with special diets and all specifications, and we will agree on a menu specially prepared for them,” he said.
Schäfer said Noble House properties have printed menus in place for events, but also make custom menus based on the event.
“We also customize menus to what theme they have or however they like it, gluten-free, vegetarian, dairy-free, and if there are any dietary needs that certain customers have, we cook completely separate for them as well,” he said.
Thoughtful food options extend beyond dietary restrictions
Hyatt Hotels Corporation locations cater to guests’ specific dietary meal requests, but they also cater to guests who are trying to eat healthy while on the road, according to Peter Roth, VP of operational experiences for Park Hyatt, Andaz, Centric & The Unbound Collection, Americas.
“We have, for many years, always had options for these individuals who have these very specific and well-known dietary restrictions,” he said. “I think there’s no real novelty there.”
Roth said Hyatt is partnering with a well-known health and wellness specialists to create better food options for guests trying to eat healthy while traveling. He said Hyatt has added new breakfast smoothies, complimentary infused waters and more.
“(We’re) considering how we can help guests to stay on course and eat food that’s good for them while they’re on the road,” he said. “You can probably relate to the scenario where all of us, be it dietary restrictions or a healthy routine … fall off (eating healthy) because the options are just not quite there.”