Hoteliers are inventing new F&B concepts to boost their top and bottom lines as guests’ desires evolve.
NASHVILLE, Tennessee—The explosion of grab-and-go offerings, the emergence of cold-brew coffee and the inclusion of gluten-free options are three of the biggest food-and-beverage trends in hotels, according to sources.
At a session titled “Feeding the F&B frenzy” at the 2016 Hotel Data Conference, panelists said other F&B trends taking hold at the property level include healthy menus, all-natural ingredients and guests preferring quick snacks to sit-down meals. Jim Ries, corporate director of banquets and catering for the Americas at InterContinental Hotels Group, described the expansion of grab-and-go food options as the “Uber effect,” referring to the global ride-sharing app.
“Research has shown guests are willing to pay a 13% premium for such offerings,” Ries said. “Snacks are the new meals.”
Nicole Young, director of sales and revenue management at SBE, which operates hotels, restaurants and nightclubs, said F&B accounts for a significant portion of her company’s revenue. The grab-and-go trend has exploded, she said, with many properties now operating trendy, lobby grocery stores.
“This concept is going into one of our luxury hotels, which tells you a lot about where things are going,” Young said. “Yes, it needs to be tailored slightly, but it’s essentially the same.”
Panelists said hotel F&B operators in this new space are still grappling with some of the same concerns as the larger food industry, like where genetically modified foods fit in. Ries said gluten-free meals are a much bigger focus, but IHG properties are exploring new concepts like cold-brew coffee.
Young said there is “a blurring of meals” for some guests, meaning they take more food breaks across the day but with smaller portions.
“This gives us more opportunities to touch guests, and we try and come up with more interesting ways of doing this in meeting rooms and other parts of the hotel,” Young said. “The (trend) that most surprised me is the rise in takeout from the local community. Our F&B operators tell us all the time that this is happening. We’re also seeing our F&B actually serving guests of other hotels if there are several in the same area.”
Veronica Andrews, director of active data at STR, Hotel News Now’s parent company, said that in 2015, year-over-year F&B revenue grew by the highest percentage gains as compared with other revenue streams, including rooms.
Andrews said there also has been a visible uptick in year-over-year F&B revenue in the luxury, upper-upscale and upscale segments.
According to the “STR F&B report: 2016 HOST almanac,” Andrews said on average in-room dining added $5.11 to revenue per available room in the luxury and upper-upscale segments in the U.S.
“In-room dining is back,” Andrews said.
Crafting the ideal F&B experience
Young said guests’ desires have pushed SBE to reimagine their F&B offerings, focusing on local and seasonal foods and challenging chefs to reinvent menus multiple times each year. Panelists said this mentality also translates to the bar.
“We are seeing this, too, in craft cocktails,” Ries said. “Again, guests want to know what is local, so the test is how do you do that cocktail experience in a banquet setting? Beverage makes more profit, even if it does not seem to be growing as much as other F&B offerings.”
Panelists said other recent innovations include moving meetings into hotel restaurants or bar space, and Young said clients are more willing to buy out restaurants during peak times. Ries added finding other uses for F&B outside of meal hours can be effective.
“After all, if the bar does not open until 3 or 4 p.m., how can I use that space before that time?” Ries said.
Ries said minibars will remain in guestrooms but might now include nonfood items such as phone chargers—“which you might have forgotten at home”—or ingredients that can be used to mix a Manhattan cocktail.
“We might give you a discount if you buy all the ingredients, rather than buying them singly,” Ries said.
For large events and weddings, Young said guest wants have changed from quantity to quality.
“The spend is not necessarily going down, and that comes down to personal relationships and the chefs being challenged,” Young said. “No guest wants the same things.”
Measuring F&B efforts
Panelists said there is a push in the hotel F&B space for better benchmarking.
“The overall offering is more aware of getting metrics, which gives the sector a seat at the table,” Andrews said.
Young said some methods of tracking have been used to varying degrees of success.
“It is revenue per seat that we’ve gone towards, and we track back the revenue to the point of sale, rather than from the kitchen … What we have to do is put some context into analyzing our monthly numbers, but the fact these conversations now happen is progress,” Young said. “Just a little while ago the entire conversation was, ‘Well, we did better this year than last year.’”
Ries said he saw more fluidity across departments in that they were after the same thing—pushing profit.
“Hotels have less and less lobby or pre-function space, and the challenge is the in-house restaurant might not be competing with another in-house restaurant but a standalone one,” he said. “That can make comparisons awkward.”