Local business a must for independents’ F&B
16 JANUARY 2015 8:24 AM
A combination of targeted advertising, authenticity and niched promotions keeps restaurants and bars filled with local residents as well as guests at independent hotels.
REPORT FROM THE U.S—Locals can be a tough crowd when it comes to judging a hotel food-and-beverage outpost. They know the neighborhood; they know where their friends go; and they know all the other options just up the road. That’s why developing a specific marketing plan to attract local residents to your restaurant and lounge doors is a critical aspect of business for independent hotels, according to sources.
Why rely on local business? A certain percentage of street business drives any hotel restaurant or bar, according to Boutique Hospitality Management CEO Keith Space. Knowing the differences between what local patrons and hotel guests want is the first step.
“Hotel guests are a captive audience, and their decision-making checklist (when it comes to picking a restaurant) is different” than a local’s, he said via email. “You need to give locals a real reason to get in their car and choose to come.”
And those reasons better deliver, Space said.
“Locals want the same things from an F&B space inside a hotel as they do from (a freestanding restaurant),” he said. “They want the establishment to have a clear vision of what it offers. … It needs to fill a void in the market and have an identity all its own.”
While Space said independent hoteliers often can be more entrepreneurial when it comes to choosing the right F&B outlets for their hotel (for example, developing one great restaurant that really fills a niche instead of following a brand prescription for more than might be necessary), size of the property can be a limiting factor. “Most independent hotels are not large enough (for guests) to be the only support for their F&B outlets,” he said.
Revenues from food and beverage represent approximately 29.2% of total revenues at an average independent hotel in the United States, according to the HOST Almanac from HNN sister company STR Analytics.
Why locals matter
Marcus Latner, GM of the Lone Star Court, which opened in 2013 in Austin, Texas, knows firsthand the challenges of luring locals in a city as dynamic as Austin when it comes to food and drinks. The hotel’s two F&B outlets that are open to the public as well as guests offer distinct perks intended to appeal to Austin dwellers.
That’s because approximately half of the hotel’s F&B revenue comes from locals, Latner said.
“Our hotel occupancy fluctuates from season to season, so it is critical to build a connection with local residents and businesses,” he said.
The hotel’s Water Trough bar and Feed Store food truck, both open to the public as well as to guests, must stay cutting-edge when it comes to food offerings and promotions, Latner said, in order to keep locals interested and coming back.
A full schedule of live music performances and an industry “forever” happy hours have played big roles in luring locals, Latner said.
At Philadelphia’s luxury Rittenhouse Hotel, finding and maintaining the right local F&B business is absolutely important, because 85% of the hotel’s F&B business comes from area residents, according to Kathleen Slater, area director of sales & marketing at The Rittenhouse.
The hotel’s F&B outlets include the three-meal fine-dining Lacroix, the Mary Cassatt Tea Room, the dinner- and late-night Library Bar and Bar 210, in addition to roomservice and spa offerings.
Slater said monthly themed wine dinners in Lacroix have done an excellent job attracting returning residents. The restaurant’s reputation in the prestigious Rittenhouse neighborhood makes dinner service strong, and Sunday brunch also has contributed to keeping locals interested.
Find locals where they are
Both Latner and Slater said keeping up with competition is critical.
“We are surrounded by remarkable restaurants that offer terrific food and service all over the city,” Slater said via email. “It is up to us to stay competitive and consistent in our offerings. Consistency in food quality, price and service is a must.”
At Lone Star Court, Latner said it can be tough to get locals in—especially ones as tuned in to what’s hot and what’s not in a city like Austin. He said the best approach has been to target marketing to guest-specific channels.
“Locals use Yelp more than they use TripAdvisor to check reviews, while for guests staying with us, sites like TripAdvisor are a huge factor,” he said.
Also, he said print advertising still plays an important role in Lone Star Court’s local advertising, even though digital channels continue to grow.
“We advertise in local print (outlets) and try to concentrate on zones and specialize the ad to those zones,” he said. “We also look at local niche markets like the business scene, the dating scene and the family scene.”
Slater said hyper-local online review sites like OpenTable and Yelp are most popular among residents looking for dining and drinking options at The Rittenhouse, along with local food blogs.
Both the Lone Star Court and The Rittenhouse own and manage all of their F&B outlets. Latner and Slater said cultivating high levels of service from staff makes a big difference in the success of the restaurants and bars.
“Our F&B staff is very professional and responsive to the level of service we strive to provide. They know and understand what is expected of them,” Slater said.
Latner said that hiring the right people, “individuals who have a passion for their craft, whether it be culinary or mixology,” goes a long way toward contributing to the authenticity of the F&B experience—a trait that resonates with guests and locals alike.
HNN’s Alicia Hoisington contributed to this report.