Sunday, June 6, 2010

Hotel Restaurants. Put a Fork in Them, 'Cause They're Done

I recently read an article posted by Bill Marriott of Marriott Hotels and Resorts fame, entitled; “The Dish on Hotel Dining Trends,” where he spoke to some degree about the bygone era when Hotel Restaurants were a popular dining choice. Remember that?

I think we can all recall, as Bill does in his article, when we used to get all dressed up for that special brunch, or lunch or dinner at the grand Hotel in our respective city. It was a big deal.

Bill would have us believe that Hotel restaurants are making a comeback and that is where I have to take exception to his comments.

I would agree, that there are some exceptions to the rule here, there are some exceptional restaurants in certain Hotels, in certain cities, where the restaurant has achieved its own stand-alone reputation as a great place to eat, regardless of the fact that it is in a Hotel, and I take my hat off to those restaurant and Hotel operators.

But please Bill, Hotel restaurants still have MILES to go before they will enjoy the success of the entrepreneurial independent restaurants that can be found in the major destination cities, where there is considerable competition for the local (and Hotel guest) diner.

There are a number of reasons why I disagree with Bill on this:

  1. Hotel companies, the big chains, are still trying unsuccessfully to either take a cookie cutter approach to dining in all of their Hotels, or, they are trying to align themselves with celebrity chefs to lure diners in. As a result, Hotel restaurant menus are boring, and, the celebrity chefs don’t stick around.
  2. Hotels get caught into believing that they must be all things to all people when it comes to food and beverage service in their Hotels, and as a result, they are all too often guilty of having large, bland menus that don’t specialize or excite people.
  3. Hotel people think like Hotel people, not like independent, entrepreneurial restaurant operators, and, if and when they go outside their comfort zone and actually hire an entrepreneurial restaurant operator, their first mission is to “Hotelize” them, which effectively serves to crush their independence, and they quickly realize that there exists a huge gap between what they were told that they were hired for, and what they are REALLY supposed to do, now that they have the job.

So what do they do? Conform, so they can keep their job. And what do we get? More of the same. Surprise !!!

  1. Hotel companies need to get serious about food & beverage in their Hotels, and this won’t happen overnight. It took decades for Hotels to realize that they should make money in food & beverage, that it wasn’t enough to make all your money in rooms division, and subsidize losing food & beverage operations.

Hotels need to completely revisit food & beverage operations in their Hotels. They need to make some difficult decisions and they need to let go of the past.

None of us can exist as “special occasion” restaurants where we go for our Grandfather’s birthday, or to celebrate our wedding anniversary or some other special occasion.

Want to know what works? Actually, you already know, you just need to commit to doing something about it. You all know of at least one, if not more, restaurants in your city that have a line up almost every night, if not every night. What are they doing that you’re not? What are they offering that you’re not?

Put your ego in check and give the people what they want, and you just might make a profit in food & beverage along the way as well.

1 comment:

  1. Hotel restaurants that I have worked in that were successful possessed a key component to their success that the operator/manager had no knowledge about, it was just luck or circumstance. Today, hotel restaurants need to be profitable on their own- which is difficult when it is so closely aligned and defined by the architecture, location and ambiance of the property