Monday, April 11, 2011

What Does the Future Hold for Hotel Restaurants?

Not that long ago, I wrote that hotel dining is dead, (“Hotel Restaurants.  Put a Fork in the, “Cause They’re Done”), for all intents and purposes, as it has historically existed, and I haven’t changed my mind, but that leaves the question of what will fill the void?

Hoteliers have a number of issues that they’re going to need to deal with, if they want to successfully answer this question, and the answer will likely be largely affected by their various locations, and the answer is not going to come cheap.

A number of years ago I found myself faced with that question.  The hotel where I was working had a “fine dining room” and an all-day restaurant, as well as a lounge, room service and extensive catering facilities.

Catering did very well, and we had an enviable reputation in our market for putting out excellent banquet meals.  Similarly, we had an excellent reputation for our facilities and our service.

Both the fine dining room and the all-day restaurant put out very good food, and the service was exceptional, but both rooms only managed a modest capture ratio and it was clear that the majority of our guests were going out for lunch and dinner, and we were not attracting very many locals to eat and drink in our outlets.  

It was clear that a number of things had to be done to improve results, and I did take action that immediately improved the food and beverage departmental profitability, but it was equally clear that in order to produce the kind of results that we were looking for, we needed to produce an extensive food and beverage redevelopment plan.

While we worked to improve the food and beverage departmental results, with what we had, we worked to compile the necessary data to support the redevelopment plan and we came up with a price tag for the necessary renovations, as well as the costs of new menus, uniforms, glassware, dishes, and kitchen modifications.

Simultaneously, we set about to meet with all of the staff to find out what our guests had been saying for the last couple of years about what was missing in their dining experience at our hotel, and we paid particular attention to where the bellmen and concierge staff had been directing our guests, in response to their requests for other places to dine, locally, and armed with all of this we came up with our concept, followed by a contest amongst the staff to choose a name for our new restaurant.

I was fortunate to have a very supportive owner and he subsequently approved our plan, and the funds necessary to carry out what we proposed, and we set about to create a destination restaurant and bar in our hotel.  

One of the keys to its success, in my opinion, is that we based everything on opening and operating a free-standing restaurant, an independent restaurant that would be able to compete in the local marketplace, that just happened to be in a hotel, but it would not be a hotel restaurant in the traditional sense.  Not that we didn’t think of our hotel guests as important, quite the contrary, but we didn’t build the restaurant around them, but rather to include them.  We created a place where they would want to go even if they weren’t staying with us.

My owner was rewarded for his support.  As promised in our redevelopment proposal, we increased overall food and beverage revenue by over 25% over the next 3 years, and departmental profitability went from - 5% to + 18% during that same period.

Hoteliers are going to need to determine what would make their guests want to eat and drink in their restaurants and bars, and at the same time attract the locals as well, and that will take looking at things in the way that they have not traditionally done, and making some tough decisions about what works and what doesn’t.

Fundamental to this process will be the need for hoteliers to ask themselves; “what would I do if it was my hotel, my money, my business on the line?”  A question that should be at the forefront of every decision, but this is not always the case.

Need an experienced hospitality professional to help your property reach its full potential?  Contact me.

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