A Look At How Hotel Food & Beverage Has Expanded Beyond Restaurant Walls

Think about a time when you sauntered into a hotel and were treated like royalty at check-in. Maybe it was the free glass of wine offered to you upon arrival or the complimentary cookie spread waiting for you to indulge. Whatever the case may be, it’s hard to forget that small gesture that made a big impact, ensuring the likelihood of your return to that establishment.
Customer satisfaction is at the root of every decision a hotel makes and a new key player in these choices is food and beverage. Food & beverage can be a huge revenue driver for hotels that are always looking to expand and follow new trends. Bygone are the days of corporate hotel chains with generic hotel restaurants; in its place are distinct hotels that specialize in customer satisfaction. Maximizing customer satisfaction in turn reaps profits, and you can achieve both through a strategic food and beverage plan.
One way to realize guest satisfaction and the up sale of food is through the hotel lobby. In recent years, hotel lobbies turned from a place to store luggage to a destination for guests to convene, socialize, enjoy free Wi-Fi and grab a bite to eat. Hotels are maximizing lobby space by turning it into a living room, inviting guests to lounge in oversized chairs while watching sports on a flat screen TV and enjoying an afternoon snack. Through free happy hours and complimentary goodies at check-in, the social atmosphere within the lobby is soaring.
The trend of happy hours “on the house” in other areas of the hotel are soaring. Happy hours are the perfect opportunity to generate interest in hotel restaurants by offering menu samples and wine tasting. Enticing consumers with a sample is the best way to facilitate an order. Additionally, having a knowledgeable staff such as the chefs and sommeliers present the samples brings added visibility to your key staff members and educates guests.
Recently reported in the LA Times Blog, the Shutters on the Beach Hotel in Santa Monica, CA, the value-add Coolhaus food cart, which features a delectable menu of unique ice cream sandwich combinations is parked in front of the hotel Friday through Sunday. For guests checking in or those meandering their way back to the hotel after a day of exploring, the Coolhaus cart offers frozen dessert options to cool down every consumer. Coolhaus treats are offered at The Coast Beach Café and Bar inside the hotel as well. The food cart serves as a marketing ploy to lure guests inside to dine at the restaurant. The food cart alone is also a revenue-generating concept for the hotel with its ability to be parked anywhere on property and ease of use as guests can walk right up, grab their “sammie” and go.

Fast-casual concepts in hotel lobbies are becoming more mainstream as well. The Marriott International’s new “Bistro” restaurant at their Courtyard Marriott hotels caters directly to business professionals. Designed to have a Starbucks and Panera Bread-like atmosphere, the Bistro’s menu features a variety of options from grab-n-go to ribs, pizza and cocktails. As reported in QSR magazine with the tagline, “Eat. Drink. Connect.” this concept is doing away with the idea of age-old hotel breakfast buffets and instead, inviting guests to grab a cup of coffee while doing work or pick up something to go if in a hurry. This idea alone shows that hotels are truly catering to their audience and bringing in specialty concepts where needed.
During the summer season, a smart way to maximize profits in hotels is by generating food and beverage activity poolside, a seamless concept that can be carried out in a variety of ways. What we know: most poolside loungers will eventually want a cocktail or frozen treat to cool them down on a blazing hot day. Chef Brandon DeVoe at the Hilton University Place in Charlotte, NC, shares they have completely “boutiqued” their pool with cabanas and a facelift to help boost summer sales. Come this summer, he reveals they will be heavily promoting their restaurant menu poolside in an effort to generate interest to dine on the property. Across the country, the London West Hollywood Hotel offers PreGel’s frozen dessert and beverage program as a complimentary value-add to pool-goers.
Luxury Resorts & Hotels (LXR) recently implemented a shaved ice cart concept at various pools that features a “kid swim” menu in addition to “adult swim” cocktails. Hotel Food & Beverage magazine reported that the mobile snack station adds more than $2,000 daily revenue per cart according to LXR’s Senior Vice President, Doug Zeif. During the summer of 2012, Omni Hotels implemented their poolside “Art of Water” menu that featured varying cocktails by region plus ice cream sandwiches from the safe vanilla option to the more adventurous candied bacon option as highlighted in USA Today. Regardless of the concept, hotels and resorts understand the value of offering unique menu items poolside. The concept guarantees consumer interest and in turn drives revenues.

An area finally receiving well-deserved attention in hotels is the fitness center along with healthy eating. Fitness centers are no longer coming as an afterthought, but are now beautifully designed and fully equipped with high quality machines, yoga mats and, most importantly, healthy snacks. In Shape magazine’s article “The Best Hotel Fitness Freebies,” the Four Seasons Hotel Boston is featured for offering guests bottled water, fruit-infused water and fruit as they exit the fitness room after a long workout. Recently mentioned in USA Today’s “Best Hotel Gyms and Workouts,” Candlewood Suites offers free healthy snacks such as low-fat yogurts, nuts and protein bars to those who continue their fitness routine while on the road. Hotels are starting to take the upscale fitness concept one step further by offering a café similar to those often found at the spa, complete with a healthy menu of smoothies, energy drinks and fresh salads so guests can indulge without the guilt. Setting up a café directly outside the fitness center is key to enticing guests on their way out the gym doors.
Themed hotels often found in Disney World are fun, family friendly and unique in that their theme is carried out in all facets of the hotel. For example, Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort has Caribbean flair throughout the hotel from its restaurants to the hotel lobby to the total look and feel of the resort. Stemming from this concept, an idea for hotels to utilize is incorporating a theme into their day-to-day. Ethnic influences are currently a key player in the Food and Beverage Industry, so hotels can capitalize on this trend by offering ethnic-themed foods and activities. Intrigue guests by offering a Mexican-themed week and focus on samples and cocktails that correlate with this theme, such as chips and guacamole coupled with margaritas. Have a mariachi band on-site and dress up the staff in sombreros to achieve a well-rounded concept, adding value through satisfied guests.
Hotels around the globe are generating buzz with their unique value-adds and specialized food and beverage concepts. “Generic” has been replaced with specialty, boutique and gourmet, and this mindframe is key for any hotel operation. Bottom line: don’t be afraid to introduce a one-of-a-kind food and beverage concept in a new area of the hotel – after all, beyond the restaurant walls there’s revenue to be found.
Resources and Further Reading
Summer Events:

Poolside Brunches, Wine Tastings and Sweet Deals.
Retrieved February 19, 2013 from
The Bistro Solution. Retrieved February 19, 2013 from http://www.
Cart Blanche: Mobile Shaved Ice Carts Give LXR Unique Identity, Add
Revenue. Retrieved February 19, 2013 from http://www.hotelfandb.
Bacon Ice Cream Treats on Omni Hotels’ Pool Menu. Retrieved February
19, 2013 from
The Best Hotel Fitness Freebies: From Rock Climbing Walls to Headphones,
These Hotels Boast the Best Free Fitness Perks. Retrieved
February 26, 2013 from
Check In, Stay Fit: Best Hotel Gyms & Workouts. Retrieved February 26,
2013 from