Increasingly, the hotel industry in the United States is shifting its marketing focus slightly away from their major amenities and the excitements of their lodging facilities and on to the food and beverage services as a way of revitalizing the industry and attracting new guests. In fact, there was a five percent growth in spending at hotel restaurants and bars in hotels last year.
Going back four decades, a few giant hotel firms ruled the industry, and they didn’t have a lot of competition in major markets. At the time, the big chains saw the main drawing points of their hotels as being the rooms themselves. They weren’t expecting to bring people in through their food, so restaurants and bars were considered peripheral to the core guest experience. In some cases, hotels weren’t even expecting to break even with their food services. When hotels did shell out the big bucks for food in the 1970s and 1980s, it was often for the lucrative banquet business in an era when corporations had money growing on trees and it was appropriate to through a corporate shindig at a fancy hotel in town several times a year.
Forced to Redefine
Following the financial meltdown of 2008, however, hotels were forced to reinvent themselves in the wake of declining business, and food and beverage services were often the focus for upgrades. This trend continued as the hotel industry rebounded along with the economy.
Management companies seek to create dining and drinking experiences that are unique and that can also be repeated throughout their hotels. Furthermore, management companies are forced to be creative because they are facing competition from the Airbnd industry.
The Rise of the Mid-scale Hotel
In previous decades, travelers had to choose between lavish luxury hotels and spartan budget hotels. In recent years, however, customers have indicated that they like a level of comfort and service somewhere in the middle, and the lifestyle hotel was born. These hotels tend to be smaller than luxury hotels, and they offer more food and beverage options than budget hotels, which frequently make available only a breakfast buffet for guests.
Hotels constructed in the past five years have overwhelmingly been of the lifestyle type, and restaurants are usually one of their defining features. In fact, in terms of floor space, many lifestyle hotels are divided equally between food services and guest rooms. Designers of lifestyle hotels seek to give guests experiences that correlate with the communities they are located in. The idea is to get away from the cookie-cutter, 1,500-room chain hotels of the late Twentieth Century, and food that is locally sourced or otherwise associated with the area is part of that.
Innovation in food service
Hotels are still focusing on their banquet services as the demand for suitable spaces for large events grows. Wedding receptions, in particular, are growing more lavish, and hotels scramble to attract these events to their banquet halls. Receptions often feature an open bar at around $50 per guest, and the profits add up fast. Because hotels usually have more space than restaurants, they are better able to host the large groups of guests that lead to increased efficiency.
Driving Room Sales
For the first time in history, hoteliers are discovering that food and beverage services are driving room sales instead of the other way around as it was in past decades. Guests come to the hotel for the wedding reception, for example, and decide it’s convenient to book a room at the same facility, especially when they know they’ll be drinking. In short, hotel restaurants, bars and banquet centers are now the trendsetters and not the afterthoughts.
Brian Gefter is the founder and owner of Provocateur Worldwide and The Plymouth Hotel in Miami.