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F & B as a Driver of Revenue and Guest Experience:
A Roadmap to Luxury Hotel Success


By Bill Morrissey, April 7, 2010

Approaching close to thirty years in the hospitality industry, I am always intrigued by the rise and fall of concepts for building, managing and sustaining quality brands and products among full service hotels.

Some of these are pure “glitz and glam,” of course, while others are more enduring – like the impressive legacies of brands like Ritz and Four Seasons.

But while brand concepts may come and go, there is a roadmap for success that remains constant – and interestingly, has gone unnoticed by the major international players in the hotel industry: it is the extent to which successfully operating a restaurant or catering operation, combined with hotel management knowledge and expertise, can provide a roadmap for long-term success in luxury hotel management.

Here is what I mean.

Moving Pieces and “Room 202”

We all know how difficult it is to maintain the highest quality standards at a top luxury hotel, but I’ll venture a daring statement: at a top-rated restaurant, it’s even harder.

The reason is fundamental: “Room 202” at a hotel will always be Room 202. The room’s appearance and amenities must be kept up, refreshed and updated, of course, and all the expectations of the most discerning guest must be met and exceeded, from housekeeping to front desk, and beyond. Not an easy task. 

But at the end of the day, Room 202 is just that: A room. A fixed physical asset.  A group of furnishings and offerings which create an experience that is reliable to the guest and dependable for the owner/operator. Changing fashions, and wear and tear, are the major variables.

Compare the operations of a restaurant or a catering business. 

Here you have hundreds, maybe thousands of moving pieces – and each moves, continuously, on a moment-to-moment basis. The food much be fresh and at its peak; it must be well presented and served at an appropriate temperature; guests must be greeted with a smile, seated promptly and served expeditiously, yet graciously; untold numbers of little things can go wrong at any minute, from a cracked glass emerging from a dishwasher to an unstable stool at the bar, which could result not only in an unsatisfactory guest experience, but even, at the extreme, in a negative impact on a guest’s health or well-being.

And as a proprietor, you usually don’t know who is coming in the door – and what that patron’s expectations are.

Should something go wrong, a hotelier typically has a two or three night guest stay to make it right, sometimes even longer - at a restaurant, a guest’s experience is narrowly defined within an hour, or possibly two. “Missed notes” at a dining experience are pronounced – and visible. 

F & B operations have been correctly compared with performance art as much as hospitality: The performance either comes together, and it’s a hit – or it’s not.  

It’s no wonder hotel owners and asset managers often have the most difficult challenges determining the management, branding and operations of the restaurants in their hotels.

And it’s not surprising that so many brands and owners treat their restaurants as a guest amenity, rather than something that can help them reach their full market potential!

It’s All About the Perception . . . the People  . . . and the Experience

At MHC, we disagree. In fact, we think a well executed f & b program can be a driver of revenue, and of a positive overall quality guest experience, rather than a drag on them.

A restaurant, after all, is an important “public face” for a hotel. It is a gathering place for hotel guests as well as for the local community; often, these are the “infuencers” who will shape the perception of a property locally and beyond. Restaurant visits can often lead to overnight stays, to booking events such as weddings and office parties, and to recommendations to business associates or meeting planners.

How a hotel owner manages a restaurant is not just important – it is critical. 

This fact is even more pronounced in challenging economic times. More than ever, hotel owners need to define and accentuate competitive differences.  That can be difficult on the basis of a guest room alone. Ideally, one wants to create a holistic and coherent experience – with outstanding service at the restaurant complementing the experience inside the hotel . . . and vice versa.  

And indeed, at the end of the day it is all about the experience – and often, a hotel guest’s experience beings and ends with f & b.

That’s why at MHC, we base our hotel training programs on the experiences, and the best practices, of our f & b operations; if staff can master the level of discipline, personal habits and attention detail needed to master the latter, and deliver a consistently exceptional experience, then the former, running a luxury hotel, should be something closer to (excuse the pun) a “cakewalk.”
Again, this is not to minimize the importance, or the complexity, of managing a luxury hotel. We have done both, and do both. Neither the General Manager of a Five-Star hotel nor an outstanding restaurant can take anything for granted.

At the same time, there is a deeper lesson here for the industry: In an age of shifting guest expectations, ratings systems in chaos – governed by an admixture of online consumer feedback, brand standards and traditional inspection regimes and systems -, it is comforting to know there are “Rules of the Road” when it comes to how to manage a luxury hotel over time. 

And more often than not, those Rules of the Road can be traced back to the fundamentals of providing a superior guest experience as they are applied in the f & b context.

In a future article, I will outline some of those Rules – and suggest ways that can be easily adopted by asset owners and managers.



Bill Morrissey is the CEO of Morrissey Hospitality Companies, based in St. Paul, Minnesota.  Among other ventures, MHC manages the Saint Paul Hotel, and the Hotel Minneapolis, a Doubletree Hotel. MHC also manages many restaurants, the catering operations for the Xcel Center in Minneapolis, and catering operations at the 250,000 square-foot Saint Paul Rivercentre.
 
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Contact: 

Michael G. Frenkel
President
M Frenkel Communications, Inc. (MFC PR)
230 Park Avenue, Suite 1000
New York, NY 10169
(212) 808-6556
www.mfcpr.com
michael@mfcpr.com

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Also See: Morrissey Hospitality Prepares The Hotel Minneapolis - a Doubletree for Opening; Innovative Outreach Provides Locals a Preview Taste / July 2008
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