By Joel Montaniel, Co-Founder and CEO, SevenRooms

Hotels are constantly competing to improve their amenities, rewards, and services to stand out in a saturated market. And chief among those offerings in the eyes of consumers are dining options, with newly released research uncovering that almost 1 in 3 Americans think hotels with great restaurants are more memorable than those without. As boutique hotels and major chains invest in more experimental restaurant concepts, respected chefs and locally-authentic F&B experiences, travelers will flock to hotels with drool-worthy dining built into their stay.

This new approach to food & beverage experiences is leading to a change in what travelers and locals alike expect from hotels – proving that thoughtful F&B, from complimentary breakfast to fine dining to unique cocktail concepts, can truly set hotels apart in the sea of options available to today’s savvy traveler.

To debunk the notion that a hotel restaurant is only there for a quick meal after a long day of work or play, property managers must ask themselves: how can we make our hotel restaurant the destination in itself? The answer lies in what guests are looking for today in their hotel F&B experiences.

Complimentary Offers To Stand Out

With all of the costs associated with a vacation or work trip, free food and beverage perks are a welcomed amenity by travelers. And a complimentary meal can go a long way in making a lasting impression, offering convenience for a guest who wants a quick and easy meal before starting their day — and a reason to book another stay with your property in the future. In fact, 65% of Americans would rather book a hotel that includes a complimentary breakfast with their stay over another.

And these perks extend beyond the breakfast buffet, as a majority of Americans say they would rather book a hotel room that includes a complimentary drink upon arrival. Hotels need to think about how they can go that extra mile for the guest to not only satisfy their expectations, but keep them coming back. Complimentary options like a free drink at check in or a stocked mini bar cost relatively little for a hotel, but can reap huge rewards when it comes to guest loyalty.

Looking Local

When traveling, consumers eagerly seek out the best local experiences a destination has to offer, and hotels have a golden opportunity to foster loyalty by better capitalizing on their city’s roots in their F&B offerings.

Guests crave curated local experiences, whether spending the night or just grabbing a quick drink at the lobby bar, so much so that over a third of Americans indicate liking the convenience that comes with staying at the same hotel brand in different cities, but expect there to be a variety of food and drink at each location.

By working with local chefs and mixologists, tailoring menus to include local specialties and ingredients, hotels can find yet another way to engage and capture customers seeking something outside of the status quo – raising expectations with above-and-beyond service and unique F&B options.

When the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida opened Abiaka, they took menu inspiration from the local area – showcasing the ‘culinary techniques of solid fuel grilling inspired by South Florida’s unique, bold flavors,’ and sourcing local produce and ingredients. Hotels like Seminole Hard Rock that acknowledge local food and culture will also catch the eye of diners stopping in locally – as 24% of Americans agree that if a hotel in their area has unique and diverse food and beverage options, they’re more likely to consider booking with the same brand when traveling.

 Enhancing Guest Experience Through Technology

Hotels are starting to adapt with restaurants that gain their own reputation through personalization and innovative offerings, bringing new diners into the restaurant outside of overnight guests. For example, The Landmark, Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong uses guest data to better personalize dining experiences throughout the locations on property. If a guest expresses a food preference or allergy at SOMM, that information can be used by the waiter to suggest a specific dish at Amber the next day. Utilizing this type of data with technology creates a seamless experience for the guest, and drives repeat visits across the brand.

Another way hotels can turn to technology to help them bolster their dining options is by appealing to those travelers that want to feel special and taken care of, especially in a luxury setting. More than 1 in 7 Americans said they are more inclined to book a hotel either for the first time, or for a return visit, if the mini bar is personalized to snack/drink preferences based on previous stays or allergies.

For example, if the restaurant knows a guest’s cocktail of choice from a previous stay, hotel brands can take this unique opportunity to make any guest feel like a VIP and build loyalty by having it waiting in their room when they arrive. Or, if a hotel has the guest’s gluten allergy on record from their last visit to a property restaurant, they can ensure their mini-bar is stocked with gluten-free treats, or place a gluten-free room service menu in the room ahead of check-in. By listening to each guest, and using technology to help deliver that experience, hotels can create consistent and personalized experiences when a guest walks into any of their properties. Utilizing technology that capture guest data paired with their F&B outlets, they can develop a long-lasting relationship and create a brand-loyal traveler for life.

 It’s clear that Americans have higher expectations than ever for their dining experiences. And hotels have much to gain if they can provide outstanding F&B experiences, from the lobby bar and on-site restaurant, to room service and in-room snacks. Complimentary offers, personalized experiences and local offerings keep customers coming back to book a stay when they travel. Amazing food options can even lead to loyal guests visiting the restaurant when dining out at home. As hotels look to diversify in the new year, their focus should be on providing these exceptional F&B options in 2020 and beyond.