By Emily Perryman
From partnering with world-renowned chefs to letting guests order room service via Amazon Alexa, hotels are increasingly offering innovative food and beverage (F&B) experiences.
F&B is an important revenue generator for hotels, with overall consumer spending in the U.S. alone rising by 5.5 percent annually since 2011, according to Technomic. The biggest driver of F&B, however, is a desire among hotels to tap into today’s experience-led economy.
“Having a memorable experience is especially important among today’s young people,” says Alexis Marcoux-Varvatsoulis, Consultant – Hotels F&B Specialist at JLL. “Instead of simply having a room to sleep in, Millennials are looking for innovative concepts that enhance their overall experience. In return, F&B provides hotels with more chances to interact with guests, thereby reinforcing their image, and when done well, generating positive reviews on social media to reach new potential guests.”
Competition among hotels and restaurants is stiff, which means it is no longer enough for hotels to simply add on an eatery as an afterthought. Standing out from the crowd is incredibly important – and this has led to some innovative concepts being introduced.
- Food a feature of hotel lobbies
Hotel lobbies are becoming much more than a simple reception and gift shop with coffee bars, grab and go stations for snacks and comfy seating that encourages people to linger. In Marriott’s Moxy hotels, the focus of the lobby is on eating, drinking and socialising from the self-service buffet at breakfast, fully-stocked food wall and coffee and full-service bars.
The big focus of a lobby needs to be on the food & beverage experiences,” George Fleck, VP of global brand management and marketing for Westin, Renaissance and Le Meridien, tells Hotel Management. “The first thing you should see when you walk in, ideally, is a really beautiful bar scene. The seating has been arranged to ensure there are communal seating opportunities and that there are intimate seating zones for more personal conversations.”
Other novel concepts include homemade snacks and pastry-making demonstrations in the lobby of the Renaissance Tuscany II Ciocco Resort & Spa, and a ceviche and tequila bar in the lobby of Marriott Puerto Vallarta Resort & Spa in Mexico.
- Flying in world-renowned names
To bring guests and locals a high-profile foodie experience, some hotels are ‘flying in’ Michelin-starred restaurants from the other side of the world. The Crown Hotel in Melbourne was home to the UK’s famous Fat Duck restaurant for six months, while the Mandarin Oriental in Tokyo provided a six-week residency to Copenhagen’s Noma. The latter had a waiting list of 65,000 guests.”This type of arrangement is a win-win for both parties,” says Marcoux-Varvatsoulis. “It offers the restaurant an opportunity to test its brand in a new city, and for the hotel it is a great way to market its rooms to a large pool of potential guests.”
- Room service via AI
New technology is increasingly on hand to satisfy guests’ needs – and appetites. At the Lowry Hotel in Manchester, guests can now order room service via Amazon’s virtual assistant Alexa. And in the U.S., residents at Choice Hotels International can get external food delivered via a mobile app, created through a partnership with delivery.com.
“Using technology not only demonstrates that the hotel is on trend, but it also makes it easier for guests to spend money. The long term benefit is convenience for guests,” explains Marcoux-Varvatsoulis.
- In-room cooking programs
The concept of in-room grocery deliveries has been taken a step further in the Hawthorn Suites by Wyndham, which has launched an in-room cooking program. Aimed at long-term travelers, the recipes have been devised by famous chefs such as Hari Nayak and James Rigato.
- Attaching a brewery
A rise in the popularity of craft beer and spirits has led some hotels to incorporate on-site breweries. The Source Hotel in Denver has a branch of New Belgium Brewing next to its lobby, while Cavalier Hotel in Virgina Beach includes a bourbon, rye and vodka distillery. BrewDog, the Scottish brewery, recently announced it was planning to open a second DogHouse hotel in Ellon, complete with in-room beer taps, after launching the concept in Ohio last year.
- F&B pop-ups
Some hotels have turned to pop-ups as a way of letting guests try the latest food and drink trends. Marriott International launched an F&B incubator project, Canvas, in 2014 which is designed to maximize space in its European hotels. The rooftop at Marriott’s Park Lane hotel has been host to the likes of Notch, offering Japanese street food and homemade cocktails in cans.
Whether it’s via technology, pop-ups or famous chefs, the focus on F&B is expected to rise over the next few years as hotels seek to tap into the demand for exciting new concepts. “In today’s competitive marketplace, where online reviews are the major driver of choice, it’s essential for hotels to create a positive buzz,” says Marcoux-Varvatsoulis. “It’s an exciting time for hotels and food-savvy travelers alike.”