It’s no secret that, in a “foodie” culture, food and beverage (F&B) is an increasingly important part of hotel profitability. Revenue from F&B has grown an average of 5.5% over the past decade, with profit margins steadily improving, from just under 25% to nearly 30% in the same timeframe. Given that ninety-three percent of travelers point to culinary experiences as a primary motivation for travel, cashing in on this opportunity is a critical opportunity for the industry. Here are four ways hotels of any size can claim a bigger share of the current food and beverage bonanza, from the bar to the banquet room.
1. Serve up your own brand of food and beverage
In the new world of F&B, you’re not just serving up food and drink. You’re serving up an experience, the more unique and “your own,” the better. That means putting your special twist on everything from the type of food – farm-to-table, indulgent old school, vegan, ethnic, you name it – to your visual branding. The key is to get creative.
Can you extend your F&B experience beyond your restaurants, perhaps by creating a “healthy mix and mingle” in the lobby, where guests get to meet each other and encounter your fresh fare? Are you offering plates and potions that are Instagram-worthy? Do you feature high-quality grab-and-go options, from pop-up kiosks? And have you invested in design that reflects your personality, and keeps your name front and center (this applies to everything from your interior design to custom-print napkins and fun and frequent social media posts)? Your competitors are already doing all that, and much more.
2. Go local
In this virtual, everywhere-at-once, everything-seems-the-same world, hotels are firmly anchored in location – and there’s a big advantage to emphasizing what makes your locale special. Are you partnering with local brewers or urban gardens to deliver truly “locavore” experiences? Are you tapping in to local food fairs, to highlight that high-class restaurant you just remodeled, and whet the appetites of local patrons? Are you offering food-and-fitness packages that get your guests into your food offerings and out, for exercise, into the best your community has to offer? Localizing your F&B offering will help differentiate your property and make it a destination of choice.
3. Make your hotel’s food event-worthy
Of course, one truism of the hotel food and beverage business never changes – as goes the banquet business, so goes the hotel food program. It accounts for forty percent of all hotel revenue on average (and an even higher percentage at luxury facilities). The trick is, you can’t take that for granted. Your banquet attendees are every bit as demanding as your dine-in customers.
Leading banquet managers report that a new generation of customers, whether conference attendees or wedding guests, are demanding a new level of innovation far beyond the traditional offerings of chicken, fish, or beef. Their response? Be ready for whatever it takes. If the request is for a sustainability-themed menu, be ready to print up cards calling out the sourcing of your ingredients. If an open bar is part of the wedding reception package, be open to providing a choice of local craft beers and spirits, or the option of a cigar-and-bourbon-tasting back room. Rather than one big (read: heavy, sleep-inducing) lunch at conferences, consider offering a series of “light bite breaks” throughout the day.
4. Provide 21st century room service
Finally, it’s wise to remember that hotel food programs, especially room service, aren’t immune to the disruption of food delivery platforms. Rather than fight the trend, it’s time for hotels to start partnering. Major chains have deals in place with the likes of GrubHub and DoorDash, providing guests a far larger selection of in-room options, and keeping them in the hotel loop via ordering options within the hotel’s own guest apps.
How these partnerships shake out in terms of revenue remains to be seen, but they enhance the overall guest experience, and keep more of that experience in the hands of the hotel.
Hotels across America and around the world are already embracing these innovative (and necessary) changes – part of why the U.S. hotel F&B revenue per occupied room was up again in 2018, by 2.7%. So, how will you get creative? With a cocktail cellar? Your own gardens for super-fresh vegetables? A specialty chef for vegan or raw foods? A stylish rooftop bar open to the sky and skyline? These are just a few of the many initiatives already undertaken by hotels in the U.S. and abroad – and your options for expanding hotel food and beverage revenues are limited only by your imagination.
Lodging Magazine: Transforming hotel lobby retail into a compelling consumer destination
Hotel Management: Consumer spending at hotel food-and-beverage outlets on the rise
Travel Tripper: How hotels can market to foodies
Hotel News Now: Outside food delivery gains traction at hotels
Hotelier Magazine: A look at trends in hotel banquets and catering
Vogue: The innovative hotels that are making travel better in 2018