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Hotel restaurants: the consultants’ view

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Quality restaurants in hotels are enjoying a renaissance. Here three foodservice consultants discuss the challenges and opportunities in this market

David Chislett FCSI, principal, Ricca Design Studios

Q Why does the foodservice offer matter in hotels?
A Hotels – no matter the brand or service level – should be “hospitable”. Think of inviting someone to your home for an overnight stay. The first thing after making sure sheets are clean, beds are made and that rooms are tidy is the matter of food and beverage. Thoughtful care in quality offerings, the vessels and setting all say welcome and I genuinely care. The same message is critical for any hotel, resort, etc. In the hospitality business, the technical term is “driver”. What drives guests to choose my hotel or hotel brand? Food and beverage is known as a “key driver”. But thoughtful, current, food and beverage offerings provided by an attentive and genuine service team is more than an amenity among many options for focus, it is essential for reaching and retaining hotel guests and off-the street restaurant guests.

Q What are the challenges that are unique to foodservice operations in a hotel setting?
A Hotels must create and maintain exceptional public and private experiences to remain viable. Food and beverage planning should first focus on hotel guests’ needs, but this can be expensive in labor and capital investment. Hotel restaurants that are not hospitable to off-the-street guests because of a design flaw in access, or that are non-descript and only appeal to some hotel guest profiles are expensive to operate, show low margins and don’t appeal to a wide range of guests. It is critical that any mid to up-market property properly size and properly plan for an effective system throughout the hotel that works for guests, staff and for owners, but feels like it belongs.

In most hotels and resorts, guests vary in profile type. Some are free and independent travelers, some are group travelers. The food and beverage experiences expected by these two groups vary widely. Design with both types in mind is critical.

Q What have you learned from the hotel projects you have worked on? 
A I have learned that to be successful in our hospitality design practice, I need to think and feel like a guest, think and feel like a competent chef, F&B director and GM, think and feel like a great restaurant interior designer, all while thinking and feeling like a developer. Then I need to facilitate the meeting of all-of their various needs and desires.

 

Nathalia Sifuentes, FCSI associate member from Sao Paulo, Brazil

Q Why does the foodservice offer matter in hotels?
A When planning a hotel, the foodservice venues need to be very well thought out considering their impact on revenue. Well planned and well conceived foodservice programs and offering may be the attraction themselves – not necessarily attached to a hotel stay.

Foodservice facilities may represent a significant investment per sq m compared to other departments, but they are so important to conceive an efficient project.

Q What are the challenges that are unique to foodservice operations in a hotel setting?
A I guess the biggest challenge in hotel foodservice is to achieve a unique final result. Food quality is tangible and very significant in the guest’s experience as a whole. Even if we intend to standardize processes to get to uniform quality and an efficient operation, the guest needs to perceive the final product as “made exclusively for him”.

Q Do you think that there are challenges specific to Brazil and the rest of South America?
A The qualification of man power and the enormous turnover rates. The tendency not to see the big picture. Not only on the daily basis operation, where each collaborator tends to see only his task and disregard of all others – but mainly on project/implementation phases, where each discipline forgets that they are connected to all other disciplines, direct or indirectly – in both situations, the challenge is to have the right coordination/management team – that can connect each dot and bring up the best of all.

Q What have you learned from the hotel projects you have worked on?
A Understand the operator point of view. It is useless to think about the most state-of-the-art project if you don’t have the operators’ insights, insecurities, strengths and weaknesses, from bottom to top, as your premises. Always value engineer you own project. From time to time review the numbers and be sure the return on investment is clear to your client.

 

Ken Schwartz FCSI, president and CEO, SSA

Q Why does the foodservice offer matter in hotels?
A Food and beverage service offers ownership multiple layers of (potential) additional revenue above and beyond their standard REVPAR (revenue per available room).

Q What are the challenges that are unique to foodservice operations in a hotel setting?
A It depends on the type of hotel and level service provided. The level of hotel service is and should a be direct reflection of the food and beverage program and visa versa. Challenges may include availability of skilled human resources, language barriers and/or cultural differences. Challenges may also be physical (ie building constraints, accessibility) and challenges may also be limited by AHJ (authorities having jurisdiction, ie liquor boards, historic/heritage oversight, building department requirements and constraints).

Q How have foodservice operations in hotels changed and developed?
A There appears to be a shift in hotel foodservice. What was once viewed as a full-service amenity evolved into limited service with mediocre offerings, service and quality to a shift back to a more full service, chef curated offering of amazing food/dishes with a beverage program – such as wine, cocktail and craft beer – also curated for the discerning guest palate.

Q What have you learned from the hotel projects you have worked on?
A We constantly reflect on “lessons learned.” Not to dwell on the past or to be misconstrued but lessons learned and the solutions derived can be a valuable tool, which can vary from client driven direction to the unique nuances of a local health department. Lessons learned can result from the challenges of developing a unique food and beverage design in a 16th century building or on the 84th floor of a new skyscraper. Learning to overcome challenges and to create beneficial solutions which enhance the guest experience is what drives our commitment to creativity and to our clients.

Tina Nielsen

Picture: The Game Bird at The Stafford Hotel, London, UK