Why mediocre hotel F&B is off the menu

Drab dining rooms and boring breakfast buffets could soon be a thing of the past. The world of hotel F&B is evolving; hoteliers and consumers alike have come to realise that decent hotel food and drink needn’t be reserved for the likes of Claridge’s. Everyone can have a piece of the pie, from small boutique establishments, to nationwide budget chains.

Perhaps spurred on by the impact of industry disruptors like Airbnb, operators are being forced to consider every revenue opportunity available to them to ensure they are getting the most from their asset.

Everyone can have a piece of the pie, from small boutique establishments, to nationwide budget chains.

But why has it taken until now? Well, profit margins probably have a part to play, with F&B’s 20% being eclipsed by the 75%-80% profit margins available from most room bookings. As a result, F&B has for too long been viewed as a bolt-on service; something offered as a convenience to busy guests who don’t have the time (or gumption) to venture elsewhere for breakfast or dinner.

There are now some great examples of how to give your F&B the attention it deserves. The Holiday Inn on Brighton seafront (owned by InterContinental Hotels Group) has reported a 140% growth in revenue since launching its ‘Stock Burger’ restaurant in December 2015. Serving gourmet burgers and craft beers, the restaurant has proven a hit not just with hotel guests, but also with beach revellers in search of an informal but comfortable place to grab lunch or dinner. Situated next door to the hotel rather than inside, it is marketed as a standalone entity, with its own website and no sign of the ubiquitous green-and-white Holiday Inn branding.

Treating your hotel restaurant or bar as an independent business unit is now becoming standard practise. But what does this actually entail?

Well, it should include a dedicated on-street entrance, so customers can come in without having to navigate their way through the hotel lobby. And in terms of interior design, it shouldn’t just look like the hotel dining room, but should feel like a venue in its own right. This serves two purposes: one, it helps you to be seen – if people don’t know there is a restaurant open to non-guests, they won’t come in. And secondly, it increases the restaurant’s appeal to hotel residents. Eating breakfast in your hotel is perfectly acceptable; going back to the same place for dinner is just downright lazy – but not if the restaurant feels like a different destination.

Creating good F&B isn’t just about food and design though; it needs to be part of your business strategy. Give it a separate business plan; focus some resources on building a recognisable, standalone brand, and before you know it, you’ll be the talk of the town – for all the right reasons.

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