To meet consumer demand for value, transparency and high quality, fresh food in a fast-casual environment, Hilton Worldwide is introducing new food and beverage concepts for its full-service brands—Embassy Suites, DoubleTree, and Hilton Hotels & Resorts.
“People are more savvy today, and to ignore that would not be smart on our part,” said Beth Scott, vice president of food and beverage concepts for Hilton Worldwide.
The company interviewed approximately 22,000 guests, operators, and owners to devise solutions that would solve owner and operator challenges while appealing to guests’ desires. Ideally, the restaurants would appeal to and attract local customers as well.
“We tried to design concepts that fit each brand’s architecture but at same time addressed guest issues as well,” Scott said.
Before entering a new market, Hilton Worldwide conducts in-depth restaurant studies. “Typically hotel folks are doing competitive analyses of what other hotels are doing, but that’s not who we’re competing with,” Scott said. “Let’s really look at who we are losing our hotel guests to if they aren’t dining with us, and try to be relevant and compete with them.”
These three turnkey solution supply owners with menus, recipe cards, training materials, design specs, furniture, fixtures, and other equipment necessary to achieve the final product. “We’re also providing value to them in that we’ve already done most of the work for them,” Scott said.
Hilton wanted to create a concept that would allow Embassy Suites owners and operators to continue with the brand’s successful complimentary cooked-to-order breakfast and nightly manager’s reception, and make lunch and dinner more profitable and efficient. While some properties have leased their restaurant space to a third party, others have faced the challenge of developing their own restaurants. The responsibility of running a full-service restaurant, in addition to a separate breakfast area, resulted in operational headaches.
“Some Embassy owners are now, for the first time, coming into the full-service hotel world and are not really comfortable with food and beverage,” Scott said.
Brickstones Grill has an open display kitchen, reduces the space plan by 2,000 square feet, and combines all food and beverage offerings in one location. “From just a cost to build perspective, we’ve got one kitchen that services everything for the hotel,” Scott said, “so we’ve really not only reduced the footprint but also reduced the capital cost for the owner by close to $ .5 million.”
In the morning, guests can grab breakfast in a residential-style atmosphere, rather than a typical buffet line. For lunch and dinner, guests can select from a menu of American comfort foods, cooked with a brick pizza oven, open pit grill or rotisserie, find an open seat, and runners will deliver the food to their table once it’s prepared.
A new Embassy Suites in Springfield, Va., which is scheduled to open in the third quarter of 2013, will be the first property to feature some of the elements of Brickstones. Construction started before the concept was completely finished, however. “It won’t be an exact match,” Scott said, “but it will have a lot of the elements like the pizza oven and the open-kitchen feel.”
It’s harder to retrofit the concept in older Embassy properties that have central atriums, rather than the front-loaded atriums of the current Design Option III prototype, so Brickstones will pop up in mostly new builds. The first complete Brickstones is expected to be open in 2014, Scott said.
For DoubleTree, Hilton envisioned a relaxed, approachable, all-day eatery that combines the ease of a market with the allure of a brick oven gastropub. Made Market is a place where guests can enjoy coffee and pastries or a pint of artisan beer while reading a book or working on their laptop, or have a snack on their way out the door.
Guests who call for room service can opt to pick up their meal at the market, or have it delivered in a disposable bag, rather than deal with a more traditional, drawn-out ceremony with a covered dish and tray.
Flexible components transform the space from day to night. For instance, the breakfast menus flip around to reveal panini machines and sandwich menus.
Scott said the new eatery is a “no-brainer” for new-build DoubleTrees, so long as it’s relevant for the individual market.
“We have to be much more market driven and understand the type of hotel we have, the clientele we have, and the neighborhood we’re in,” she says.
The first Made Market is expected to open in January or February 2013 at a DoubleTree in Tulsa, Okla., that’s undergoing renovations.
HERB N’ KITCHEN
It’s harder to find a prototypical solution for Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Scott said, but her team wanted to provide an alternative for properties that would benefit more from having a fast casual restaurant rather than a sit-down, full-service experience.
Herb N’ Kitchen infuses gourmet items into a retail experience and gives guests a transparent view of the kitchen. The solution is suitable for a market like New York City, where the first location is slated to open in March 2013. “To try to compete within that restaurant world in New York doesn’t really make sense for us,” Scott said, “but we do still want to provide a great fresh food experience for our guests.”
The upper-upscale approach allows guests to watch as gourmet salads, sandwiches, and flatbread pizzas are made fresh in front of them, or grab-and-go if they choose. The self-service model offers hotels flexibility to transition from lunch to dinner and may include a variety of zones, including a bar, barista, and made-to-order station.
“It’s saving owners money on the up front and also the service model is so different that we can prove some economic savings on the operating side as well,” Scott said of the kit-of-parts solution.
Creating a concept that will appeal to both business and leisure travelers is tough, especially when customers change from the weekdays to the weekends. “We think this will please all of those guests,” she says.