Across the country, hotel executives are thinking beyond the bedroom to drive guest satisfaction, increase revenue, and boost occupancy rates. They’re turning their attention to bar and restaurant beverage options—and shaking things up a bit.
Bar managers are serving up region-specific beverages, house-brewed beers, drinks with locally sourced ingredients, and modern twists on classic cocktails. A few hotels are even offering do-it-yourself cocktail kits that can be used at the bar or in guestrooms.
“In Seattle, we have the best of everything so I focus on local products and incorporate national trends and styles of making wine, beer, and spirits,” says Cory Duffy, the new bar manager at BOKA restaurant + bar in Seattle, adding that his pear sidecar with mousse foam is a popular seasonal drink. “We keep things fresh.”
Adult beverages are increasingly important to hotels, according to Technomic’s recently released BarTAB Report. Hotels account for 10.1 percent of total on-premise food and beverage sales, which are projected to grow by 4.4 percent in 2014.
“It’s clear some hotels are prioritizing adult beverages as a way to differentiate their properties and drive traffic and sales,” says Donna Hood Crecca, senior director at Technomic.
Top beverage trends now include onsite barrel-aged drinks, edible cocktails, craft beers, glutten-free beer, and food and cocktail pairings, according to the National Restaurant Association’s 2014 Culinary Forecast. To attract guests who enjoy socializing but not necessarily drinking alcohol, beverages such as gourmet lemonade and specialty iced teas are also popping up on bar menus.
With its promotional Cartender program, Gerber Group offers guests and passersby at the Viceroy New York an opportunity to sample complimentary petite cocktails—about 1.5 ounces—from the hotel’s restaurant, Kingside. The cocktail du jour, offered from 5:30-6:30 p.m. daily, is crafted on a vintage bar cart as part of a rotating menu that includes Kingside’s signature drinks, including the Aviation and Spicy Paloma.
“We’re bringing the actual product to the guest,” says Vinny Mauriello, managing partner at Gerber Group, who has noticed a bump in bar business since the program began this month. “As guests come and go, after shopping or leaving the elevator, they can get a taste one of the cocktails. There’s no better way to promote your brand.”
Bar manager Craig Hiljus and partner Johnny Swet oversee the sophisticated, craft cocktail program at JIMMY, the new restaurant and bar at The James Chicago. Popular specialty cocktails include the Grilled Pineapple Mojito and the Dirty Little Secret, which is topped off with a drop of steak sauce, says Michael Mason, director of food and beverage.
Hiljus and Swet use the Perlini carbonated cocktail system in a few drinks, and the bar’s ice program incorporates flavors like lavender, cinnamon, and orange, as well as freezing herbs such as thyme in block ice, which gives a great visual effect and distinctive aroma when melting, Mason says.
“We’ve heard positive feedback from guests about the new addition they can experience during their stay,” he says, adding the bar menu and concept have been well received. “As the cocktail menu will change seasonally, guests can always expect a new drink to try whenever they come to JIMMY.”