As more emphasis continues to be placed on the communal experience of hotel lobbies, the food and beverage scene is adjusting accordingly. Guests can enjoy wine tasting together, or share a dining table at the end of the day. Another quick and easy way to provide guests with a memorable social experience is to build a coffee culture through which guests can sip and enjoy within the hotel, rather than grab and go. Serving artisanal coffee has become a trend in recent years, providing a way to keep guests spending time—and money—on in-house coffee, rather than at the Starbucks down the street.
“There has been a growing global demand from travelers, who appreciate the craft of coffee as more than something you pick up to-go on the road. There is something inherently social about coffee culture,” explains Brian Povinelli, global brand leader, Le Meridien.
Le Meridien has an extensive program based around coffee, as it serves drinks from global coffee partner, illy. At more than 100 hotels, the guest experience revolves around Le Meridien Hub, a lobby concept that expresses the brand’s essence through coffeehouse elements. Its passion for coffee is expressed in a number ways, but namely, through its Master Barista program. Launched in 2013, the program educates coffee crafters on coffee-related standards and initiatives for each hotel. Each hotel in the portfolio has an in-house Master Barista that severs as the lead coffee server.
“It’s creating this engaging, coffeehouse atmosphere that encourages dialogue, contemplation, and interaction among guests and locals, enlivened with the sights, sounds, and aromas of coffee,” Povinelli says.
The brand also launched the Inspiration Brewed Here campaign in 2014 that named its first Global Latte Artist, Esther Maasdam, who proceeded to travel around the world using Le Meridien hotels as her inspiration to create late art.
Of course, the focus on the caffeinated pick-me-up does not stem brand executives’ mere enthusiasm for the drink. Through the hotels’ initiatives, it is clear that the enhanced coffee culture has been beneficial for guests and owners alike. From November 2014, since launching its partnership with illy, coffee consumption by Le Meridien guests has grown by more than 15 percent, with guests now consuming 7.6 million cups of coffee, versus 3.8 million in 2007.
“The brand’s coffee culture expands beyond the morning eye opener or the afternoon pick-me-up, providing an atmosphere for guests to recap about their travels or hold an impromptu meeting with colleagues,” Povinelli says. “Coupled with a study we conducted just over a year ago that established an overwhelming 78 percent of guests would rather give up alcohol, social media, or sex for a year rather than forfeit coffee—we know we are heading in the right direction.”