When successfully managed, on-site food and beverage venues and offerings can drive significant revenue for hotels in the right markets. However, it’s important that properties establish and sustain high-quality standards that are consistent across their F&B outlets. LODGING caught up with Emily Farella, brand communications manager at Charlestowne Hotels, to discuss how hoteliers can develop an F&B management strategy that drives a steady revenue stream.
How can a hotel position its F&B offerings to adapt quickly to changing consumer preferences?
One of the most crucial—and perhaps overlooked—strategic components of F&B planning is understanding trends from a broader perspective. While food trends are important and the culinary revolution is real, ultimately, the key to success lies in knowing not just how to adapt to trends, but when. There needs to be a savvy understanding of which trends will be a flash in the pan and which are long-term and appropriate for a hotel’s F&B outlets.
Having a solidified brand provides an F&B outlet with a center of gravity that helps determine what trends do and do not align with the brand’s promise. This allows restaurants to selectively participate in and profit from consumer trends without pulling themselves from their brand’s orbit.
For example, a study by the National Restaurant Association found that 70 percent of restaurant guests are looking for healthy menu options and most millennials expect products to be sustainable. That doesn’t mean you need to get rid of all dishes that exceed an arbitrary calorie count on your menu. However, having dishes with a range of nutritious vegetables and smaller portions of protein are healthier and easier on the planet. Next step is to find a way to communicate those initiatives with diners. Let your customers know. Engage with them about what you’re doing and share any changes you make.
What are some ways that management can stay abreast of these trends?
Trends can now be easily monitored on social media and review sites, giving hotels access to customer feedback that had not previously existed outside of email surveys. The key to a hotel’s success is leveraging this data to provide a customized service and adapting operations to suit changing customer preferences.
Food culture is becoming more and more prevalent and foodie communities provide a great opportunity. Restaurants can target foodies by participating in food festivals, helping to drive awareness and positioning the restaurant as part of the local gastronomic community. Participation will also help you to recognize the food trends that are attracting diners.
What strategies can a hotel use to attract more locals into its F&B spaces?
Hotel occupancy growth doesn’t guarantee growth in F&B RevPAR. F&B operations deserve their own standalone strategy independent of the hotel—especially when overcoming the hurdle of being dismissed by locals as just another mediocre hotel restaurant. To compete with your competition, you must emulate what makes them competitive, but in a way that is authentically yours. Using trend data as a map and your brand as your compass, a hotel restaurant can effectively navigate consumer preferences and ultimately become a preferred neighborhood dining option.
It’s also important to understand that if you want to attract local guests, you must be a part of the local community. Partner with local purveyors, participate in community events, and support goodwill efforts in your neighborhood. The next step is to communicate this activity in an on-brand manner across your social channels.
What would you say is the most common mistake that F&B management teams are making?
A common mistake F&B management teams make is aimless hiring. Hoteliers need to put as much thought and care into hiring their F&B team as they do with the rest of the hotel staff. Many hoteliers will hire a one-dimensional F&B director with no front-of-house experience, or no kitchen experience. A great F&B director needs to be well rounded in all F&B operations.
Forgetting about room service is another mistake F&B management teams can make. I would recommend only offering room service during the meal times that most guests demand—breakfast and late-night menus. Don’t ever offer the full restaurant menu. Instead, the room service menu should consist of items that are easy to prepare, transport, and that will hold their temperature well. Someone should also be dedicated to answering the phone—not the front-desk associate. The same goes for food delivery. The room service team should also check hallways for dirty trays that promote pests and leave a negative impression.
What is one area of F&B management that’s often overlooked, but has a big impact?
Daily team meetings make sure the entire team is on the same page, but are often overlooked in the F&B space. Communication about the menu and any changes or specials, along with upselling opportunities, should be discussed during this time. Uniform and appearance should be checked. Reservations, special groups, and VIP’s should be reviewed as well as to ensure the team has a complete understanding of the day’s activity.
What’s a way that hotels can address high turnover of F&B staff?
If too often you find your employees quitting their jobs, then try offering a career instead. The nature of food and beverage in a hotel means that it can offer diverse experiences for chefs in several outlets, banquets, room service, or even in purchasing, accounting, and marketing. Encouraging team members to take advantage of training shows them that they are valued and opens windows of opportunity for their future. It’s a means of instilling a culture of ownership in a business plagued by high turnover.
Top photo: The Spectator, a Charlestowne Hotels-managed property