Times and tastes have changed, and chefs at large and small hotels are working hard not only to keep guests under roof for dining, but also to snare others who aren’t sleeping on the premises. Experts share five trends that can help hotel food and beverage outlets stay competitive and win more business.
Grow your own.
Hotel chefs have been growing their own produce for a while, and now some are butchering and processing animals, a head-to-tail trend that syncs with commitments to hormone and chemical-free food.
In Napa Valley, Ross Wheatley, director of food and beverage at Bardessono, a Benchmark boutique hotel, said his staff butchers lambs. “We use sweetbreads and everything else rather than taking free cuts. We even make sausage. Nothing goes to waste.” This approach to food prep means menus may change on a whim—it’s all about giving diners what’s fresh and ingredients get rotated quickly, he added.
At Eaglewood Resort & Spa in Chicago, John Billings, executive chef and director of food and beverage, said, “People are looking for the better taste and presentation, and we are answering this in part with brining and processing our own meats like corned beef that cures in a Guinness-laced brine for 11 days.”
Small plate eating and sharing continues to gain popularity as many customers opt for lighter and smaller meals.
“People don’t want a six- or seven-ounce piece of protein or six- or seven-course meals,” Wheatley said. “They like to share small plates and half bottles of wine these days.”
Quebec’s Fairmont Tremblant is answering this trend with foie gras-stuffed mini apples, mini brioche, or pressed duck confit with kumquat marmalade.
Simpler ambience and choices.
Traditional white tablecloths and formal service in hotel dining emporia are giving way to polished casual dress, Wheatley said. “Traditional white cloth formal service with 10- to 12-course tasting menus as the only option are changing,” he said. “This approach means a guy can come to dine in jeans and a T-shirt if he wants to.”
Even lengthy wine lists are giving way to shorter ones, he said. “There are more affordable options and half-bottle choices are making a comeback. A couple might pick small plate choices and share a half bottle for dinner.”
Wheatley said Ritz-Carlton San Francisco is another hotel that is changing to a less formal approach. “They’re scaling down pricing and putting small and large plate options on the menu, with nothing priced over $40, and they’ll waive corkage fees.”
More flex from the top.
Benchmark is among large brands that support local and regional choices when it comes to menu development and purchasing. “You can’t treat every locale the same way,” Wheatley said.
Fairmont’s Brett Patterson, vice president of food and beverage, Americas, agrees. “Everyone has seen hotels lose guests to freestanding restaurants,” he said. “To keep guests on property now, you have to match the ‘wow’ elsewhere. This means we have to go the extra mile to make sure we are in touch with the local community and know what both the houseguest and the local community want.”
Event food variety.
Patterson said improvements in hotel food and beverage quality are extending to banquet and event service. “Guests really have a good knowledge of food now,” he said, “so we are focused on making sure meetings groups get restaurant-style food. We’re even changing the coffee because it’s a big part of most everyone’s life. A new initiative is bringing our guests what we believe is the first-ever artisanal coffee from the top 3 percent of coffee beans from around the world.”