In March, Courtyard by Marriott launched Bistro Bar across its more than 900 properties in the United States. The brand designed the new evening dining experience with its core customers in mind—business travelers and, specifically, guests who enjoy new places, new experiences, and meeting new people while traveling. The newly developed menu of classic American fare with a twist incorporates fresh ingredients, seasonal dishes, and hand-crafted cocktails.
Callette Nielsen, vice president and global brand leader for Marriott’s Courtyard, Fairfield, Four Points, and SpringHill Suites brands, tells LODGING that the company’s internal research team tested the menu to ensure that it stayed true to what existing Courtyard guests expect of the brand while also creating something interesting enough to pull in new guests.
“We tested concepts and this was the one that resonated most with our consumers, and then we started development of the menu,” Neilsen explains. After a year of piloting and tweaking the concept, the brand was ready to deploy it to all Courtyard properties. “We wanted to make sure that when we went live across the country on March 1, it was an experience that we all could be really proud of and delivered on our expectations,” Neilsen adds.
The Bistro Bar menus are uniform across all 900 Courtyard Hotels, Neilsen says. The dishes range from a spicy chorizo and goat cheese flatbread to the Bistro Burger with gruyere and garlic aioli on a brioche bun. The contemporary classic cocktails include the Black Cherry Old Fashioned and a seasonal Winter Spiced Margarita. To attain that level of consistency, the brand dedicated its entire general manager’s conference in New Orleans to the Bistro program. “They were able to touch it, feel it, taste it, and so that created a lot of energy and enthusiasm,” Neilsen explains. Hotels also underwent a training process to prep every associate and ensure that kitchen staff mastered each menu item.
While the menu is standardized, it is not set in stone—the Bistro Bar’s focus on seasonal ingredients gives flexibility for the brand to rotate dishes throughout the year. “It gives us the opportunity to then engage with the teams on a quarterly basis on what’s new and what’s happening,” Neilsen adds. The brand has a dedicated team for developing and communicating those new menu items. “Every season we’ll have a new flatbread and new seasonal margarita.” That ability to rotate menu items will help to sustain the concept and keep the menu relevant, Neilsen says.
The bigger picture, Neilsen adds, is that the new concept goes beyond the menu to impact guests’ evening experience. Courtyard lobbies are designed as communal spaces, with media pods for guests to work alone and communal tables to connect with others. “What we were missing from our menu were these great shareable plates—the bites and boards, the interesting little snacks,” Neilsen explains. “It’s a space that has the food, the beverage, and those things that make me want to hang out, to linger, to spend time, and meet new people. And that’s what this menu supports.”
Top photo: Petit skillet meatballs with pomodoro, ricotta, parmesan, and artisan toast from Courtyard by Marriott’s Bistro Bar menu