Evolving Guest Behavior and Expectations in Hotel F&B in 2021

The Eliza Jane, Unbound Collection by Hyatt, in New Orleans
The Eliza Jane, Unbound Collection by Hyatt, in New Orleans

Hotel food and beverage outlets often serve as an anchor point for hotels and resorts, providing not only a place for friends, family, and business travelers to gather, but also an opportunity to showcase a destination, the talents of a chef or bartender, or even great design. As the industry looks towards 2021, the demand for great hotel F&B experiences will not wain. However, they will now go hand-in-hand with the guest expectation that the hotel also offer an exceedingly safe dining experience, one that can be both seen in the actions taken throughout the outlet(s) as well as verbalized to the guest.

A few of the major ways guest behavior and expectations are anticipated to evolve in the coming year include:

1Premium Delivery and Pick Up Orders

The upward trend of takeout and delivery will continue. Guests expect these orders will be restaurant quality when they are consumed at home or in the office. Assuring a premium takeout or delivery experience begins with internal communication and timing coupled with a seamless ordering and pickup or delivery process. More than ever, hotel food and beverage outlets will need to go beyond guaranteeing that hot food is hot and cold food is cold by investing in presentation and packaging. The “one size fits all” Styrofoam clam shell is no longer acceptable. This means packaging will have to be specialized to be environmentally friendly, fit the food, ensure the presentation of the dish stays intact, maintain temperature, and limit the effects of condensation.

2Cleanliness and Sanitation

The highest attention to cleanliness and sanitation will continue to be a focus and concern for guests, and they will expect a clean, safe, and minimally invasive dining experience. Beyond being compliant to local and regional guidelines, the explicit cleanliness details of everything from the parking lot, restrooms, associate uniforms, host stands, back bars, and more should not only be communicated verbally, but also be visually apparent to support guest confidence.

3Effective Digital Interface

Online ordering has become standard. Now is the time to reevaluate the ordering approach and incorporate technology that facilitates seamless digital experiences to increase revenue. Food and beverage managers may never know how many guests are lost or frustrated because online ordering is not an option. Decision makers should ask themselves: “Can my guest book a reservation or place an order to go easily? Can the guest view a current menu online? Does the restaurant offer touchless or QR menus?” Offering a seamless digital experience is critical to guest retention.

4Investing in the Dining Experience

The details of service and the delivery of sincere hospitality have become causalities of pandemic conditions. Silverware rolled in paper napkins, bare tables, and individually-portioned condiments compound bigger changes to the traditional dining experience like social distancing, reducing staffing, and limited menus. Achieving success in 2021 will require training staff to understand the impact of masks on effective communication and honing skills related to listening and the art of anticipating needs and exceeding expectations. Guests will continue to look for outdoor or patio dining. Expanding and maximizing these opportunities though the investment of shade, heating, cooling technologies, better quality outdoor FF&E, and the creative use of outdoor spaces such as parking lots, common outdoor areas, and sidewalks will be important.

A combination of each of these components will add up to a guest’s perception of value. The perceived value goes beyond portion size—guests will measure value through the delivery of a thoughtful dining experience or to-go order that is consistent, guest-focused, and detail-driven.

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Matt Rinehart, vice president of food and beverage, HRI Lodging, is a seasoned and proven leader with more than 25 years of quality-focused hospitality management experience. In his role, Rinehart is responsible for overseeing the activities of HRIL's food and beverage department to maintain the highest standards of quality, service, and guest satisfaction.
 Prior to joining HRIL, Rinehart served as resort manager at the Sheraton Grand, a 500 room AAA 4 Diamond Resort. His professional achievements include serving as the director of food and beverage for several high-end resorts and he also brings vast expertise in management experience for two upscale national hotel chains.