Weaving the Thread of Consistency: Food & Beverage as Theme

By Kevin Batters Vice President Food & Beverage, Stanford Hotels Corporation | October 28, 2008

Hotel companies face big challenges - bringing the best possible value to their guests while competing with increasingly similar products from brand to brand. Hoteliers spend large amounts of time and energy focusing on how to do this through care, comfort and amenities, but often end up with properties that have few if any distinctive features. One method for achieving differentiation is to institute a seamless culinary theme throughout all hotel food and beverage departments.

Driving food and beverage profit is essential to any hotel property, as it is the hotel's second most important revenue producer, upward of a 40 percent margin in any full-service property. As we know, hotels need to capture revenue through every possible source. When a guest has a positive food or beverage service experience at a property, it often gives them the confidence to try other sources within the property. When that same customer sees a thread of familiarity from menu to menu it encourages further experimentation if the first experience was satisfactory.

How to Create Smart Menus

Hotel restaurants have had to work hard to find ways to overcome the historical stigma of less than appetizing menus and drab d'ecor. Industry innovators have turned that perception around by creating hotel eateries that have become 'foodie' destinations, many with the help of celebrity chefs and restaurant concept agencies. Now hotel restaurants are leading the charge resulting in guests and local residents including these establishments on their list of must dine locations.

The challenge has shifted to making the rest of the hotel's food and beverage program consistent with what one might find in the restaurant. If a smart and creative menu can be developed in the restaurant, it can and should be adapted to room service and banquets. It just requires some creative thinking, smart planning and flexibility.

When our culinary team is in menu development, we pair research and product sourcing with a review of our competition. And then we consider our location. One of the most important changes in menu development over the past few years is that of using local and regional ingredients. Every chef wants to use local ingredients and be a part of the trend of seasonality. However, every F&B Director knows that consistency is a key part of success in its food service areas. This is particularly true in banquets where a meeting planner may taste a menu in the spring for a meeting held in the dead of winter.

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Social Media: Engagement is Key

There are currently 2.3 billion active users of social media networks and savvy hotel operators have incorporated social media into their marketing mix. There are a few Goliath channels on which one must have a presence (Facebook & Twitter) but there are also several newer upstart channels (Instagram, Snapchat &WeChat, for example) that merit consideration. With its 1.86 billion users, Facebook is a dominant platform where operators can drive brand awareness, facilitate bookings, offer incentives and collect sought-after reviews. Twitter's 284 million users generate 500 million tweets per day, and operators can use its platform for lead generation, building loyalty, and guest interaction. Instagram was originally a small photo-sharing site but it has blown up into a massive photo and video channel. The site can be used to post photos of the hotel property, as well as creating Instagram Stories - personal videos that disappear from the channel after 24 hours. In this regard, Instagram and Snapchat are now in direct competition. WeChat is a Chinese company whose aim is to be the App for Everything - instant messaging, social media, shopping and payment services - all in a single platform. In addition to these channels, blogging continues to be a popular method to establish leadership, enhance reputations, and engage with customers in a direct and personal way. The key to effective use of all social media is to find out where your customers are and then, to the fullest extent possible, engage with them on a personal level. This engagement is what creates a personal connection and sustains brand loyalty. The February Hotel Business Review will explore these issues and examine how some hotels are successfully integrating social media into their operations.