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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Guest Service: Empowering People

Excellent customer service is vitally important in all businesses but it is especially important for hotels where customer service is the lifeblood of the business. Outstanding customer service is essential in creating new customers, retaining existing customers, and cultivating referrals for future customers. Employees who meet and exceed guest expectations are critical to a hotel's success, and it begins with the hiring process. It is imperative for HR personnel to screen for and hire people who inherently possess customer-friendly traits - empathy, warmth and conscientiousness - which allow them to serve guests naturally and authentically. Trait-based hiring means considering more than just a candidate's technical skills and background; it means looking for and selecting employees who naturally desire to take care of people, who derive satisfaction and pleasure from fulfilling guests' needs, and who don't consider customer service to be a chore. Without the presence of these specific traits and attributes, it is difficult for an employee to provide genuine hospitality. Once that kind of employee has been hired, it is necessary to empower them. Some forward-thinking hotels empower their employees to proactively fix customer problems without having to wait for management approval. This employee empowerment—the permission to be creative, and even having the authority to spend money on a customer's behalf - is a resourceful way to resolve guest problems quickly and efficiently. When management places their faith in an employee's good judgment, it inspires a sense of trust and provides a sense of higher purpose beyond a simple paycheck. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.