A New Future for Hotel Restaurants

By Peter Karpinski Partner, Sage Hospitality | August 12, 2012

Is it possible to change the way travelers currently think about hotel restaurants? Can hotel restaurants provide a customer experience so good that they capture significant local market share in an ultra-competitive sector, and also deliver a solid return to shareholders?

At Sage Restaurant Group, those are exactly the challenges we work every day to solve and the same questions I wrestled with during my early experience in hotels and restaurants. In the end, we create unexpected, playful and locally focused food and beverage experiences that resonate with guests and the people who live and work in the communities we serve. Integrating great restaurant fundamentals in the unique context of F&B can be delivered through true partnerships at the property level. But this isn’t the way I was taught.

Like many in this industry, I received my hospitality degree and went to work learning the business, inside and out. I was fortunate enough to work with some of the best companies in the world – Four Seasons Hotels & Resorts, Starwood Hotels & Resorts, Caesars Entertainment, and Starr Restaurant Organization. Along the way I internalized the concept of continual learning.

In each of my professional relationships, I gained new insights about hotel and restaurant customers and stakeholders. I asked questions and I watched and learned from extremely talented managers and executives. I sought mentors all along the way. I built as much perspective as possible.

In a quest to learn about the strengths and pitfalls of independent restaurants, I professionally progressed away from the traditional hotel F&B environment, and closer to the world of independent restaurants, until I finally found myself out of the hotel sector altogether. As I learned about the business models of free standing restaurants, I realized the gap between profit and loss and knowing your markets. I realized there was no reason hotel restaurants should be loss leaders to the lodging business or unreliable sources of hotel profit. With that conviction, I needed a partner who understood the opportunity and was willing to join my commitment to shift the paradigm.

In 2005, I met Walter Isenberg and Zack Neumeyer at Sage Hospitality and they were open to this new opportunity. As Sage was becoming a more active owner, developer, and operator of premier full-service branded hotels, they were committed to developing a more sustainable in-house F&B platform and, from that, Sage Restaurant Group was born. Our new platform has changed the way our guests and our hotel ownership groups think of hotel restaurants. It has created a new model for investors and executives, and has provided our organization with a unique proprietary differentiator.

Coming up in January 2018...

Mobile Technology: Relentless Innovation

Technology has become a crucial component in attracting and retaining hotel guests, and the need to enhance a guest’s technology experience is driving a relentless pace of innovation. To meet and exceed guest expectations, 54% of hotels will spend more on technology in 2018, and mobile solutions in particular will top the list of capital investments. Many hotels are integrating mobile booking, mobile keys, mobile payments and mobile check-in into their operations. Other hotels are emphasizing the in-room experience, boosting bandwidth and upgrading flat screen TVs to more easily interface with guest mobile devices. And though not yet mainstream, there are many exciting technology developments on the near horizon. The Internet of Things (loT) is taking form in some places, and can be found in guest room control systems, voice activation systems, and in wearable sensors that can be used for access and payment options. Virtual reality headsets are available at some hotels so guests can enjoy virtual trips to exotic locations or if off-property, preview conference facilities and guest rooms. How long will it be before a hotel employs a fleet of robots for room service, or utilizes a hologram as a concierge, or installs gesture-controlled walls that feature interactive digital displays? Some hotels are already using augmented reality for translation services, or interactive wall maps, or even virtual décor. This pace of innovation is challenging property owners and brands to stay on top of the latest technology trends while still addressing current projects. The January Hotel Business Review will explore what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in the mobile technology space.