Capitalizing on Dining Trends in Hotel Renovation and Design

By Eric Rahe Principal, BLT Architects | October 05, 2014

It is no secret that how, where, and what people are eating is changing. The dining experience matters more than ever before as evidenced by the range of custom designed signature chef restaurants being created in multiple markets. The environment in which people eat, from lighting to carpet to wall coverings to proximity to other people, sets the context for the meal that either helps it sing or just satisfy.

Food itself is also being redefined. From locally-sourced ingredients to gluten-free options to vegan tasting menus, what people eat now demands simultaneous flexibility and restrictions. Menus are merely suggestions for most diners who expect that all their individual needs are exceeded.

So how can hotel owners and operators meet the demands of simultaneous and sometimes conflicting dining needs of their customers? Smart design can go a long way, and each restaurant will need to be fine tuned for the market, likely by demographic and price point. Four trends to consider when designing or renovating space for restaurants provided by limited service to luxury brands include:

Flex Space

In the past, most hotels had one or more hotel-run restaurants that served meals to guests and provided room service. There may have been a breakfast room with a buffet or light table service open early to mid-morning. There may have also been a separate restaurant for evening meals, open mid-afternoon through evening. A third space, likely a bar or lounge, would have more extended hours serving sandwiches and beverages from midday to late night. Today, this concept is being re-thought as space and energy efficiency take center stage throughout the hotel.

Reginald Archambault, General Manager of Philadelphia-based The Rittenhouse advises that, “The layout shouldn’t be too trendy. It needs to be flexible, adaptable and malleable.” At Lacroix, brunch stations are hosted in the kitchen by the cooks who prepared the dishes or diners can reserve a private table in the kitchen attended by the Executive Chef who customizes the menu based on the diners’ individual preferences.

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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.