Creating Choice and Flexibility in Food and Beverage

It Starts with the Guest

By Shawn McGowan Senior Director Food & Beverage Brand Initiatives & Programs, Hilton Worldwide | August 06, 2017

As providers of hospitality, we are constantly working to up-level our guests’ experiences. To succeed at this, understanding the needs and demands of consumers is critical. I’ve learned that delivering a solid food and beverage platform is just as important as a hassle-free check-in or clean, modern rooms when it comes to creating guest loyalty. The foundation to successfully executing a food and beverage platform is understanding your guests and their needs, as well as your hotel and its capabilities.

Over the years, there has been a systemic shift in guests’ expectations of hotel food and beverage offerings. If you walk into most hotel bars and dining areas today, you may – or may not – be surprised to find hip locals, sophisticated guests and trendsetting staff mingling and socializing over artisanal drinks, selecting a sandwich from the in-hotel gourmet market or enjoying regional cuisine made with locally-sourced, seasonal ingredients. Of course there are also guests who want a quick burger and a beer delivered to their room before collapsing into bed. By understanding these diverse needs, we are able to design our properties and develop our food offerings in a way that gives guests choice and control over where they eat, when they eat and what they eat while they’re at the hotel.

At Hilton, our vision is to consistently deliver exceptional experiences to every guest at every hotel. Factors like accessible fresh foods, regional fare by local chefs and bar-centric atmospheres are just as critical as a hot breakfast, a knowledgeable bartender and a lounge to sip coffee and tea. Hilton recently launched an industry-first food and beverage portfolio tool to help developers, owners and operators design and execute quality restaurant concepts that intersect with unique guest needs and property capabilities.

Here are some of the key lessons we learned:

Focus on the Bar

Consider your guests. Some are socially alone; while they are traveling independently, many want to feel like they’re part of a community when they leave their room or meeting. This could mean a welcoming environment to sit with a laptop while being surrounded by the buzz of people or having the opportunity to interact with other guests at a communal table. You also have groups that want a space where they can create fun moments and memories with colleagues, friends or family. The impact of global influences like shareable Asian, Spanish, Portuguese and comfort food has led to a proliferation of family-style options like flatbreads, charcuterie boards, sliders or healthier items like Shishito Peppers that work for those in groups or dining solo. Hoteliers need to create a dining environment that is flexible enough to satisfy different types of travelers.

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.