Food and Beverage: Creating a Come-As-You-Are Space for Guests and Locals

By Peter Karpinski Partner, Sage Hospitality | August 03, 2014

In the years following the recession, travelers, both business and leisure, have increasingly gravitated toward more casual, “live like a local” experiences, and away from formal and elitist environments. It is important for hotel executives to consider how this trend can be applied to on-site food and beverage concepts. Creating a comfortable, come-as-you-are environment in restaurants frequented by transient customers means achieving an inviting atmosphere without trading down on quality and overall sophistication. When done correctly, a casual food & beverage concept that delivers exceptional and authentic experiences to visiting guests and locals alike can be a huge boon to hotel businesses.

Approachability Born from a Sense of Place

Our restaurants get about 80% of their business from people that live and work in the communities we are in. Given this high percentage, management can genuinely benefit from creating a restaurant with an environment that is approachable to the local community. One way we do this at Sage Restaurant Group ( SRG ) is by taking the time to forge strong relationships with the local farmers, ranchers, and purveyors that our restaurants source from.

For example, at Urban Farmer Steakhouse in Portland, Chef Matt Christianson has worked closely with a local farm in the past to produce specialty milk-fed chickens that were only served at the restaurant. At Mercat a la Planxa in Chicago, Executive Chef Jose Garces makes it a point to source lettuce and micro greens from Urban Till, a unique urban farm that transforms derelict urban properties into productive, vertical green spaces. The Mercat partnership is also an example of creating relationships that simultaneously serve the restaurant while supporting the community.

Beyond menu sourcing, several of our restaurants also feature the work of local artists in the design and décor. These are the types of local touch points that come together to create an environment in which diners feel good about spending their time, and money. All of these carefully curated aspects might register on a subconscious level, but definitely contribute to that sought after sense of place where diners can feel at home and at ease.

Restaurant programming is another important way to create authentic experiences that offer a comforting sense of place. At Kachina Southwestern Grill in Westminster CO, we regularly put on “Bison and Beer” dining events, which feature cuts of bison from a local ranch paired with various Colorado craft brews. At Second Home Kitchen + Bar in Denver, we offer pajama brunches every weekend, where local families and hotel guests can bring their kids and feel right at home eating pancakes and watching movies in their pajamas. When brainstorming programming ideas, it is important to always make sure the event enhances the guest experience by building on that restaurant’s specific sense of place.

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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.