Hotels Would be Wise to Meet Consumer Demands for More Casual Dining

By Jonathan Wilson VP Product Innovation & Brand Services, Hilton Worldwide | August 07, 2016

Consumer dining preferences are shifting and becoming much more casual at hotels across all segments of the industry, from grab-and-go and in-restaurant offerings at suite brands to fine dining options at luxury properties.

This change has created a void in the hotel industry for welcoming, casual dining experiences. You might think a large property that offers breakfast, lunch, dinner and room service has everything covered. But the new reality is that many guests now prefer to eat with friends and family in a more casual, social environment. In addition, independent travelers – who typically want to eat by themselves –also want to be surrounded by other people. This is what I call ‘socially alone’ – wanting to feel completely comfortable dining alone while being part of a bigger experience.

It’s not just a matter of how or where, it’s also a matter of when. As travel is changing, consumers want to eat outside of traditional meal periods. Casual food & beverage options allow hotel guests to eat dinner at 3:30 or 4 p.m. if it better fits their schedule, or to enjoy lighter eating later in the evening. This is another way the more casual programming of food & beverage environments can have a big impact on guest satisfaction and customer retention.

Hotel executives would be wise to consider a move toward more casual dining, and not just at budget traveler properties. This trend cuts across all price points.

Finding the Suite Spot in Casual Dining

We’re staying on the forefront of this trend by developing food & beverage options at Hilton Worldwide brands that are less rigid, more scalable, and promote a greater social experience for guests. For example, approximately 60% of Embassy Suites’ properties will undergo enhancements, including major renovations to bars, restaurants, lobby spaces and other areas, through 2019.

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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.