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.

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Coming up in April 2018...

Guest Service: Empowering People

Excellent customer service is vitally important in all businesses but it is especially important for hotels where customer service is the lifeblood of the business. Outstanding customer service is essential in creating new customers, retaining existing customers, and cultivating referrals for future customers. Employees who meet and exceed guest expectations are critical to a hotel's success, and it begins with the hiring process. It is imperative for HR personnel to screen for and hire people who inherently possess customer-friendly traits - empathy, warmth and conscientiousness - which allow them to serve guests naturally and authentically. Trait-based hiring means considering more than just a candidate's technical skills and background; it means looking for and selecting employees who naturally desire to take care of people, who derive satisfaction and pleasure from fulfilling guests' needs, and who don't consider customer service to be a chore. Without the presence of these specific traits and attributes, it is difficult for an employee to provide genuine hospitality. Once that kind of employee has been hired, it is necessary to empower them. Some forward-thinking hotels empower their employees to proactively fix customer problems without having to wait for management approval. This employee empowerment—the permission to be creative, and even having the authority to spend money on a customer's behalf - is a resourceful way to resolve guest problems quickly and efficiently. When management places their faith in an employee's good judgment, it inspires a sense of trust and provides a sense of higher purpose beyond a simple paycheck. The April issue of the Hotel Business Review will document what some leading hotels are doing to cultivate and manage guest satisfaction in their operations.