A Market for Today's Sophisticated Guest

By Thomas McKeown Executive Chef, Hyatt Regency Atlanta | August 20, 2017

The fun thing about meetings hotels is that they are a different place just about every week. One week we’re hosting a bridge tournament, the next a corporate sales team, or a dentists’ conference, or sci-fi fans in costumes, or cheerleaders jumping for joy. You name the group, and our hotel has probably welcomed them.

There is seasonality to our business, too. In cooler months, we’ll have more football fans, in the summer, families in flip flops. And our operation doesn’t close up at 5 p.m. Our guests visit at all hours of the day and night, from early morning commuters to airline crews that check in long after midnight. The one thing they all have in common is that they’re hungry, and it’s my job to feed them.

Feeding today’s guest is not as easy as it used to be, because our guest isn’t who she used to be. Guests today are vastly more sophisticated in their knowledge and expectation of dining choices. The world is a more connected place, and many guests are better traveled and exposed to unique and interesting cuisines.

Consumers are more careful about what they eat. Guests in general are more health conscious. Many people need to be aware of allergies and dietary choices to maintain their personal wellbeing. Increasingly, consumers want to know what’s on their plate and, importantly, where their food came from. And we all want to look younger and thinner (but still want to binge on some ice cream in the privacy of our guestroom once in a while).

Social media has an impact here as well. Dining experiences that are worthy of sharing on social media are very much in fashion. What we’re eating is now part of our personal brand, an image that we all carefully build and promote through our social posts. We like our food to be surprising and delightful, so we can tell our friends and followers that because we chose it, WE are surprising and delightful.

To meet the demands of all of these various, informed, wellness conscious, socially engaged and discriminating guests, chefs and hotels have had to get a little creative, change some rules, even push back some walls – in our case quite literally. One of our most popular solutions to meet all of our guests’ needs at Hyatt Regency Atlanta has been our Market concept.

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Coming up in February 2018...

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.