Weaving the Thread of Consistency: Food & Beverage as Theme

By Kevin Batters Vice President Food & Beverage, Stanford Hotels Corporation | October 28, 2008

Hotel companies face big challenges - bringing the best possible value to their guests while competing with increasingly similar products from brand to brand. Hoteliers spend large amounts of time and energy focusing on how to do this through care, comfort and amenities, but often end up with properties that have few if any distinctive features. One method for achieving differentiation is to institute a seamless culinary theme throughout all hotel food and beverage departments.

Driving food and beverage profit is essential to any hotel property, as it is the hotel's second most important revenue producer, upward of a 40 percent margin in any full-service property. As we know, hotels need to capture revenue through every possible source. When a guest has a positive food or beverage service experience at a property, it often gives them the confidence to try other sources within the property. When that same customer sees a thread of familiarity from menu to menu it encourages further experimentation if the first experience was satisfactory.

How to Create Smart Menus

Hotel restaurants have had to work hard to find ways to overcome the historical stigma of less than appetizing menus and drab d'ecor. Industry innovators have turned that perception around by creating hotel eateries that have become 'foodie' destinations, many with the help of celebrity chefs and restaurant concept agencies. Now hotel restaurants are leading the charge resulting in guests and local residents including these establishments on their list of must dine locations.

The challenge has shifted to making the rest of the hotel's food and beverage program consistent with what one might find in the restaurant. If a smart and creative menu can be developed in the restaurant, it can and should be adapted to room service and banquets. It just requires some creative thinking, smart planning and flexibility.

When our culinary team is in menu development, we pair research and product sourcing with a review of our competition. And then we consider our location. One of the most important changes in menu development over the past few years is that of using local and regional ingredients. Every chef wants to use local ingredients and be a part of the trend of seasonality. However, every F&B Director knows that consistency is a key part of success in its food service areas. This is particularly true in banquets where a meeting planner may taste a menu in the spring for a meeting held in the dead of winter.

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Hotel Spa: Oasis Unplugged

The driving force in current hotel spa trends is the effort to manage unprecedented levels of stress experienced by their clients. Feeling increasingly overwhelmed by demanding careers and technology overload, people are craving places where they can go to momentarily escape the rigors of their daily lives. As a result, spas are positioning themselves as oases of unplugged human connection, where mindfulness and contemplation activities are becoming increasingly important. One leading hotel spa offers their clients the option to experience their treatments in total silence - no music, no talking, and no advice from the therapist - just pure unadulterated silence. Another leading hotel spa is working with a reputable medical clinic to develop a “digital detox” initiative, in which clients will be encouraged to unplug from their devices and engage in mindfulness activities to alleviate the stresses of excessive technology use. Similarly, other spas are counseling clients to resist allowing technology to monopolize their lives, and to engage in meditation and gratitude exercises in its place. The goal is to provide clients with a warm, inviting and tranquil sanctuary from the outside world, in addition to also providing genuine solutions for better sleep, proper nutrition, stress management and natural self-care. To accomplish this, some spas are incorporating a variety of new approaches - cryotherapy, Himalayan salt therapy and ayurveda treatments are becoming increasingly popular. Other spas are growing their own herbs and performing their treatments in lush outdoor gardens. Some spa therapists are being trained to assess a client's individual movement patterns to determine the most beneficial treatment specifically for them. The July issue of the Hotel Business Review will report on these trends and developments and examine how some hotel spas are integrating them into their operations.