How to Successfully Market Your Pantry or Gift Shop

By Janine Roberts Director of Sales and Marketing, Tradavo | August 03, 2010

To say the recession has been tough on the hotel industry does not begin to capture the downturn that many hotels have experienced in the past couple of years. And while it has been a difficult period of cutbacks and downsizing, it has also been a lesson in frugality and creativity that has taught brands, management companies and General Managers that every dollar counts... and when it comes to Sales Per Occupied Room - every cent counts.

Take the hotel pantry, for example. It was once little more than a guest convenience - a smattering of snacks and sundries. Too often an under-stocked, unkempt retail offering that barely covered the cost of the inventory required. But as the economy began to tumble, and everyone began to look for new ways to increase the sales per occupied room numbers to hold up under the increasing number of UN-occupied rooms, many turned to the hotel pantry as a new and important source of revenue. And with that came a new approach to hotel retail and the need to market this lobby asset to guests.

There are several ways to successfully market your hotel pantry offering, but before you begin any effort, you need to evaluate the message that will most effectively resonate with your guests. For example, if your core guest profile is a business traveler on an expense account (that has surely been reduced in per diem reimbursements since the recession began), then you want to target your message towards the 2 things that matter the most to them: cost and convenience.

This would look something like: "Looking for a quick, affordable meal or snack but don't have time to go out for a bite to eat? Be sure to visit our 24 hour hotel pantry conveniently located in the lobby for a wide variety of meals, snacks, and treats!"
How about those hotels catering to family vacation travel? What's on the minds of your guests? Getting quality family time without breaking the bank. The hotel pantry offers them the best of both and you can let them know that by focusing on messaging that appeals to both goals: "Stay in this evening and enjoy dinner and a movie with your family. Visit the pantry and select from a wide variety of quick meals and dinners that are sure to please even the most finicky eaters!"
So how does a retail-minded General Manager go about communicating these messages to increase awareness and boost revenue? Marketing efforts can start before your guest even walked in the door! Your hotel's website is your greatest marketing piece. Depending on the investment made in your web presence, the site can provide virtual tours, guest reviews, and online reservation capabilities. But too often, despite all the effort to provide a gripping write up of the hotel offerings, the convenience of the onsite hotel pantry is overlooked.

Begin by including a paragraph on the lobby shop in your hotel's description including the convenience, quality, and overall guest satisfaction that the hotel pantry offers. Use messages like the ones above to target the core guests you serve and to make them aware of the benefits a hotel pantry can offer.

Once the guest makes it in the door, make sure they are informed of the offering and location of the hotel pantry. A well trained front desk representative should never turn over a key card without taking the opportunity to market the pantry to a newly arrived guest: "Be sure to stop by our hotel pantry if you prefer to eat in or just need a quick snack. We also have a wide variety of travel size amenities if you discover you have forgotten something you need."

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Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.