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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