Big Breakfast [With Little China]
When Hyatt Place Waikiki Beach opened in 2011, the local staff and Hyatt corporate knew the property would need to approach the brand’s signature complimentary breakfast a bit differently. For one, Waikiki Beach was far larger than any other hotel in the brand portfolio. In addition to adding volume, Hyatt knew from the nearby Hyatt Regency Waikiki that the hotel would host many guests from Asia. That’s how a few key additions to the breakfast menu came about.
General Manager Bonnie Kiyabu, who has been onboard since Hyatt took over the former Ocean Resort Hotel, recalls the F&B planning process. “The corporate F&B director and the corporate chef met with us here and then helped facilitate our food needs by meeting with local vendors,” she recalls. “It was a joint effort where we sat down and said, ‘What is it Asian guests will be looking to eat for breakfast?’ We decided to add miso soup, rice, and condiments, which are pickled vegetables. We also added kimchi, because we get a fair amount of Korean guests here.”
Planning these additions before the hotel opened made it easier to design the kitchen. “Because we knew we were going to offer this, the kitchen was customized with a pot necessary to keep the rice hot and the soup fresh,” say Kiyabu.
Clay Spencer, now senior VP of operations at Kokua Hospitality, has been F&B director at six different Hyatt hotels. He notes, “Customizing and modifying offerings to fit the customer base is really the trend right now. Having a plug-and-play breakfast [might not] resonate with a lot of your customers because of their different cultural backgrounds.” And, of course, local offerings are on-trend. “You’re sourcing local vendors or doing things that might be specific to whatever region of the country you’re in,” Spencer says.
At Hyatt Place Waikiki Beach, it happens that one of the most popular breakfast items is the fresh fruit bowl made with local Hawaii pineapple. “It’s the sweetest pineapple you’ll ever taste, because it’s grown locally,” Kiyabu says. The additions have been popular with guests all around, she says. “What I’ve found since opening is that miso soup is pretty well known and we’ll even see North American guests wanting to try that.” Chinese travelers “are happy with eggs, miso soup, rice, and pickled vegetables,” Kiyabu notes. And “fresh fruit is very popular with everyone—especially, especially pineapple.”
Waikiki Beach’s other challenge, of course, was volume. “We have 426 rooms; the average Hyatt Place is 110 to 120 rooms,” Kiyabu notes. To accommodate the 400 or 500 guests who partake of breakfast each morning, Hyatt Place Waikiki Beach doubled the number of serving stations, Kiyabu explains. That means two hot skillets offering breakfast sandwiches; two Bowls Bars, where oatmeal, cold cereal, and cottage cheese are served; two refrigerator tops providing juices; and so on.
What’s more, Kiyabu explains that “in most Hyatt Places, the breakfast is served adjacent to the registration desk. But because we’re so large, our breakfast area is on our third floor pool deck.”
As a further boon to guests who love to dine al fresco, Hyatt Place Waikiki Beach offers trays in each room that allow guests to grab breakfast to go. Says Kiyabu, “we have lanais [balconies] in all our rooms, so a lot of people will grab a tray and go eat breakfast there. That was done here because of the volume we anticipated.”
Of course, serving breakfast to more than twice the usual number of diners requires more staff. “In a typical Hyatt Place, the host that checks you in services the breakfast area,” Kiyabu says. “But because of the location and the volume, we have hosts dedicated to breakfast service.”
Staying in the System
As for how Hyatt Place Waikiki Beach was able to modify the standard breakfast program to fit the location’s needs, Spencer says, “I believe Hyatt has a little bit of a different way of looking at things. There’s still a healthy respect for wanting to have a product that’s similar across your brand, but there’s also an interest in having a product that resonates with who’s staying in your hotel. If it’s just a tweak here or there, and the main components are still there, I think all stakeholders involved would be good with that.”
Spencer advises ownership groups interested in modifying standard offerings for their property’s needs to focus on cultivating a healthy corporate relationship, “where you can run things up the flagpole.” Also important is “having data points and feedback of what your customer is looking for. We have numerous ways: online reviews, the surveys every hotel does, or talking with tour groups. I think if you can show that this is what customers are looking for, nine times out of 10 the brand is going to want to accommodate that.”Jenny Miller is a New York-based F&B and travel writer.