The opportunity to create buzz, appeal, interest, and energy is one of the most exciting things we get to perform during the course of our careers; after all, ours is a business of passion. Let’s start by staying away from two terms that marginalize creativity: “three-meal” and “outlet.”
We all know the images these two notions conjure in our minds—burgundy napkins, anyone? How about a bowl of unsanitary, recycled, communal bar snacks [have to have free bar snacks because we are a hotel], and don’t forget the white, plastic, thermal swirl coffee carafe and menu jackets.
The next thing to do is to get out and enjoy the city. We will typically do “full-on” experiences at more than 50 venues to get a true understanding of what is happening in a given city or community. Few, if any, are ever in hotels. No, I am looking at the places that are relevant, contemporary, current, and attract a wide audience. What I am looking for is stimuli; I am not looking to replicate another model but instead take away things from a variety of operations that stand out, such as menu designs, check presenters, back bar, stemware, serving vessels, and uniforms.
Nothing wrong with Converse, jeans, and a casual shirt in today’s most popular restaurants and bars, but heaven forbid we do it in hotels; it would be as sinful as not wearing name tags. We have picked up so many great ideas from gastropubs, tapas bars, and cocktail-only lounges.
You need stimuli. You don’t need “a chicken, a pasta, a fish, and a steak.” Our most successful operations are clearly bar-centric and benefit from exceptions to brand standards; many do 50% and above in beverage sales even though the space serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Design and environmentals matter here. Think more of a lounge that serves food. Our food sales are driven by small plates, with entrées being almost nonexistent.
You will hear a lot more people say, “Let’s meet in the bar for a drink” than you ever will hear, “Let’s grab a piece of salmon before we head out.” Let’s be honest: the great majority of your guests want to get out of the hotel at night. So, if you can get them in for a couple of drinks and a little something to nosh on, and it’s extremely well done with the right stimuli, then there is a strong chance they will return after going out for another drink or two. The bottom line is the stimuli is out there in your community of bars and restaurants to inspire you to create a desirable, busy establishment. Let the old school F&B mentality kill someone else’s operation—or, rather, “three-meal” or “outlet.”
VP of F&B, FelCor Lodging Trust,
and Member, Hotel F&B Corporate
Editorial Advisory Board