Hyatt House Keeps Costs Consistent While Elevating Satisfaction
Sip + Snack menu gives guests structured dining at select-service brand.
Select-service Hyatt House is focused on extended stay, with a full kitchen in each residential-style room. While the brand offers grab-and-go items that can be heated or cooked in-room, its Sip + Snack menu downstairs at H Bar provides guests a more structured dining experience. The menu, rolled out in summer and fall of 2017, was born after five months of beta testing, along with direct consumer research and deep dives into guest satisfaction data.
We talked with Susan Santiago and Steven Dominguez, respectively senior VP of operations and VP of brands at Hyatt House, for insight into the beta-testing journey for its new Sip + Snack menus and the results thus far at more than 80 Hyatt House hotels in the United States.
Hotel F&B: What was the Hyatt House F&B program like before the new H Bar menu, and why were the changes needed?
Santiago: The Hyatt House brand and its F&B offerings continue to evolve since the first hotel opened over 10 years ago. Initially, the brand was evening-social focused, but our research told us that guests are eating around their schedules instead of eating around traditional meal times. Therefore, we developed the new H Bar Sip + Snack menu, which provides guests with plenty of fresh, made-to-order bar bites and shareables, along with premium crafted cocktails.
Hyatt House ultimately arrived at a core menu for H Bar, but with additional options for operators who want to go beyond that. How does that work?
Santiago: We have a core menu, a core-plus menu, and then a core-plus-plus. We created that to give the hotels a plus ability for their needs in their regions. There may be a hotel that has a plethora of dining options outside their hotel, so they potentially might choose the core menu, which is limited in its offerings. Or you may see another hotel in a suburban market that doesn’t have a lot of options around it, so it wants to go to a core-plus-plus option for much more flexibility in its offerings. Those items are consistent so our guests would be able to find those menu items across the brand.
Some items that didn’t make it that we thought would have made it include the Meatball Marinara Slider, the Southwest Pulled Pork Bowl, and Buffalo Chicken Tacos. We had various breads and spreads on a board with prosciutto and other edibles. We had crab cakes that did not do well in beta testing. But, we also found some of those items to be potential items for an additional menu. So, they didn’t make the core menu, but we did give our hotels the opportunity to add some of those, from our core-plus menu. It’s not that they tested poorly; they just didn’t test as high as some of the others.
Are operators able to add localized menu items?
Santiago: The best-selling items, like the Korean Street Tacos, BBQ Pulled Pork Sliders, Fajita flatbread, and the Quesadilla, depending on what region you’re in, those may be considered a localized item. And in the Hyatt House brand, we’ve allowed for our hotels to create what we call “specials;” they’re not part of our core or core-plus menus. It allows for greater local customization. For example, Hyatt House Seattle/Bellevue has a seafood-inspired special menu with a Seafood Louie salad, stuffed jumbo prawns, and scallops. Those are resonating well in different markets.
With higher quality ingredients, such as antibiotic-free chicken, grass-fed beef, and all-natural turkey breast now used in the Sip + Snack menu, has the cost of executing F&B at H Bar increased?
Santiago: The magic of this new menu is that we were able to keep the cost the same but increase the quality of the product. That speaks to the talent of our F&B team as well as the evolving technology of rapid cooking. The way our model works is a crossover between our hosts and the H Bar. You can have as few as one or two, up to a maximum of three, depending on volume. That’s executing the menu as well as the cocktail program.
Dominguez: We have a very efficient staffing model and rapid-cooking technology in our back-of-house, which is limited in space. We really had to thread the needle to come up with an innovative program to meet our guest needs while still being true to a highly efficient model. We feel good that (this program) doesn’t require any additional culinary training or investment in cooking technology. Also, the ingredients are available through Master Food Distributors. It’s something that comes across as innovative but is still easy for our operators.
Is the H Bar menu available for groups and events?
Santiago: Yes. If you want just the H Bar menu for an event, you can certainly have it. But what our culinary team did is take the mise en place and create even new items that are different than the H Bar menu, for our events menu. It ensures that you can create efficiencies but also a differentiated experience in the event space as well. We cross-utilize all ingredients. For example, on the H Bar core menu, we have a quesadilla, and in our meeting/event menu, we have a South of the Border package theme. We use the guacamole as a side in this package. The guacamole is also used as a breakfast daypart ingredient as an omelet side and, third, a side with the quesadilla on the H Bar Sip + Snack menu. The proteins are also cross-utilized. The chicken from the H Bar menu quesadilla is also used for the enchiladas in the South of the Border package from the meetings/events menu. We also have mini burritos that utilize the pulled pork, which is used in the BBQ Pulled Pork Sliders on the H Bar menu.
Has the presentation of menu items changed?
Santiago: The ability to share was important, so it’s not just single plates coming out. We changed our smallwares and cross-utilize them in our events presentation. It maximizes efficiency by making sure the mise en place can be used in our events. Previously, we used white melamine plateware. We updated to higher quality, more modern boards and serving dishes that fit the brand’s upper-upscale persona, but, furthermore, establish the H Bar as an evening destination. For example, we have a marble and wood board that is served with our Taste of Tuscany menu item and a wood board for the BBQ Pulled Pork Sliders.
Dominguez: The team put a lot of thought into changing the presentation, so our smallwares program was part of the change. The plates we serve on and the way we are serving were upgraded.
What is the mix of food and beverage in H Bar Sales?
Santiago: The 2017 mix of sales was 60%/40% food/beverage. And for 2018 year to date (at press time, late March), the mix of sales is 58%/42%.
What is the bottom line on how Sip + Snack is working?
Santiago: Guests are responding incredibly well to the new H Bar Sip + Snack menu – we’ve seen an increase in overall guest satisfaction with F&B since the 2017 launch, and 2018 results to date (at press time, January through February 2018) show approximately a 5% increase in revenue per occupied room in F&B.
This feature originally appeared in the May/June 2018 issue of Hotel F&B. It is one of our Reader Favorites and is updated regularly.