We all know the stereotype about hotel dining; we’re told it’s “so-so” at best. That’s an old idea, however, and it’s out of date. In an era where food across the country is becoming healthier, more sustainable, carefully sourced, and whole-food-based, there’s no reason hotel restaurants can’t shine in 2018.
At the Terrace Bistro at the Ellis Hotel, a boutique hotel in downtown Atlanta, we take that challenge seriously.
We made our name offering Southern favorites and doing them well. Our fried green tomatoes are popular, and the shrimp and grits is a big hit among visitors to the South. Add that to house-made Southern condiments like barbecue and remoulade, and you’ve got a recipe for success. Finish it all off with peach cobbler and pecan pie for a meal to remember.
On the beverage side, owning that category is just as important. As a Southern-inspired restaurant, we carry a wide array of bourbons, and our Georgia Peach Punch with moonshine is popular too. It’s fun to see out-of-towners realize some Georgians really do drink moonshine.
We’re still very committed to offering high-quality southern fare, but the best restaurants listen to what their guests are asking for, and use that insight to grow. We’ve done that in 2017, and we’ll continue to do that in 2018.
What are our guests asking for? Two things: healthy, alternative-diet foods and ethnic foods with Southern flair.
A few years ago, the emphasis on local, sustainable food drove an industry-wide shift in how we approach our suppliers. Now we’re seeing a renewed interest in alternative diets going mainstream, and smart restauranteurs are rising to meet that demand.
Throughout 2017, we saw an increased demand for quality, health-driven food. We’ve had more and more requests for vegetarian, gluten-free, vegan, low-calorie, and low-fat options. We’ve embraced those requests, and have worked hard to create interesting, delicious options for different diets.
This trend isn’t going away anytime soon. At the time of writing, half an hour ago, we booked a party for 25 people. They told us explicitly that they chose us for of our enhanced alternative menu selection.
Another thing that’s worth noting: vegetarians and vegans want good food too. There’s been this assumption across the industry that non-meat-eaters just want a plate of vegetables, and it just isn’t true. We take care when we’re building our menus to offer meals that don’t just meet dietary requirements; they’re meant to be savored and enjoyed.
It’s also important to own a space, but try new things. Our focus is on chic, sustainable, Southern-inspired food and beverage. That doesn’t mean we can’t branch out and explore new fusion options. However, it does mean all any new offerings need to stay true to the restaurant’s roots. We’re planning to add breakfast burritos to our menu this year, but it will include Southern-inspired details to make it part of our cohesive menu.
As we look forward to a successful 2018, we know building out these creative new offerings—while staying true to our mission, brand, and guests—will continue to contribute to lasting success in the hotel dining space.
Papa Ndiaye and Jonathan McCoy of the F&B team at the Terrace Bistro at the Ellis Hotel contributed to this blog column.