Should hotels outsource their food and beverage offering?

When the Independent Hotel Show returns to Olympia London on 16-17 October, BHN editor – hospitality Eloise Hanson will be taking to the stage with four esteemed panellists to discuss a question many in the hotel sector are debating: where does the value lie in hotel food and beverage?

Hanson will be joined onstage by NoMad London‘s F&B director Megan Zutter, Heleri Rande, founder of HRande Consulting, Timothy Griffin, principal at Wellbrook Hospitality, and Jordan Kiziuk, head of experience at edyn group.

BHN sat down with the panellists for a sneak peek into some of the key talking points of the session.

When it comes to the importance of F&B to a hotel’s overall offering, Zutter comments: “From my perspective, food and beverage colours every aspect of the guest experience while staying in the hotel, from the mini bar and room service to experiencing a bar or restaurant space. It’s an opportunity to further develop a space for relaxation, enjoyment and indulgence beyond the bedroom and facilities! Our restaurants are the living rooms of the hotel, in a way.”

Rande points out that location is a hugely important factor when it comes to measuring the importance of restaurants and bars to a hotel’s success. She explains: “In an urban location you might not even need F&B as there are so many great options at the doorstop, it makes more sense to partner with local heroes and perhaps even create a local community guide to highlight the best cafe, bakery, brunch spot etc.

“In a resort it is a whole different approach. Guests will need to have options throughout the day so multiple outlets and variety is really key. There is no “one size fits it all” strategy. That is what makes hotel F&B so fascinating and complicated at the same time.”

Kiziuk adds that in a lifestyle and luxury hotel environment F&B is fundamental to the overall experience.

“We find in our brand that guests are booking on the strength of the in-house F&B concepts available,” he says. “The example for us is MURAL FARMHOUSE (one star Michelin and Green Star) in Munich where we have “food tourists” booking the hotel for the F&B.”

Purpose and partnerships

Griffin says: “There is a widely held perception that hoteliers cannot also be restauranteurs, and this is evidenced in the number of poorly executed drinking and dining offerings in hotels. In-house restaurants and bars can be a drain on the bottom line as F&B is generally less profitable than the rooms and other revenue generating departments. However, with the right partners to help create an appealing experience, the in-house F&B can be an asset to the hotel in many ways.”

Rande comments that: “Hotel owners and operators need to have a very clear understanding of that before looking at the different models. Some brands are really strong in creating concepts and operating them whilst others are better off focusing on the non F&B areas and outsourcing the rest. But the partnership needs to work and the understanding of the purpose needs to be crystal clear.

“When you have brands like the NoMad where restaurants and bars are so tightly engraved into their DNA it makes total sense to operate everything in house and control the process from beginning to end.”

“We are very proud of our bars and restaurants and the service we provide within them,” agrees Zutter. “We welcome in-house guests into our spaces all day, every day. The challenge comes with staffing and maintaining the standards we have set for ourselves and that our guests expect, knowing the brand and living in (if only temporarily) the rooms.”

Kiziuk says: “It is most definitely a desirable amenity for hotels, but the execution can be costly and potentially not yield the expected returns. Hoteliers need to look at these outlets as having a halo effect over the hotel’s ADR which is difficult to quantify.

“If you want to create an emotional and memorable connection with guests and engender loyalty with your brand then a good hotel bar is the cornerstone of that strategy. Repeat custom equals more return.”

Griffin comments that to create a success from a consumer and business perspective, there are some components that need to be right: great interior design, lighting and music; exceptional cuisine and drinks programming; service and execution. 

“The more costly way to achieve this is to build an in-house team of creative experts across culinary, service and bars to craft a concept and execute it well,” he explains.  “An alternative approach is to work with a consultant to build the brand and story and execute the vision in-house with oversight from the consultant. Or, by outsourcing the offer entirely, the hotel can hand over the reins to the experts in their field.”  

Kiziuk adds that it’s crucial to be seen as “not another hotel restaurant”.

“You need to appeal to the broader community if it’s going to have any kind of vibe or make any money,” he explains. “Third parties help with this exponentially as they have their own networks and communities outside of the residents staying in the hotel, that provide a local energy to the public spaces.

“The measure of ‘success’ is the key point here. An F&B outlet in a hotel that is loss making, or breaking even is not a failure. The overall asset value of the hotel, and the appeal the brand has to potential guests and visitors is immeasurable, as it enables owners to charge a premium for the bedroom product.”

Rande comments that creativity will be highly rewarded when it delivers a guest experience that fits the hotel concept and offers something unique and bespoke.

“Think a food hall, as the F&B offering in a space that lends itself to having multiple pods and a central bar.” She continues: “This creates extra revenue opportunities for delivery, especially when pick-up stations have been designed appropriately.

“Another one is technology. Taking away pain points like settling the bill or ordering extra items – this should be seamless and quick but there is still a lot of clunkiness in the customer journey that should be eliminated.

“Also think about, ‘what is the last thing the guest will remember?’ A token of appreciation like a complimentary homemade ice cream or a sweet. This works really well in high street restaurants who have thought through the entire guest journey. There is a lot to learn from these operators.”

Zutter concludes that: “The more creative and flexible you are, the more opportunities there are for invention and blowing people away. Dynamic F&B offerings reassure guests and provide much-needed sustenance in their home-away-from-home, while allowing for socialising and fun. Creativity also keeps staff engaged and excited to come to work. If service is black and white, hospitality is colour and personality which only helps with guest connections.

“Successful F&B offerings are consistent across each space and available at all hours, comforting and delicious and let us showcase more of our values and taste than just what we have designed and maintain in our rooms. People want to stay in the hotel with the buzz, with the bars and restaurants full of interesting guests, so one helps the other.”

The session – In house or not: Is it time to outsource your hotel restaurants and bars? – takes place on the show’s Hotel Business Stage, in partnership with HotelPartner and designed by Design Command, at 4pm on 16 October.

View the full seminar programme for this year’s Independent Hotel Show London here.

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