More than ever before hotels are in the meal business. Which is an odd thing considering the select service hotel category was created in a large part to get rid of those pesky loss leaders such as F&B. But sometimes things don’t work out as planned, and decades later, select service hotels offer more food than ever before.
Meanwhile, full service hotels are still working on how to remain competitive in the F&B market. And for the first time this sector seems to have it figured out. Hoteliers have always sensed people desired to dine in the hotel they were staying in, but this time they’re ahead of the trends and are introducing new concepts keeping people on site to create a new and potentially vibrant profit center.
Cracking the dining code was a theme at this week’s BITAC F&B East, taking place this week at the Grand Floridian Hotel located at the Walt Disney World Resort. Yesterday we looked to industry experts that could help us decipher the current state of taste for hotel patrons. Read that article here.
BITAC is of course the industry leading one-on-one meetings and relationship building event. This week marks the 46th BITAC meeting, which attracted the F&B executive elite representing leading and forward thinking companies. And they’re all here to come together at BITAC to problem solve, network, sign deals and exchange ideas to move forward the quality of experiences for hotel guests, while adding profits to the bottom line. There’s even time to cut loose, be social and network in a luxurious and relaxed environment.
First up is breakfast at the select service hotel where the industry has experienced a plussing effect. That is major hotel brands consistently adding more and more breakfast items including hot foods. What started as a true continental breakfast featuring warm coffee and a muffin has morphed into a full spread with all sorts of items, especially hot items like pancakes and waffles.
Gary Bennett, Senior Director of Business Development, Choice Hotels
International, has seen this phenomenon first hand. Bennett said at Choice they update their breakfast offerings every few years to stay with the trends. “There is always a need for new concepts which can yield success like our waffle program. The pressure is to have the next ‘wow’ thing. But the challenge is there is only a certain amount of [food display] real estate available. Plus we have to rely on the ability of operators to make the breakfast,” said Bennett.
Scott Levine, SVP Design & Purchasing/Corporate Director F&B with P.M. Hospitality Strategies said people have ever increasing expectations, and that even in the select service hotel category they want more choices, and they want those choices served up the way they want it.
“People are expecting a full service breakfast experience. But to really make that work, personalization is really important. People want their breakfast their way, and you have to make it happen,” said Levine.
Shawn McGowan focuses on full service hotels with his role as Senior Director F&B Brand Initiatives & Programs with Hilton Worldwide.
He agrees personalization is the key, which is why at the full serve concept Embassy Suites made to order omelets do so well. But to be profitable there must be a mix between giving guests what they want at the right cost to the owner.
“We are finding how to service guests in a quicker, more efficient manner. There is an escalating war about who can outdo each other [at breakfast.] We have to look at the cost per key and head while delivering a product that is relevant and cost effective,” said McGowan.
BITAC attendees agree there is an escalating war at the morning meal, but to what degree? So using our real time polling mechanism we asked ‘Do you believe there is a Breakfast War taking place in select service hotels?’ and 12.4 percent responded ‘Yes, it is out of control’ as 61.8% said ‘Yes, but it is escalating reasonably’. A full one-quarter of the audience said ‘I do not see it.’
One surprising notion uncovered at BITAC F&B; people are still claiming to want to eat only healthy foods, yet hotel F&B sales show the opposite is true. People eschew smart choices for more traditional breakfast items.
At Treasure Island F&B Director Paul Pace said he this play out at the hotel’s buffet. “There is more of an expectation for healthy options to be available, but when we look at actual consumption levels we do not see that at all,” said Pace.
One surprising tip. Focus on those non-alcoholic beverage sales, said Levine, and go beyond coffee to specialty coffee drinks, juices, smoothies and even exotic sodas. “This is an area that can be very profitable and efficient. But it is often overlooked and therefore a big missed opportunity,” said Levine.