How sweet it is to be loved by guests who leave your restaurants with full stomachs and complete culinary contentment! Sometimes your destination becomes a leading choice due partly to your F&B offerings, and what’s a well-rounded meal without a sweet ending? Up your dining ante by reevaluating your dessert strategy with some of these sweet tips that just may stick and have your guests coming back for more. Meeting those revenue goals is, after all, the ultimate cherry-on-top for your hotel operations.
Recognize the rising awareness of dietary trends, demands and food allergies. “Indulgent” usually comes to mind when thinking of desserts, but not everyone has the stomach for them – literally.
Laura Heathcott, Digital Marketing and Social Media Manager at Destination Hotels Group, talks about The Woodmark Hotel’s gluten-free options. The hotel’s gluten-free brownie pie is both delicious and accommodates to those with dietary restrictions, including Celiac Disease.
Consider other dessert offerings for those who are vegan, lactose-intolerant and those who have common allergies to ingredients like peanuts. Train your chefs and kitchen staff to go the extra mile when guests make requests for certain ingredients to be omitted, and if the dessert can, in fact, be modified.
Identify a dessert to highlight – in dining advertising materials, social platforms, website and in-room collateral. It may take time to determine results, but if you find that your signature dessert performs well, you can capitalize on it and use it to build your hotel’s culinary credibility.
Executive Chef at The Ritz-Carlton Toronto, Raghu Addagada, talked about the Signature Ritz-Carlton Chocolate Cake, which has done well for all dining establishments on property.
Addagada said, “We feature it in our Sunday Brunch (and) highlight it to media that have come to experience our hotel as it tells the story of the Ritz-Carlton so well.” The dessert portrays elegance and beauty, two things that the Ritz-Carlton’s brand and history has demonstrated throughout the hotel’s illustrious history.
Strategize with your PR and marketing team to spread the word on your desserts. Make sure you have well-lit photos taken by a professional photographer. These images will not only help you show off your desserts with a visual element, but it will tease guests’ taste buds through outlets like Instagram and Twitter.
“Beautify” your desserts and make sure they are camera- ready! Social media is a governing element in a hotel’s success these days. With food reviews, comments and complaints populating the Web, make sure you do everything you can so that you don’t end up being the topic of “ugly food.” Guests love documenting their food choices and showing them off within their social communities so make sure your plates are as pretty as possible.
Heathcott explains that not only does the Destination Hotels Group shine a spotlight on their chefs by featuring them on a monthly website blog roundup, but they “also encourage guests to share their dining experiences on social media using the hashtag, #DestinationHotels.” This tactic is a great tool for your social monitoring team and helps you quantify your social campaign successes based on the number of posts and reposts that use the hashtag properly.
Always keep your hotel restaurant staff up-to-date with new items and show them that you value their feedback on taste, presentation and even price points.
“Our teams have a daily food tasting for each meal period, as this helps our teams taste the product and speak to the items being offered first hand,” said Addagada.
We all have been there…we all have been stumped on restaurant menus and have turned to the staff to help you make a decision. While it’s important to reiterate to your team that certain items should be pushed based on dining promotions, do allow them to form their “favorites.”
Most guests have a dessert preference, and it’s not always chocolate, although this is a popular choice. Some like it sweet, but not too sweet. Some guests prefer fruit-filled desserts, such as pies, cobblers and tarts. If you want to further impress your guests with your menu’s diversity, offer a cheese platter or cheese flight that pairs well with your after-dinner cocktails.
Speaking of cocktails, how’s your after-dinner cocktail performing? Offer sweet wines and liquor. Have your resident mixologist develop a dessert cocktail that characterizes your hotel brand.
At the Peninsula Hotel in Chicago, Kai Lermen, Director of Food & Beverage, shared: “Our most popular after-dinner cocktail is the “Peninsula Coffee” which includes Godiva Chocolate liqueur and Grand Marnier.”
For many, all it takes to satisfy a sweet tooth is a few bites of a dish that presents quality, fresh ingredients, without compromising flavor. Addagada explains that their lunch service keeps size in mind, and in this case, smaller is better. Serve smaller portions and make sure that your prices reflect that difference. Offer a flight of desserts, which help you show off multiple desserts to your guests.
Be creative but don’t overthink it. Dimitri Fayard, Executive Pastry Chef at The Peninsula Hotel, summed it up nicely when he said, “I think people are going back to basics, something simple with good flavor. We had a phase in the culinary world where everything and anything was tried and now I see it going back to simple flavors, local and fresh product.”
Sometimes the desserts that peak the most interest are classic choices that resonate with guests and inspire memories of homemade meals with their families and loved ones. Think traditional strawberry shortcake, pecan pie, warm bread pudding and cheesecake. When you commit to only using the best ingredients – perhaps even dedicate your hotel to using local ingredients – you are already one step ahead.
So what do you want your guests to remember? What kind of lasting impression do you want to leave? How will you rise above your competition? The principles might be simple, but with so much pressure to do well in all revenue departments, sometimes it’s hard to know the solutions to more F&B sales even when the answer is in something as simple as cake. So take the cake and your guests will have sweet dreams of visiting again soon.