Two veteran hospitality food service executives convened during the recent Hotel Experience in New York to weigh in on some of the keys to making sure a hotel restaurant is successful covering everything from concept development to celebrity chefs.
The session, entitled “What You Need To Create A Hot F&B Concept,” featured Lana Trevisan, vp, restaurant, bars and events, Two Roads Hospitality, and Peter Christensen, founder, Christensen Consultants.
The pair of executives underscored the importance of food and beverage. “I often say that f&b is the tail that wags the dog of the hotel. I think it’s so important because of the fact that not only is it adding to your guest experience, but it’s 100 percent telling the story of the hotel and it’s able to continuously tell the story of the hotel. There’s only so much people want to see of a picture of a bed or the nice interiors of a room. When you actually have a restaurant that can continuously change it really helps to keep your hotel in the press and to keep it relevant in the community,” said Trevisan.
She further noted that Two Roads and its portfolio of some 90 hotels is expected to generate roughly 800 million in food and beverage revenue this year as she cited another benefit of a robust food & beverage program, which is “to create a community and give authentic local experiences to the hotel guest.”
Christensen, meanwhile, added, “From a practical standpoint I think keeping guests on the property would maximize the potential for profitability.”
The process involved with concept development once the decision has been made by the hotel to introduce a new food & beverage concept became a focal point of the discussion.
Trevisan—who noted she is working on 8 new Thompson Hotels set to come online in the next two years—offered her perspective. “First we decide when we’re doing a concept what the hotel brand will be. We have several different hotel flags, but once we determine what that brand would be then we go from there,” she commented, adding, “using Thompson as an example, we take a lot of pride in building a food and beverage portfolio that’s really meaningful.”
According to Christensen, “The first step would be to make sure there is space available to do it,” he said.
Christensen further added an assessment is made to determine “what’s right for the property.” He pointed out he encourages a meeting with the hotel’s management to “decide what you really want there. Just don’t go off in leftfield without really thinking about what’s going to be important and profitable for your property.”
One element that can be profitable is the addition of celebrity chefs, a strategy employed by many of the properties in the Two Roads portfolio. However, Trevisan did provide some words of caution.
“I think that my advice would be when doing these to make sure that you’re really thinking it through and being thoughtful about the people you choose. In today’s day and age with all of the allegations and everything that’s going on I think it’s really important to understand that you’re truly hitching your wagon to the partner that you choose for the property.
“I strongly suggest that you work a day in their kitchen and get to know them personally. See how they run their kitchens; see how they treat their employees; see how their kitchen runs when they’re not there. It’s extremely important because you’re hitching your wagon to the name of your chef that you’re bringing in to go along with your restaurant,” she commented.
Trevisan also offered a nod to Kimpton Hotels and the boutique company’s well chronicled approach to food & beverage. “I think that Bill Kimpton is probably a pioneer when it comes to this. He always made sure that the restaurant had a separate entrance to the hotel. He always believed in creating a stand-alone restaurant and not a hotel restaurant, but a restaurant that just happened to be in a hotel,” she said.
Christensen agreed while touting a recent stay at Ink 48, which is in the Hell’s Kitchen section of Manhattan. “It’s a really good example of what a hotel with great food service is all about,” he said.
They further amplified the importance of maximizing space. “You can’t successfully do these projects unless your spacial planning is perfect,” she said.
Christensen added that the ratio of back-of-house space to front-of-house—which he said should be roughly 50/50 or 45/55—is critical to the overall operation. “That’s the kind of space that we really have to start with. Sometimes we get a lot of flack because they don’t want to give up that much space to the back of house but that’s what we have to do,” he said.
Trevisan added, “You get that flack because you want to maximize every square foot in a hotel restaurant space to generate revenue. So it’s very difficult when you’re in meetings with developers and owners of the asset trying to explain to them why they don’t have that revenue generating square footage.”