A handful of owner/operators recently discussed the many ways they’ve had to adapt their food & beverage operations in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic highlighted by the continued emergence of ‘ghost kitchens’ and redesigned lobby spaces.
The executives weighed in during a panel discussion entitled “Examining The Ongoing Evolution Of Food & Beverage” during last week’s BITAC Virtual Independent.
Orcun Turkay, corporate director for food & beverage, Shaner Hotel Group—which has a management portfolio of both full-service and limited-service properties—pointed out the company is rethinking its strategies on both sides.
For example, Turkay specifically referenced the Grab ‘n Go offerings at the limited-service level. “We definitely saw a good increase in the business there across the portfolio. That really opened our eyes to how can we be more creative and create more revenues there,” he said.
Turkay further noted the company is restructuring its approach on the full-service side. “How can we make F&B operations profitable business models where they don’t have to depend on hotel occupancies anymore?” he asked, citing local marketing efforts as one critical component.
Zach Cohen, director of development, Vista Investments, noted “it’s all about safety” as he discussed what guests are looking for at a Grab ‘n Go or other limited service offering.
“They need to know that it’s clean and it’s separated. Obviously, they’re going there because they don’t want to risk going to the local grocery store or something like that. They should see our hotels as sort of sanctuary at this point,” he said.
Cohen added that approach permeates the entire hotel. “We’ve just really tried our best to deliver that sense of security and safety everywhere from the F&B to the limited service [amenities] that we do. We’re delivering that from check-in all the way through to what they have in the rooms,” he noted.
Michael Doumanian, vp, food & beverage, Boyne Mountain Resort, stressed that since the state of Michigan still doesn’t allow indoor dining the resort has had to pivot for its skiers.
“We’ve had to transition. We’ve had multiple outdoor bars and we brought in three different food trucks. We implemented online ordering platforms for our full-service restaurants and really just found every way that we can do to make it work,” he said, adding the property has also added multiple fire pits and igloos outside.
Doumanian further emphasized the property’s ability to adapt. “We’re just finding every way we can do business a little differently. It’s actually worked out pretty well and the team has done a good job of adjusting to it. As it’s been for the last 10 or 11 months we have a plan A, B, and C all the time.”
Brett Magnan, executive director/principal, CherryTree, noted the company advises many owners and operators on how to operate more efficiently as he detailed some of the recent changes.
“I think that we’re all looking at all of our restaurants and saying ‘we have to eliminate buffets so how do we continue to offer food and beverage differently as we’re moving forward?’ The traditional sit-down white tablecloth restaurant may not come back in the short run; maybe it’s going to come back in a few years,” he noted.
Meanwhile, the emerging trend of hotels utilizing their equipment and existing food inventory to run ‘ghost kitchens’ through online ordering channels to generate additional revenue continues to gain momentum.
Turkan noted Shaner is the process of launching a ghost kitchen of its own.
“We still have a good amount of people that are still going to be afraid of going out and continue to dine in their houses. I know we’re going to see a huge spike as soon as things open up, but I think if the costs involved are minimal and if it’s creating good revenue I think we’ll continue to push towards that,” he said.
Magnan also touted the benefits to hoteliers of both ghost kitchens or renting out kitchens.
“It gives us a great opportunity in this pandemic to take advantage of doing things better and better isn’t necessarily more stars or more ratings. It’s more profitably and better for the guests and better for the ownership,” he said.
In the wake of the pandemic, many properties are redesigning the lobbies to accommodate some of the dining that previously was confined to restaurants.
“We’ve had to make changes on how we provide service and our hotel lobbies have had to go through a lot of transition,” said Magnan.
Turcan reinforced the point.
“We’ve done it on multiple locations where the restaurant space was closed. We’d be focused on the bar knowing that the beverage portion of the vision is the most profitable one. We were focused on activating the space and how can we make more margins?” he said.
Turcan added, “I think we’ve definitely done it somewhat successfully. Not everybody wants to go to sit at the bar so in some locations you lost some of that business that wanted to go to a more traditional sit-down dinner environment. We’re still looking at it.”
Magnan concluded by offering a measure of optimism for food & beverage outlets going forward.
“The conversations that we have had have been very fruitful. I think in the next three to six months as we start to come out of this pandemic and the vaccinations start to build confidence we’re starting to sort of figure out our new normal. I think there will be large amounts of growth in this business niche,” he said.