Competing with the unexpected

Have you ever walked into your hotel room, dropped off your bags and immediately called a cab to take you to that must-try, latest and greatest restaurant? I have, and I do with regularity. This is now the norm, not only for me, but for many guests these days, and I don’t see this tendency changing anytime soon.

So, what’s to be done? Hoteliers must fight the urge to carry on as if this behavior is just a passing trend, as if they can lease their space to a restaurant rather than provide a restaurant of their own making. Stand-alone hotels are seldom the draw or sole destination for travelers anymore. Guests want a reliable, clean and comfortable place to call home during sleeping hours, and, upon waking, seek out entertainment by patronizing popular restaurants, cafes and pop-ups. Hotels can’t afford to continue in the traditional way. According to the National Restaurant Association, restaurant sales in 2012 were up 3.1% from 2011, and of a US$575 billion food and beverage pie, a hotel’s share is only US$31 billion. People are eating out, but they are clearly eating out disproportionately when it comes to hotel restaurants.

To make the affair inviting and special, be sure to practice service styles that complement the hotel’s level of service standards while competing with those successful restaurants around you. That doesn’t mean you should copy them, but pay attention to their style and price points. If you are a 4- or 5-star hotel, you need to have white-glove service. What that means is that you need to provide all of the appointments people staying in your hotel would like as well as anticipate their needs in the public spaces surrounding your hotel. A hotelier told me once that his US$25 hamburger was the best in town. To tell you the truth, a hamburger is pretty much a hamburger, and US$25 is a lot to pay when you see your neighbors selling them for US$12. Providing a hamburger with homemade buns and house-cured pickles starts to become interesting, and you can still sell it for a little more than your competitors.

Taking the extra step to notice what the successful restaurants are doing, how and at what price will leave the guest feeling special while also legitimizing your restaurant, the hotel and the brand in their eyes. What’s more, enjoying a full restaurant each night will leave your budget happy, too.