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Hotel restaurants are back?

For the past two decades, hoteliers have worked hard to reinvent their restaurants, particularly to make sure they would be perceived as stand-alone and not hotel restaurants.

They did this in several concrete ways; I will only take five to illustrate the issue:

  1. Different entrance from the hotel (ideally, a direct entrance from the street)
  2. Different interior designer (a look and feel different from the hotel’s)
  3. Different positioning (such as a very upscale American brand in the Emirates serving Turkish grills at an affordable price)
  4. A branding and visual identity disconnected from the hotel (no reference to the hotel brand, but rather dedicated signage and an independent logo with its own collateral)
  5. A team as independent as possible from the hotel (more delegation of authority to the restaurant team, sometimes with a dedicated incentive package, or even outsourcing)
The Hoxton, Amsterdam
The Hoxton, Amsterdam

Still, we are seeing a new and unexpected trend, especially in the midscale, 3- to 4-star segment, where the paradigm is being completely reconsidered. Indeed, look at Hoxton Hotels, Mama Shelter, Aloft, Moxy or 25Hours, just to name a few. Do those five previous points still apply?

  1. F&B is the first experience: You might enter the hotel through the bar or the lounge, and sometimes reception is touching the restaurant
  2. The interior designer is almost always the same for total consistency between F&B, rooms, corridors and even the elevators
  3. The F&B experience is often consistently positioned in the same price range than the rooms, with the same storytelling and clientele target, or even a single website for both.
  4. Visual identity? Is there even a different name and logo? On the contrary, you go for a drink or a meal at the Hoxton, like you would have gone for tea at the Ritz London or a Singapore Sling at the Raffles (and you would not say “I’m going to the Long Bar at the Raffles,” by the way).
  5. Uniforms, training and attitude towards the guests is also consistent between hotel staff and F&B staff.

Why is this happening and what is the potential for this type of scenario?

For the past five years, we have never seen so many hotel chains creating their own lifestyle brands. These hotels want to be places to be seen, to meet, to party – again, especially true for the 3- and 4-star segment. They are becoming more and more local marketplaces (again), attracting much more than the hotel guests. Focusing on the neighborhood, on the local community, their F&B is contributing a lot to bringing people inside. In the competition to differentiate themselves, F&B is very often a real key component.

And this is a key element to understanding why hoteliers see this as a potential way to also revamp their own brands! With the F&B considered cool or popular, the hotels take back this good image to themselves: a virtuous cycle. Moreover, the ownership and management of these “reconciled” hotels with their F&B are also seeing a few business advantages: one single brand and story, a unique interior designer to be appointed, more versatility within a team that can move from reception to bar, and one global approach.

I think that creating restaurants separate from the hotel concept is still very much up to date and will continue for a long time. Still, we cannot be too Manichean, and looking at what the industry is experiencing today, it makes sense to talk about a “reconciliation” between the hotel experience and the restaurant experience… with reinvented hotel restaurants.

Mama Shelter, Marseille
Mama Shelter, Marseille
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