Optimism is essential to achievement

Optimism is essential to achievement, and it is also the foundation of courage and true progress.

— Nicholas Butler

When I have sat down these many times to write some thoughts about the restaurant business — or a hotel’s food and beverage outlets — I usually find myself writing from the standpoint of what’s wrong with it. The reality is that the restaurant business, whether in a hotel or a free standing building, is a complex and ever-changing experience that mirrors the population of its community.

If there is an element that differentiates the free standing restaurant from the institutional outlet, it is the optimism of the owner that they are delivering to the public an experience that is deeply personal to the owner of the restaurant, something that is a statement of beliefs and love and a desire to share that care with others, hopefully for profit. These restaurants are on most corners in every major city of the world and provide if not the greatest food, then they try to provide the greatest experience their customers want. Life is not always about fancy it is about feeling good.

An institutional outlet, on the other hand, is generally a cog in the wheel of a greater institution: the hotel, which is fundamentally a real estate play based on the value of room rates and occupancy. The outlets are necessary, but subordinate to the rooms. Even if their outlet does fabulous volume, it cannot compete with the rooms for profit.

In the last 10 years or so this landscape has been changing and a new segment has emerged: the life style segment. To satisfy this new segment, hotels are developing what seen more like “fun zones” with bocce ball courts, bowling alleys, pool tables (sometimes even in the lobby), multiple food stations, bars and restaurants. These then become the heart of the hotel’s experience, and it is the fun of staying there because the restaurants are not outlets anymore they are the hub of the hotel concept and the rooms are subordinate to the experience. 

Optimism is really having the courage to do something different. It is watching closely as the world changes and recognizing that something in fact has changed that impacts your business.