Like many of you in the hospitality business, I read quite a few industry periodicals. A headline in Nation’s Restaurant News recently caught my eye: “Renovation nation: Restaurant revamps speed up as operators compete for customer interest.” For those of you in the hotels, this means a lot more competition. Why? It’s not about price, it is about value. How do you compete against a local restaurant — or a chain, for that matter — that updates its décor, adding value and providing guests with a payoff that justifies the price they pay?
Danya Proud, a McDonald’s spokeswoman says, “We have to determine what is relevant to people when they eat out now; sometimes that’s making the music more contemporary or offering free Wi-Fi.” Now, how many of you pay close attention to the music when you are dining? I bet you notice when it doesn’t feel right for the space, though, and if McDonald’s provides free Wi-Fi, why am I paying $10 to $15 for Wi-Fi in a hotel? One of the most common requests my firm receives from hotels today is creating grab-and-go spaces to compete with the Starbucks (inevitably) across the street. I was recently at a hotel where people were sitting out in the freezing cold under heat lamps across the street at Starbucks rather than inside the hotel dining room. What does this say about what you are doing? The restaurant business is not just about competing with products; you have to compete for the hearts and minds of people. I expect a good night’s sleep when I book a room in any hotel, but my loyalty goes to the hotel that provides a comfortable home away from home. This is seldom done at the front desk or with housekeeping, but it can be done with your restaurant.
Kelly Hasty, spokeswoman for Liberty Restaurant Group, says they do re-models at their 23 Burger King franchises every three to five years. “We know that such sales are driven by our habitual customers who may come two to three times a week,” Hasty says. “They’re watching you put in new seating and adding TVs. So as soon as that’s completed, they’re back, because they want to be part of the excitement.” Ask yourself this: How many regular customers do I have dining at my restaurant? Revenues can increase significantly if you draw business from the locals and concentrate on what they are looking for, rather than just what your overnight guests are seeking. They are the ones who are physically able to frequent your restaurant more often, and it is no secret that hotel guests want to dine at a city’s locally popular place. You can learn from all food and beverage outlets and consider them your competition — not just hotel restaurants. And, yes, that includes fast-food and chain establishments.
Here are my key takeaways from the article:
The goal: becoming “that third space outside of work or home where people gather.”
The challenge: “We have to determine what is relevant to people when they eat out now.”
The solution: “Be continuously dynamic.”