The theater of life
What is the primary role of your restaurant? Is it to refuel your guests? Or, is it to act as a beacon, signifying to the outside world that your hotel is interesting, or modern and chic, or solid and high-quality?
I believe that there are two kinds of hotels, just like there are restaurants. One is a safe and a clean place to sleep while away from your home. The other is an opportunity to explore a different corner of how you would like to live, kind of like renting an experience for a night or two. Restaurants are either there to refuel you with little emphasis on style or experience, or they are about delivering style and experience that also let you savor your nourishment. Operators who are clear on which side of the fence they fall on are fine; it is the ones in between that are likely to miss a big opportunity.
Have you noticed how many movies have been released in 3D since “Avatar”? That movie changed our expectations for viewing feature films, and it has been rewarded by becoming the highest-grossing film in history. Now we have 3D television. In less than a year we have leapt from passively watching a screen to becoming part of the 3D experience. What this means to me is that people are being led into a higher realm of experience that they, whether consciously or not, will start to expect from other mediums. You sit through a movie for an hour and a half; you sit at dinner for an hour and a half. It is all part of the theater of life, whether it is Hollywood or your neighborhood restaurant that becomes part of the pageant of your life.
People today talk about lifestyle hotels. I don’t think they are talking about lifestyle sleeping; they are talking about lifestyle living — the awake part of a hotel stay. This takes place less in the rooms and more in the social spaces. We are moving quickly away from a secure, clean place to sleep and refuel towards an experiential mini-vacation that includes sleep and, like 3D, an interactive experience out of our ordinary.