When food can talk: Heads in beds from food on plates

I love a great meal. The aroma, atmosphere, presentation and ultimately the taste all make for a great dining experience. Being in this industry for a while, I’ve had some pretty bad meals at hotels; and on the flip side, some of the best dishes I’ve tasted have come from hotel kitchens.

A hotel restaurant is more than just a line item in the lengthy roster of amenities and services for our guests; it can be the face and voice of your hotel — and it should be. Almost like a person, the hotel is the outer looks and the restaurant is the character within. I always wonder, if a restaurant could talk, what would it say? How would it sound? What type of personality would it have? Every restaurant has its own voice, and to me it provides a personality to the entire operation. I not a fan of the term “hotel restaurant”; I prefer to call it a “restaurant” (that happens to be attached to the hotel). That way I get to judge and experience it on its own merits.

 In the past everyone assumed the hotel would provide customers to the restaurant. Sure, this is still the case (especially for breakfast). It’s virtually a given that you will capture hotel guests as restaurant patrons at least for one meal during their stay. It is actually the reverse that we should be focusing on: restaurants driving guests to the hotel. This was very rarely the case 20 years ago, but now with a number of chef-driven restaurants at hotels and trying-to-be-standalone restaurants that are in fact part of the hotel, the hospitality food game has changed. Think of a local who loves your “hotel” restaurant and then when asked by a friend where they should stay in town it’s your hotel that is top of mind because they feel at home in your restaurant.

A great restaurant can completely transform, improve and drive the reputation of your hotel (especially online) and open an entirely new audience to your property. Foodies have big mouths (pun intended) and love to talk about the last great meal they had. They are loyal, and many write reviews, post photos of their dishes on the social networks and even blog about their culinary experiences. This can be a huge driver to your site and, ultimately, your bottom line.  

And don’t stop at just the restaurant; you’ll be missing out. Despite recent chatter about room service becoming extinct, it is here to stay in most establishments. Let the restaurant dictate the in-room dining experience, not the other way around. Many times I will see a great restaurant in a hotel with a cool vibe, great atmosphere and incredible menu selections, and the in-room dining experience is the exact opposite — boring menu, stodgy-looking hotel-type uniforms, blah all around. Why not have the same uniforms on your in-room dining servers as you do in the restaurant? Bring the restaurant to the room; isn’t that the whole idea?

The experience a guest has at the hotel’s restaurant, in-room dining or bar can really make or break the way he or she remembers the hotel. If you provide a wonderful arrival experience, have helpful employees and invest in finely appointed accommodations but treat F&B like an amenity rather than an experience, you can expect the guest will have a black mark on their memory of the hotel. Guests should not need a “but” when describing their experience, and food and beverage is an easy way to impress or disappoint. Spend a little time making sure your food is worthy of being talked about. That food on a plate can ultimately lead to heads in beds.