How to best monetize social spaces with F&B

The lobby is returning as the social hub for hotels – for both guests and locals looking for a communal experience.

How to best service and monetize these spaces – both indoors and outdoors – requires continual reconsideration and creativity in offerings and delivery.

HOTELS recently spoke to Jay Wetzel, vice president of food and beverage, Americas, for Rosewood Hotels & Resorts to get his take on this every-present opportunity.

“Overall, our key takeaways are that while pop-ups must seamlessly complement the existing property experience, they should also offer something unexpected, seasonally relevant, and visually impressive that will stick with guests long after their stay.” — Jay Wetzel

HOTELS: What do hotel F&B operators need to know about using the lobby to sell/offer new F&B experiences?

Jay Wetzel: In the hospitality industry, we must always be innovative when it comes to maximizing our spaces and resources. At Rosewood, we’ve always looked at our lobbies as spaces that commence the guest journey and set the tone for their stay. Bringing another element of the property experience to life in these areas, such as a food and beverage offering, can effectively make the space more elevated and also dynamic to your guests’ needs, especially in this age of remote work when more and more people are looking for inspiring environments in which to work, socialize, and relax beyond their rooms.

H: What are the main considerations to look at before doing a pop-up on property, for example?

JW: We’ve experimented with a multitude of strategies and found that there are several different paths to success, from flexing our global food and beverage talent to tapping into like-minded brands to create something memorable for our guests. Overall, our key takeaways are that while pop-ups must seamlessly complement the existing property experience, they should also offer something unexpected, seasonally relevant, and visually impressive that will stick with guests long after their stay.

H: How do F&B teams work with design teams to conceptualize pop-ups/offerings – especially in communal and lobby spaces?

JW: Design has always been a fundamental part of the food and beverage experience at Rosewood Hotels & Resorts. This can be seen across all our dedicated restaurant and bar spaces as well as through special amenities such as our in-room bars. Across the portfolio, our communal spaces are already high-design and filled with their own unique touches. So, when conceptualizing even just a temporary overhaul, we need to make sure the end result is not only eye-catching for guests but also clearly fits into the overall experience. Our cross-departmental teams all have an eye for each property’s unique look and feel and work together to ensure that the fundamental ethos of the destination remains at the center of everything we do. As mentioned, this is sometimes in concert with exceptional partner brands who further contribute their own expertise and vision the design.

H: What are the various avenues that hotels can use within the lobby space, to better sell F&B and what has worked the best, providing the best return on investment?

JW: For Rosewood guests, we’ve found that what really resonates are food and beverage offerings that are experiential, seasonal, and true to their destination. We’ve sought to create offerings that not only support the business and sales side but also further cement our guiding A Sense of Place philosophy. As such our overarching goal is always to create an experience that makes our guests feel truly immersed in their surroundings. That said, it is critical to ensure any new or temporary offering is appropriately elevated, especially as for near all of our guests, the lobby is their first experience with the property. Any use of the space must demonstrate the same high level of service that they can expect throughout their stay.

La Veranda pop-up at Rosewood London

While not located in the lobby, one example of a successful transformation of a communal space is when we brought Rosewood Mayakoba’s renowned beach club, Aqui Me Quedo, to the shores of Miramar Beach in Montecito. By hosting this al fresco experience directly against the backdrop of one of Southern California’s most beautiful beaches, we were able to excite our guests with something new while also taking advantage of our privileged location that is a highlight of any visit to Rosewood Miramar Beach.

H: What should hoteliers consider within the lobby for F&B?  How should they look at the space?

JW: Accessibility and space are the logistical constraints when activating in communal spaces. Lobbies, of course, have the physical purpose of being a point of entry and check-in area for guests. So, you want to ensure any new or temporary activation doesn’t create an influx of activity that can be disruptive, while simultaneously making sure that offerings are easy to access for guests and locals alike.

H: How have you activated lobby spaces, what were the results, and what are you planning for the future?

JW: Over the last year, we’ve had several of our properties execute unique food and beverage experiences in communal spaces that have been well received by guests.

This past summer, many properties were able to use their outdoor communal spaces for pop-up experiences, such as Rosewood London which hosted a special Tulum-inspired offering, ‘La Veranda,’ in the hotel’s Edwardian Courtyard. Created in partnership with Patron, this “hideaway” completely transformed the space and offered guests al fresco drinking and dining throughout the day, featuring specially curated menus.

Hôtel de Crillon, A Rosewood Hotel, also created a summer offer that delighted both guests and locals alike. The property’s pastry chef Matthieu Carlin created a dedicated “ice cream cabana” on the Place de la Concorde, the biggest square in Paris. Every week, Chef Carlin concocted new unique creations with refreshing and exciting flavors. Given the success of these recent initiatives, we will certainly continue to innovate in this space throughout the rest of the year and beyond, focusing on both evergreen and seasonal programming.