How to find your sweet spot in F&B

Charcuterie is quick and easy to prepare (Charcuterie)

In the select-service realm, the hotel industry must figure out once and for all if it is, or isn’t, in the food-and-beverage business. Subpar offerings and an unenthusiastic commitment are sending mixed signals to guests. And it’s hurting your hotel’s profit potential.

What I’ve observed is the select-service side of the industry in aggregate is essentially telling guests they should either go elsewhere for food, or submit to eating something that’s sure to be a disappointment.

This shouldn’t be a shocking revelation. It’s the industry’s fault we got here by blind-eye inattention coupled with a lacking of deep knowledge surrounding food. While a major food revolution has been upping the expectations of taste buds everywhere, the hotel industry has essentially said we don’t care (that sounds so Jesse Jackson, ha!).  

Select-service franchisors have always perceived food as a burden that messes with the ownership financial model, rather than an opportunity for a robust new profit center. And their lackluster attempts at creating the right model always feels like the brands are compromising with themselves. Like they’re saying “Yeah, we have to do this because trends say so, but we really only have to appear like we are committed.”

Of course, the industry hasn’t been consciously saying we don’t want guests to enjoy a nice dinner, but it’s constantly hanging in the air. It’s creating a psychological subtext where the hotel industry is subliminally telling guests your F&B offerings don’t matter. And in fact, should be avoided like an M. Night Shyamalan film. You tricked me the first time, but now I expect what you offer to suck so I will avoid it at all costs.

Hotel breakfast

There’s a big reason that local pizza place down the block is raking it in by coming through your doors five or more times a night: Your guests have no real choice.

The hotel industry is missing out on a potentially strong profit center, and one that could expand beyond serving food, if perhaps more looked at this opportunity such as Heart of America, a hotel and restaurant ownership company that started with a farm-to-table concept called The Machine Shed back in 1978.

“Most of our hotel general managers come through the restaurant side of our business. That’s because the heartbeat of a restaurant operator beats significantly faster than that of a hotel operator,” said Ajay Singh, VP of brand development for the company’s Johnny’s Italian Steakhouse division. I experienced that last weekend when I was a guest at their Hotel Renovo concept in the outskirts of Des Moines, Iowa. They’re about to build a second one in Fort Worth, Texas with more expected to follow.

Singh said these professionals with restaurant backgrounds do not see F&B as a separate silo from the hotel; they operate this category as an integrated part of the hotel. That means they’re not just great at guest relations, but can operate the hotel in a more cohesive way, blending in the F&B side of the business more expertly.

Hotel Renovo served food that was on trend and easy to prepare. Charcuterie and cheese plate paired with a nice glass of wine, please. Perfect, easy to put together and made from ingredients not quickly perishable.

It’s an interesting approach, and one the major franchisors should consider. Find some folks from the restaurant world that can inject that sensibility and deeper understanding into future select service hotel concepts.

If you can reinvent your food, you’ll be dining on better profits for years to come.

Do you agree? Or perhaps you vehemently disagree and feel compelled to tell me why. Write me at [email protected] or find me on Twitter and Instagram at @TravelingGlenn.