10 dos and don'ts for managing hotel food-and-beverage

Here are 5 things to do and 5 things not to do when running a hotel restaurant

A hotel’s food-and-beverage program presents a unique opportunity for hoteliers to drive revenue; however, there will be a quick demise if you cut corners or reduce the operation to an afterthought. F&B programs are highly dynamic operations that can teeter anywhere between growing lucrative and becoming a lost cause. As such, hotels interested in remaining competitive within this functional area must be willing to invest accordingly into human capital and program development. Such an investment is critical in driving overall asset value, not only because F&B revenues increase, but also because hoteliers are able to leverage F&B to position a property within its market and drive revenues in the rooms division.

But what does that investment look like? With limited resources, minimal margins and fast currents of culinary trends, it can be a challenge to identify when and where to allocate your investment. To help you navigate the tricky terrain, we’ve outlined the top five do’s and do not’s of F&B management.

1. Do Not Hire Aimlessly

Hoteliers will often simply hire warm bodies for F&B positions, but they do so at great risk. You need to take as much care as you do with hiring the rest of the team in order for your F&B outlet to thrive. Likewise, many hoteliers will hire a one-dimensional F&B director with no front-of-house experience, or no kitchen experience. A great F&B director needs to be well rounded in all F&B operations if he or she is going to lead the team to success.

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2. Do Not Slack on Training

Hiring the right people doesn’t mean much if you aren’t going to properly train them. When proper training isn’t forethought, bad habits are learned and become part of the culture. It’s not enough for new employees to simply mirror established employees. That’s a poor practice because it can never ensure proper training. A lack of training translates to higher turnover, higher operational cost, lower employee morale and a diminished guest experience.

3. Do Not Skip Stand-ups

These crucial daily meetings are often overlooked in the F&B space, but they are important so that the entire team can be on the same page. Communication about the menu and any changes or specials, along with upselling opportunities, should be discussed during this time. Uniform and appearance should be checked. Reservations, special groups and VIP’s should be reviewed as well as to ensure the team has a complete understanding of the day’s activity.

4. Do Not Forget to Taste

Servers need to taste every menu item. Your guests inevitably will have questions about the menu, and servers need to be able to answer those questions. They can’t answer honestly without having firsthand experience with the menu, nor can they make upsell suggestions that will generate more revenue.

5. Do Not Ignore the Financials

Or rather, waiting until financial statements come out on the 15th of the month to really take note of what’s going on. By then, it’s too late. You need an opportunity to address your revenue and expenses in the month, for the month, and correct any issues. When you are proactive, you are profitable.

Hotel restaurant servers should taste every item on the menu

1. Do Listen to Guests

If you don’t solicit and listen to guests’ feedback, they will respond by taking their business elsewhere. You are catering to these guests, and if something isn’t working for them, you need to listen to their feedback and make the necessary changes.

2. Do Stay True to Your Brand

On the other hand, you can’t please everyone—nor should you try. Keep menu items simple, fresh and inviting. While a simple menu might not appeal to everyone, it will be attractive to many and the F&B team will execute it more efficiently. Even though a menu is simple, that doesn’t mean it can’t be creative. Run creative specials that will draw in guests and locals alike.

3. Do Keep it Clean

Just as guests are looking for clean hotel rooms, they are also looking for clean F&B outlets that take food safety seriously. In addition to the chef and the kitchen team, the GM should also be certified in food safety and conduct routine checks to ensure that all areas are safe and clean.

4. Do Maintain Quality Standards

Today’s consumers demand quality products. While quality food items certainly can cost more, skimping in this area will cost more in the long run if unhappy customers never return. Understand that pricing on food can fluctuate daily and then strategize for it, but never cheapen the product in the process.

5. Do Be consistent

Make sure all team members know the proper portion and plating presentation of the food. Take pictures of how the menu items should be presented when served and display them on a board in the kitchen. Have recipe cards for each menu item with specific ingredients and cooking directions. These two practices will ensure quality and presentation remain consistent for all guests.

Bonus: Strategize for roomservice

Roomservice can be profitable if it’s done right, but the days of three-meal roomservice are gone. Only offer roomservice during the meal times that most guests demand, namely breakfast and late-night menus. Don’t ever offer the full restaurant menu. Instead, the roomservice menu should consist of items that are easy to prepare and transport, and will hold their temperature well. Someone should also be dedicated to answering the phone; this task should not fall on a front-desk associate. The same goes for food delivery. Remember, because you are not offering roomservice all day, there is no need to staff the service 24/7. The roomservice team also needs to check hallways for dirty trays that promote pests and leave an unsightly negative impression of a dirty hotel.

Every F&B outlet is different, but it will be successful if designed correctly from menu to team. You want your hotel F&B to be the best amenity it can be in order to substantiate average rate and increase room sales.

Jim Sichta is VP of operations at Charlestowne Hotels. He served as COO of Broughton Hotels for 13 years, and has worked in hospitality since 1985.