Airbnb study says hotels ripe for F&B boost

(Hotel restaurant)

Airbnb guests have spent US$4.5 billion in the past year on restaurants and dining out in the U.S. and international cities, according to a report conducted by the company. The report illustrated that, while hotels may be missing out on room spend as a result of the sharing platform’s activities, they may yet be able to drive food-and-beverage revenue.

Airbnb said that 64 percent of guests who saved money by using Airbnb spent more on food and shopping, suggesting that the spend was new.

According to Airbnb, no businesses benefit more than restaurants because Airbnb guests spend the greatest portion of their money while traveling on restaurants and dining out, compared to other expenses like shopping, transportation and leisure.

The study followed the launch of Guidebooks, a feature that allows hosts to recommend local spots, including restaurants, stores and other attractions that appear on the map of their public listing page. Available on the Airbnb platform, these guidebooks are combined lists of recommendations from hosts. To date, about 200,000 small businesses and local attractions appear in these city guidebooks, including more than 90,000 restaurants.

Diners Quantified

While it is possible for hotels to identify which of their restaurant guests are staying at the property, it is less easy to quantify how many diners at independent hotels are staying at Airbnb sites. What is certain is that dining out continues to grow and diners have never had greater choice.

According to a study released last month from AlixPartners, consumers around the world appear to want to “trade up” from fast-food restaurants and meals from convenience stores and grocery stores to fast-casual, casual-dining and fine-dining venues.

Airbnb pointed to the benefits for independent, neighbourhood restaurants, findings backed by AlixPartners, which said that globally, only 19 percent of respondents said they preferred dining out at chains versus independent establishments; and only 14 percent of Americans and 9 percent to 11 percent of Europeans surveyed said they preferred chains.

New entrants are coming at the sector from every angle. At last year’s Paris Airbnb Open gathering of hosts, Airbnb partnered with VizEat, dubbed “the Airbnb of food” to offer attendees what it described as “authentic meals in Paris.”

The idea has convinced investors. Earlier this year the group raised EUR3.8m in new funding, with Jean-Michel Petit, co-founder and CEO of VizEat commenting: “For many holidaymakers, a VizEat food experience with locals is often the highlight of any trip. Because travellers don’t have to radically change their travel habits to enjoy these great experiences, VizEat has partnered with a range of hospitality providers, harmoniously aligning itself with the tourism industry.”

Since being founded in 2014, VizEat has built itself up to 90,000 members from more than 100 countries, with the number of food experiences it offers growing by 50 percent every month. As Airbnb has faced a number of legal hurdles, so to has VizEat, which has come under attack from the traditional restaurant sector, led by health and safety issues.

Hotel Offerings

Companies such as Room Mate Hotels have identified the opportunity provided by the sharing economy, launching a new brand, BeMate, to provide apartments with a hotel-like service. The group has 2,500 apartments in 10 cities across Europe and the U.S., close to a partner hotel. The service includes food made at Room Mate hotels as well as local partner restaurants.

The large chain hotels are reluctant to split out their F&B revenues, but continue to launch new restaurant and bar offerings as readily as they launch hotel brands to house them. This has seen them, in the main, resist bringing in recognised high street brands to run their F&B offerings and attract guests, with the exception of Starbucks, which has deals with a number of hotels, most-notably Marriott International.

Along with the familiar, Marriott International is looking to innovation, with its Canvas project, a food-and-beverage talent incubator designed to unlock the potential of unused spaces in European Marriott hotels. This year saw the launch of Notch, a popup rooftop bar revolving around Japanese street food and cans of homemade cocktails, taking inspiration from the millennial hotspots of Williamsberg and Berlin.

“By combining the creativity and passion of entrepreneurs with the scope and resources available in our hotels, we can create some truly extraordinary restaurant and bar experiences,” said Jeremy Dodson,VP, F&B, Marriott International Europe. “Our goal is to empower fresh-thinking, passionate F&B professionals to test out their ideas using dead space within our hotel, inspiring those who visit our hotels but also challenging us to constantly re-think and innovate our F&B offering.”

Hotels are starting to appreciate that restaurants need to be run as standalone offerings. Danny Pecorelli, Exclusive Hotel’s managing director, told the recent Annual Hotel Conference in Manchester that it was important for hotels to look at their restaurants as separate businesses and address the costs and viability of them accordingly. “We’ve spoken to an awful lot of owners who don't really know why they have a restaurant. The lifecycle of restaurants is much shorter than hotels. What's in vogue this year is not the same as last year.”

In 2014 InterContinental Hotels Group looked to improve standards, launching a bespoke training programme for the F&B teams in its hotels across the Asia, Middle East and Africa and Greater China regions.

The company describes itself as “the largest casual dining operator in the world” with over 5,400 restaurants and bars, and more than 800 dining outlets across 246 hotels in Asia, Middle East and Africa. For IHG, the main point of contact with guests is breakfast, with more than 80 percent eating breakfast in the company’s hotels.

“We know that if a customer has a good experience at breakfast, they are more likely to come back for lunch and dinner,” said Phil Broad, VP of F&B, AMEA for IHG. “It is vital our hotels understand and are delivering the right breakfast standards according to what our guests want and need, and that sparked the development of the IHG F&B Training System.”

Katherine Doggrell is an editor at UK-based news analysis service Hotel Analyst.