Free breakfasts and complimentary evening receptions traditionally are more about increasing occupancy than making money for a hotel. But Hilton’s Embassy Suites brand is trying to turn that idea on its head with its new food-and-beverage program.
The brand’s new offerings are Brickstones Kitchen & Bar, a contemporary full-service restaurant developed for new hotels using the Design Option III prototype, and E’Terie Bar & Grill and Food to Go, a fast-casual dining concept with a menu of light bites created for legacy hotels.
Alan Roberts, global head, Embassy Suites by Hilton, said it’s critical that the brand get this right because there are so many other food options competing for guests.
“If we can get them to start their evenings in our evening reception event and stick around with us, maybe even buy an appetizer or upgrade their cocktail, make a little bit of money, we change the concept of what has traditionally been the complimentary evening reception,” he said. “For our owners, they think of it as a cost center; we're changing it to a revenue opportunity. It's a win-win because we've got a revenue opportunity for our owners and we've got a better customer experience for our guests, so everybody’s happy.”
E’Terie Bar & Grill offers fresh, quality meals in an environment that encourages socialization, while E’Terie Food to Go will address the needs of guests seeking grab-and-go options. Eliminating the traditional, full-service dining experience, the new fast-casual concept will offer lunch and dinner service, complementing the brand’s evening reception with a menu of salads, sandwiches, snacks and entrees all available for purchase at the Atrium Bar. Food to Go will be located next to the front desk area and will be stocked with take-away options for guests on the move. E’Terie menu items will also be available for in-suite dining.
Brickstones Kitchen & Bar’s à la carte salads, sandwiches and contemporary entrees are also available for dine-in, take-out and in-suite dining. Like E’Terie, Brickstones employs a bar-centric approach to serve American dishes that are unique without being over the top. Moreover, the concept provides owners with the ease of having one venue that can seamlessly transition from the morning’s complimentary, cooked-to-order, breakfast to an à la carte grill experience for lunch and dinner.
Both options transform the Atrium Bar into the hub for all ordering and foodservice, creating a more streamlined staffing model for owners. E’Terie leverages the existing infrastructure at Embassy Suites’ hotels, such as the displays utilized during the made-to-order breakfast and the main kitchen, making it cost-efficient to implement and easy to incorporate into legacy properties.
Roberts said the previous set-up of the evening reception, where those partaking in the free items sat on one side of the lobby and those who wanted a premium experience had to go to the pay bar on the other side of the lobby, did not make sense to him.
“Why between the hours of 5:30 and 7:30 do you have to go over here to have free and then, if you want pay or a better experience, you have to go over there and pay for it,” he said. “And, oh, by the way, our hotel teams are staffing both of those spaces and all that's happening is the guests are moving from the comp bar to the pay bar when it's over. But you have both of them staffed during the entire time. It just didn't make a lot of sense to me.”
Now, through combining the two, it’s all about the choice, the convenience and the control, according to Roberts.
Developing the Ideal
Roberts said the brand is being deliberate, innovative and methodical with the way it is approaching its future in F&B, and that means offering elements that are satisfying and rewarding for not just the guests, but for the owners from a cost perspective, as well.
“Starting with the concepts of Brickstones and E’Terie, we are developing what the ideal would be through those concepts, incorporating the ideal into the existing evening reception element, and then carrying that thread through to what we want to do with breakfast to make sure that we are offering a holistic food-and-beverage experience for our guests and for our owners,” he said. “The key for this is that we're thinking about every element in this. We're not just looking to fix breakfast or to fix evening reception or to offer a new food-and-beverage concept. We're looking holistically throughout, carrying that thread throughout the entire experience.”
Next on the agenda is revamping breakfast.
“We're probably a year out from being able to really tell you exactly what that's going to look like,” Roberts said. “But I can tell you we're looking at it through the same lens that we looked at evening reception. There’s still going to be complimentary breakfast. The cook-to-order element is still going be a part of it. There's going to be a buffet element as part of it.”
The goal, he said, is to figure out how to help the hotels “break the lines” during peak demand periods and eliminate the bottlenecks.