How Interstate is making its menus greener

Photo: iStock / Getty Images Plus / jenifoto

Arlington, Va.-based Interstate Hotels & Resorts is catering—literally—to new demands with a new vegetarian and vegan culinary promotion for its managed hotels.

While Interstate generally holds two culinary promotions each year, this is hardly a gimmick, Bradley Moore, Interstate’s VP of food & beverage operations, said. “It’s not so much the promotion as an opportunity to change menus and move items off that don’t sell, put trending items on and update the pricing.”

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Evolution

The idea began a year ago as Moore and his team began exploring the growth of plant-based diets. “It’s a huge movement,” he said. “We looked at the number of vegan searches on Google. In 2016, those searches grew 90 percent. In 2017, it was up 72 percent. You can see it build. You see it as you eat. Everybody’s drawing attention because [vegans and vegetarians] represent a big part of the population.”

The Interstate team began looking at the menus at the company’s managed hotels to see how its restaurants were keeping up with the trend. “It was disappointing,” Moore acknowledged. “Maybe 12 percent of our hotels offered a vegetarian option, and fewer than 2 percent had vegan options.” Worse yet, he said, the vegetarian dishes simply weren’t well-crafted—hardly an incentive for guests to come back, or recommend the hotel to other vegetarians or vegans.

As the team considered not only the restaurants serving three meals per day but the catering facilities for groups and events, they realized that the lack of vegetarian and vegan options could be costing the hotel significant revenue from groups and events. “In catering, if one individual can’t eat, the whole group will avoid the hotel,” Moore said.

Interstate’s Food and Beverage Advisory Council—a group of 15 chefs, F&B directors and catering professionals—joined Moore at the Culinary Vegetable Institute in Milan, Ohio, and stayed for a week to create recipes, take pictures and record training videos for future reference. “Believe or not, we ended up walking away with 27 recipes,” Moore said. “It was never our intent to come away with that many.”

The recipes include corn risotto, eggplant meatballs and zucchini noodles, Nashville eggplant with mac & cheese and wilted kale, pastrami beets, zucchini squash spaghetti with spigarello hazelnut pesto and tuscan avocado toast.

New Revenue

With 27 recipes now available online, chefs at each hotel can select two for breakfast—one vegetarian and one vegan—and six each for lunch and dinner, three of which are vegan and three of which are vegetarian. The recipes are stored online with not only photos and videos, but records of how often guests request each dish. “It’s a resource for catering and banquet menus,” Moore said.

The new menus can also boost hotel revenue. “[Guests are] trying to eat healthier,” Moore said. “That’s very difficult on the road, so they’re willing to pay more to eat well. In our case, we weren’t meeting our guests’’ needs. We challenged the council to develop recipes that we could charge as much for as meat-based entrees.”

All of Interstate’s full-service hotels are on board, Moore said, and have implemented the new menu. “Now we’re waiting for the data.”