Today’s hotel guests now expect a good—if not great—cup of coffee in their room. And this anticipation is only growing stronger with time. In fact, Marco Manzie, president of Paramount Hospitality Management, said that coffee will find its way into the top-five complaints from hotel guests without fail if it is not on offer, meaning if a hotel wants to make its guests happy, then providing coffee is not debatable.
Manzie also said that guests are done with traditional coffee pots in guestrooms. Travelers are not interested in brewing a large pot of coffee and going back for refills—instead, they grab one cup in the room and then one cup on the go at their favorite branded location. This is where single-cup capsule-based coffeemakers come in handy.
When the JW Marriott Miami opened four years ago, its guestrooms were already equipped with one-cup coffeemakers, and Paul Pebley, the director of sales and marketing for the property, said the decision to focus on those machines stemmed from ease of use. According to Pebley, having a one-touch system for coffee brewing in the guestroom was critical for hotels offering more than one coffee option.
“We offer guests the opportunity to use espresso machines, and originally there was the fear that these may be too difficult for the average guest to figure out,” Pebley said. “With offerings like this that are outside the box, it’s critical to have something simple to balance it out.”
Single-cup coffeemakers are also easier for housekeeping to clean quickly compared to cumbersome coffee pots, and allay fears that a guest may burn a serving while heating it. Manzie said these coffeemakers can also help diffuse guest frustration when it comes to burning coffee—which produces odors that can affect other guests and create a more time-consuming mess for housekeeping.
Even the look of the machines is important, Pebley said. Hotels trying to emulate a residential experience in their guestroom are trying to provide more than would be expected in the guests’ home, and that starts with an aesthetically pleasing coffeemaker that guests can use without reading a manual.
The power of brands to lure travelers
Fancy coffeemakers are only as good as the coffee they are serving. Which is why Marco Manzie, president of Paramount Hospitality Management, said brand recognition is the greatest driver for guestroom coffee as a means to get travelers interested in the product.
According to Manzie, most hotels are holding tightly to the bigger coffee brands while small, local coffee providers often team up with select properties that are trying for a more chic or bespoke atmosphere. These smaller hotels are attracting travelers who are more interested in an off-brand hotel product, so it stands to reason they are also more interested in smaller coffee providers as well.
“An independent property or a small branded boutique would be more interested in a coffee product that is locally recognized,” Manzie said. “Big hotel brands still want the traditional coffee offerings, though.”
The JW Marriott Miami aligned itself with Illy as its coffee provider, and Paul Pebley, director of sales and marketing for the hotel, said the decision to go with Illy stemmed from a desire to be with a brand that was large, yet not ubiquitous.
“Some brands have become over-saturated in the hotel market to the point there is no longer a competitive difference in some areas,” Pebley said. “The [coffee] brand your hotel has is supporting all the pricing throughout your property, and it adds to your image. If you are operating a luxury hotel without offering a luxury brand of coffee, you have to wonder if a guest will pay money for it.”
Coffee services that grab you off the street
Providing coffee in the guestroom may be a necessity, but it is not feasible for hotels to account for the voluminous number of specialty drinks that guests crave. Travelers often want to gas up on guestroom coffee when they wake up, but are content with walking a little to find the more complex drinks served at a café.
The Hyatt Regency St. Louis has a Starbucks right inside the hotel, and also stocks its guestrooms with Starbucks-branded coffee products. According to Tyson Warner, the director of operations for the property, having access to the Starbucks logo for advertisements within the hotel helps steer guests to the store, which is accessible from both within the hotel and directly from the street.
“We are in a unique situation thanks to having both entrances,” Warren said. Arrival days at the hotel also translate into big business for the Starbucks, where the hotel funnels guests by providing samples and using targeted marketing and signage to direct guests to the store.
Though the Starbucks is operated by the hotel, Warren said operationally the goal is to have the café feel more like a Starbucks than a Hyatt-run store to fully leverage the power of the brand. Tyson also doesn’t believe that a guest will come into a hotel to buy coffee when the option is available for street entrances, and advises operationally to keep the two businesses separate on a surface level.
However, Paul Pebley, director of sales and marketing for the JW Marriott in Miami, says that some guests are willing to venture inside if they know a good cup of coffee is waiting. Pebley’s property has the Intermezzo café on its second-floor lobby, and positions the café to compete with other nearby coffee establishments. Pebley said that the hotel does have one major advantage on this front in its location in downtown Miami, a major coffee drinking hotspot.
“Coffee drinkers in Miami tend to drink all day long, especially after lunch,” Pebley said. With the hotel’s location allowing for it to scoop up business off the street, Pebley said it was a priority to make guests feel it was worth their time to go to a second-story coffee bar when other options are available at street level. The hotel did this by providing room to the café for a large seating area, as well as supplying free newspapers and multiple TVs.
“In a discerning community, you have to know what will set you apart,” Pebley said.
Four tips for better coffee services
1 American travelers are more invested in their coffee than ever before, and there are numbers to prove it. According to a 2014 national coffee drinking trends study, released by the National Coffee Association USA, the consumption of gourmet coffee in the U.S. rose from 5 percent to 19 percent between 2000 and 2014.
2 Having a large branded coffee chain in your hotel is a significant investment that is not usually recommended for limited-service properties. The average hotel with large cafés has 350 or more rooms, and even then, sometimes, a street-facing entrance is preferable or required to meet the expected demand to manage such a café.
3 Training for baristas is a big deal. It opens the opportunity to add personal touches to individual drinks and directly affect a guest’s experience.
4 Offering coffee in the guestroom and in the hotel lobby does not mean one area will steal from another. Hotel guests get their coffee from these two locations for different reasons, but it is important to note that guestroom coffee is a necessity, while a lobby café is not guaranteed business.