Mealtimes an opportunity to win millennials' hearts

Food & Beverage

The old saying is that the fastest way to a man's heart is through his stomach, but that bit of wisdom might need to be updated to refer to millennials instead. Food and beverage might be the best way to win their hearts and wallets (and, of course, repeat stays). After all, everyone has to eat.

It's been noted in a number of surveys and other research that it's harder to instill loyalty in the millennial generation than in previous generations, but the companies and brands that manage to capture the hearts and minds of these adults born after 1980 have the potential to win big for decades to come. The relative youth of these consumers and the sheer number of them make them impossible to ignore.

When it comes to F&B, the same old-same old restaurants and menus aren't enough to convince these guests to dine at their hotel. They are looking for more flexible options, healthier selections, an intriguing story: Going to eat at a hotel restaurant should be an experience.

To get a better feel for the millennial mindset in terms of hotel F&B, we asked members of this year's HOTEL MANAGEMENT Thirty Under 30 class what they look for in hotel F&B, what their likes and dislikes are, and what hotel/brand/company gets F&B right. Here are some of their responses.

Independent mindset

Ravi Patel, president, Hawkeye Hotels: I look for a fresh, appetizing menu with variety. I’m also looking for a unique experience, something I can’t get anywhere else. I am far more likely to eat at a hotel restaurant when there’s a unique/independent restaurant onsite as opposed to a franchise. 

I think Courtyards, Hilton Gardens and Alofts have the best F&B outlets. I can grab a drink at their bar, order a sandwich or have a custom breakfast item made. The food is definitely a step up from some of the other limited/focus-service brands out there. 

In search of variety

Andrew Quinto, general manager, Fairfield Inn & Suites, Hyannis, Mass.: I look for a property with different food outlets. If I’m there for more than one night and stuck in the hotel, I want different options. The other thing I love is a property with a Starbucks in it.

I dislike bad roomservice food. I’ve received roomservice breakfast before that you can tell is just mass produced, I want a property that takes care of crafting every meal, whether it’s eaten in their restaurant or in a room.

What hotel/brand/hotel company gets F&B right? The W. They really take their Whatever, Whenever to the next level. I know a W property that opened their restaurant for one guest at 2:30 a.m.

Authentic food a necessity

Alicia Luke, GM, Hotel 41 New York: When I travel, I look for dining experiences that represent the local culture. If a restaurant is serving recipes that were perfected from passing through the generations or is the place where everyone goes for Sunday family dinners, that is most exciting for me. I love when there is authenticity and a history behind the food and establishment.

Personally, I have found great local food at bed and breakfasts or with an Airbnb stay, but not at a hotel. 

Healthy options rule the day

Jonathan Jaeger, managing director, LW Hospitality Advisors: Healthy food options are important to me at a hotel restaurant. Time is always a commodity when traveling and the days are very long, so knowing there are good options other than your run-of-the-mill Caesar salad is a plus.  

I appreciate creativity in the cuisine and options for foods with a local flavor.  I like when you can mix and match (side salad with half a sandwich for example) at times other than lunch.  I am also a fan of sharable meals and sides; always great when you are traveling with a friend or colleague. I dislike extra creamy soups and other comfort food options that appear all over the country. 

W Hotels have done an excellent job offering unique, creative F&B options that fit in with the local community.