The top F&B trends from 2017

glasses with alcohol and limes
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The food-and-beverage side of hospitality keeps changing as guests make new demands and hotels try to outdo each other with new offerings. As we head into 2018, here are some of Hotel Management's biggest F&B-related stories from the past year. Take a look at what we talked about in 2017, and start thinking about what changes you need to make to your hotel's F&B programming in the coming year. 

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Making Grab & Go Pay

The opportunity for hotel visitors to grab a meal or snack and be on their way is an obvious benefit for the consumer, but given that fresh is “in” and prepackaged is “out,” the growing grab-and-go trend can make it hard for a hotel to turn a profit. So how do hotels make grab-and-go operations revenue generators? Through communication.

“First and foremost, and even before you start writing menus and before you start costing things out, make sure that your marketing plan is in place,” said Rich Garcia, VP of culinary for Crescent Hotels & Resorts, a third-party hotel operator. “How are you going to let the guests know that this is handmade out of your kitchen?”

When properties that are struggling to make grab-and-go work bring up the issue with him, Garcia said the first question he asks is about their marketing plan.

“Do your guests know that you make [the food] in house?” he said. “Do your guests know it’s not a gas station/convenience store product?” Nine times out of 10, their answer is no, he said.

The key to financial success is to maximize traffic to offer what guests are looking for, according to Peter Schreurs, director of food and beverage at the Royal Sonesta Houston, whose hotel operates a grab-and-go outlet called Launch. “We proactively work very closely with our meeting planners to explore opportunities to drive business into Launch when they aren’t planning a full lunch within the meeting,” he said. “We target local business buildings to promote Launch and on a more subtle level, the placement of products within Launch isn’t always coincidental. Moreover, Launch is set up efficiently for one barista to serve guests in quick succession, which helps limit the labor cost.

Marriott’s F&B Loyalty Program

Marriott International is taking loyalty to the next level with its new Club Marriott program, which started in Hong Kong in October. The dining loyalty program integrates three dining loyalty programs—Club Marriott, Eat Drink & More, and Star Privilege—into a single paid membership program. The newly combined Club Marriott provides members with more choices and benefits whenever they dine out in their hometowns or visit one of the 250 participating hotels across 16 brands in 13 countries across the region, with more hotels joining every month.

Each participating hotel will offer locally relevant benefits with a focus on showcasing their innovative dining concepts, and memorable experiences to position Marriott hotels as the preferred place where locals will meet, eat and drink. Renaissance Harbour View Hotel Hong Kong, Courtyard by Marriott Shatin Hong Kong, and The Sheraton Grand Macau, Cotai Central will be the first to bring to life the newly combined Club Marriott experience in South China.

In Hong Kong, membership of Club Marriott gives a flat 30-percent discount off food and beverage in the city's participating properties from which the card was purchased. To reward loyalty, complimentary vouchers to showcase restaurants, wide array of benefits for group dining and special offers for special occasions, and a host of buy-one-get-one-free offers are also included.

Margaritas are in Demand

From a color-changing unicorn version to the classic tequila standby, margaritas come in all flavors, satisfying traditionalists and the terminally trendy alike. Maybe because of this variety, the latest Nielsen CGA study shows that margaritas top the list for men and women when it comes to on-premises drinking occasions such as bars and restaurants.

It’s the second year in a row the drink has topped the list. On average, 51 percent of Americans ranked margaritas No. 1, with 56 percent for women and 44 percent for men.

“We know that one-fourth of on premise visitors don’t know what category they’re going to drink before entering an outlet. With on premise traffic flat or declining, every opportunity counts to maximize revenue and enhance the experience of that individual or group. Cocktails are great for both of these purposes,” Scott Elliott, SVP, Nielsen CGA, said in a statement. “Our large-scale research suggests it would be wise for retailers to specifically name drink brands as cocktail components, to be explicit with liquor bases and especially the flavor profile and to play the daypart and occasion card as much as possible with specific offers.”

Beyond margaritas, the Manhattan was the biggest over-index for male cocktail drinkers, 8 percent more than women (24 percent vs. 16 percent, respectively).

Airbnb for F&B?

The relationship between hotels and Airbnb is fraught with tension and competition, but there’s one area where the two could establish a symbiotic alliance: food-and-beverage.

In fact, Airbnb already has its sights set on F&B. In September, the home-sharing service announced that it would be expanding into restaurant reservations—users now can book tables at about 650 restaurants across the U.S through its website and smartphone app.

Brian Chesky, Airbnb’s co-founder, CEO and head of community, took to twitter to gain insights from fans about what they wanted from an Airbnb F&B program. Their answers offer good insights into what travelers want when they dine on the road, and what hoteliers can provide them.