Hotel restaurants offer challenges and opportunities

Hyatt Jacksonville Trellises

Hotel guests are often seen as a captive audience for on-property restaurants, and in many cases they are easily swayed to eat near where they lay their heads as they begin and end their day. But despite benefiting from a targeted clientele, Mark Anderson, VP of food and beverage for Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, said hotels also face a series of challenges unique from restaurants outside of hospitality.

“We provide three meals a day, 365 days a year, and in most cases we never close,” Anderson said. “We have to constantly appeal to our guests.” 

According to Anderson, the makeup of the business is seen by him and his contemporaries as an opportunity to wow and improve satisfaction. James Draper, chef at the Hyatt Regency Jacksonville (Fla.) Riverfront, said that hotels technically have an advantage over traditional restaurants because they are able to cater to the same guests over multiple meal periods for days on end, allowing operators to provide greater consistency than would be found outside of hotels. 

“Pleasing everyone for multiple meal periods can sometimes get quite challenging,” Draper said. “The key is to know your clients and adapt to their wants and needs. Being in a hotel, we can get to know our guests on another level.” 

But that opportunity for consistency is sometimes not only squandered, but may negatively impact a guest’s stay should a restaurant fail to be consistent. Chef Thierry Blouet of the JW Marriott Los Cabos’ Café des Artistes in Los Cabos, Mexico, said proper team building and training are the allies of consistency. 

“The hotel has its own team for operations, and the hotel’s restaurant needs to have its own team to have its own flavor,” Blouet said. “[The hotel restaurant] needs to be authentic, so the greatest challenge is in creating a team. When people go to your restaurant, they want to feel that it is its own distinct experience. Otherwise, the restaurant loses its identity.” 

Hotel restaurants are also appealing to customers who are not necessarily guests of the hotel, but some hotels may be better positioned for this than others. According to Anderson, the ideal hotel restaurant is located inside a hotel, but has immediate street access for diners who don’t wish to walk through the lobby. These restaurants have an independent feel because they don’t break up the walk from the street to the restaurant, but interior dining rooms are not necessarily at a disadvantage if they maintain a strong presence on social media.  

However, Jean-Marc Ayme, food and beverage director at the Hotel de Paris in Monte Carlo, Monaco, said that in some ways the grand atmosphere of his hotel can sometimes discourage guests from visiting its Louis XV- Alain Ducasse restaurant.

“Entering a palace can be intimidating for some guests,” Ayme said. “For some restaurants in hotels, the image of the hotel itself can sometimes overshadow the restaurant, making it difficult to stand out.”