The upshot of outside food

Are hotel guests bringing more food along with them on their travels? Some hotel operators seem to think so. Kyle Highberg, GM of the Residence Inn by Marriott Omaha Downtown, said travelers who are more health conscious are packing food and shopping at grocery stores rather than defaulting to on-property F&B options.

“Unlike in the 2000s, where having a refrigerator was a nice amenity or even a luxury in certain properties, they are a necessity now,” Highberg said. “If you don’t have one now, it can be a detractor, and at extended-stay [properties], guests need the freedom to store what they want.”

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Jayne Barrett, GM of the DoubleTree Suites Boston, said the trend relies heavily on the mode of transportation used by the guest. If a guest is driving to the property they are almost always bringing food with them, but if they are flying, they are limited by what is allowed onboard an airline. Most liquids will often not be allowed on a plane, while food that needs to be cooled won’t make the trip without a cooler.

Majed Dawood-Farah, F&B director at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta, said that, on average, the majority of guests bringing food with them to the property are family/leisure travelers, rather than business guests. Still, having a refrigerator on hand is imperative.

“The idea is to be serviced, and so a refrigerator must be on property to handle the needs of a family,” Farah said. “Business hotels won’t see this as much, but transient and one-day stays will sometimes pack meals.” 

Refrigerators can also play a medicinal role. Travelers with medication sometimes must keep it cooled and prefer it within reach, or have specific dietary needs that are best managed with food brought from home. 

“Diabetic guests, or guests on gluten-free diets need to be accounted for, and their travel experience should be consistent from property to property,” said Jessica Rubalcava, GM of the Howard Johnson Inn San Diego Seaworld. “The fridges don’t always need to be large, but they should be there.”

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McKibbon Hospitality manages the 200-room Hyatt House Chicago/West Loop-Fulton Market.