Hotels continue to face additional challenges caused by the ongoing pandemic and on-property food-and-beverage operations can be even more challenged. There are numerous bottom-line issues like staffing and the rising costs of food and beverages across the board, but there are some strategies F&B teams can deploy to optimize their top line.
Hotels need to make everyone a part of revenue. For example, encourage the front-desk team to ask guests if they would like to make a restaurant reservation before they check in, suggested Gary Glodowski, director of customer marketing at Duetto. Another tactic is to reward book-direct customers with an F&B credit voucher and preferential treatment at the restaurant so that they get the reservation slots they want.
“Similarly, a ‘buy one get one free’ on drinks does not cost the property much,” Glodowski said. “Giving people the incentive to spend on property is always a great strategy.”
Michael Schubach, VP of Infor Hospitality, said there are several revenue-maximization strategies that can be brought into play. Managing server performance to increase table turns is one move that produces dramatic increases with a marginal investment. Menu design can also revitalize revenue production. Additionally, operators can consider special personalized promotions, limited-time offers and room/food packages.
“Let’s not forget suggestive sales as well—waiters who upsell customers into appetizers, side dishes and desserts that might not have been part of the original order without persuasive commentary,” Schubach continued. “When you find a server who is a sales superstar, you can engineer for employee optimization: That person gets prime shifts and is assisted by runners and bussers so [he or she] can handle more tables producing more revenue. Also remember that incenting superstardom produces tremendous results; let the servers take a percentage of additional sales (as well as the increased tips they earn) to keep productivity high.”
Technology as an enabler for a data-driven strategy in all areas on property, but dashboards and key performance indicators on key revenue metrics are essential starting points, said Pauline Oliver, principal strategy advisor at IDeaS. “This is what we are hearing from the customers we engaged with,” she said. “Many lack the fundamental revenue and item profit performance reporting necessary to make informed revenue-based decisions. Developing a good understanding of historical demand using data sets the scene for applying the right promotions or 'specials' at the right time.”
The F&B industry has applied many top-line growth strategies using happy hours or fixed price menus. These can be tied to other data points like how busy the hotel is, are there large groups staying or can guests book their dinner table via an app or digital concierge, Oliver continued.
“There is evidence this is being applied very successfully in the broader food hospitality industry,” she continued. “Fast-food restaurants like McDonald's and Starbucks are demonstrating the power of analytics in understanding customers and demand. The revenue-management techniques of adjusting price through packaging or discounting are already happening. Today this is most often a manual process and based on cost-plus or instinct, not automated or dynamic; however, with the digitization of F&B it could be. With the significant shift we have seen to digitized menu delivery, full-service F&B also has the potential to apply many aspects of room revenue optimization to this area.”
With the pains of labor shortage felt by all service industries, improving staff efficiency and increasing productivity is very important. Providing staff with tablets to help expedite table service is crucial, said Chris Adams, VP of strategy, Oracle Food and Beverage. Tablets can allow servers to place orders directly at the table and fire them automatically in the kitchen for immediate preparation. “Several customers use tablets to take drink orders while they are moving guests to their table to be seated so drinks can be delivered almost instantly,” he said. “This small touch creates a real surprise and delight moment for guests.”
Self-service kiosks and online ordering options also eliminate the need for a full staff of servers, reducing that need to just one or two guest-facing staff members who are able to assist guests with orders and/or deliver food.
How to Increase Roomservice Revenue and Takeout Sales
There are multiple strategies that can be brought into play for in-room service and takeout sales on property. First and foremost, BYOD (bring your own device) mobile ordering is key to the process, Schubach said. Make in-room and takeout orders easier to place and more efficient to deliver. “Remember that delivery doesn’t have to be to the room—you can offer convenient pick-up points that make takeout more convenient for the diner,” he continued.
Adams said that if a hotel wants to increase onsite and roomservice orders, it needs to make it effortless and frictionless for guests to place orders. Simply placing a QR code with a link to the online ordering app, website or menu in the room or on the television or creating a link that’s available in the brand’s loyalty app ensures guests can easily place an order in their guestroom or even while they are checking in via the app on their way from the airport.
“If guests can order directly from a brand easily, they will,” he continued. “Hotels that are still taking roomservice orders over the phone should move service online with a seamless integration to the [point-of-sale system] and on to the kitchen display technology. This will reduce labor, improve service times and most importantly give hotels the data they need to more effectively forecast staffing and inventory."
A great tactic is to partner with a local winery to provide a complimentary bottle in the room, Glodowski said. “Package this up and market it as an ‘anniversary special’ and you are onto a winner,” he continued. The hotel will get premium wines at a discounted price from the winery while the winery may get additional guests on its wine tours. “And the couple may well want to enjoy that bottle with some roomservice, perhaps served on their terrace overlooking the sea? What could be nicer?” he said.
Partnerships with local suppliers to bring food in when the cost of running the kitchen and staff is not profitable is a way to stay local and for the hotel to be part of the transaction, Oliver said.
Delivering takeout to nonguests using a third-party food-delivery partner like GrubHub or Doordash has grown in popularity as a result of the pandemic, not just for hotels, many restaurants that never did takeout in the past now have a thriving home delivery menu.
Ghost kitchens have also grown dramatically in recent years and hotels could look at ways in which they could use their facilities to be part of this growing movement, either by preparing food items for other brands or by offering their own digital-only menus combined with third-party delivery. This allows for brand and menu experimentation outside of the main brand and can provide a new source of income by renting out a quiet commercial kitchen.
Menu engineering is an essential consideration as well, Adams said. Many brands over the course of the past two years have taken thoughtful measures to reduce and refine their menus down to what’s commonly referred to as a minimum viable menu. This gives the brand confidence and consistency in their revenue projections and their margin performance, he continued.
Schubach also said hotels should reconsider the target audience: "Is it overworked road warriors? Is it families with small kids who need a different price point? Rethink your strategy and redesign your menu. A more competitive in-room dining department could offer more competitive styles of service, offered as amenities, package plan components or luxury additions. How about dinner and a movie? How about a menu of local specialties or regional favorites? More flexibility in service hours and menu options can transform a lackluster department to another star performer."
Fluctuations in supply chain will certainly impact the cost of goods sold, but with a curated menu based on historical data from your POS reporting and analytics you can balance guest satisfaction with operational efficiency. “Digital-first brands, like cloud kitchens, ghost kitchens and virtual brands do this exceptionally well,” Adams said. “They layer demographic data with food-and-beverage data in a defined delivery radius to determine where there are gaps in concepts or service. This is the type of analysis a hotel restaurant can complete internally, or in partnership with a cloud kitchen, the analysis can be done for them.”