As we enter budgeting season, let’s focus on the F&B department and why a minimalist approach will ultimately be profitable as guests continue to realign their shopping habits. The reason for this focus is that food is part of the overall hotel experience, with a good meal haloing based on a customer’s perception of the rooms product and influencing satisfaction as a result.
One of our key mantras at Hotel Mogel has always been, “It’s better to do one thing great than a bunch only good.” Pandemic-related global F&B supply issues and inflationary forces aside, the bottom line is you want to be memorable, and this can only happen if you stand out. While it’s the safe bet to aim to appease everyone without disparaging any particular demographic or psychographic, for your food service this can often result in many dishes that are of reasonable quality but not of the ‘you have to dine here’ caliber.
It’s that latter camp that’s critical in a recovery situation. Customers are saturated with digital advertisements, so you have to derive unique ways to stand apart from the comp set. From a marketing perspective, having an incredible in-house restaurant cuts through the noise and helps to produce a ‘halo’ back onto your room reservations. The best way to boost the prestige of your restaurant is not by throwing everything on the menu and seeing what sticks, but in offering a highly selective shortlist that focuses the guest’s attention on only the best representations of your culinary team.
This may require some reining in of your executive chef. As extremely creative individuals, your senior F&B team may have the natural inclination to experiment, often resulting in a hemorrhaging of the menu with an increasingly eclectic variety. Aside from mounting ingredient and storage costs, a key problem we’ve dealt with during past asset management engagements is that such a boundless approach dilutes the theme of the restaurant, which then decreasing memorability and word of mouth.
Instead, suppose you challenged your chefs to limit the full menu – appetizers, mains and desserts – to a total of a dozen items. This would force the team to choose only their finest creations, perhaps merging in elements from other runners up. Furthermore, this resolves the issue of ‘shopper’s paralysis’ where, in the case of food outlets, patrons become psychologically overwhelmed by the multiplicity of options, leading to increased average time per cover and decreased meal satisfaction (optionality often equates to added stress and lingering doubts about choosing the best entry).
Having fewer items on the menu thus means you have to concurrently think hard about what your restaurant wants to be – its theme or genre of cuisine and how this is reflected in the FF&E along with all other aspects of the presentation.
Being definitive in this regard gives the narrative extra strength in that it will be easier for the guest to recall as well as find in any online or app search. To speak to the latter, with customer behavior all but permanently reoriented around delivery apps and curbside pickup, special consideration must always be given to how diners will find then select your F&B over the slew of competition. Having a simple and digestible theme – with a menu that doesn’t induce decision fatigue – will greatly enhance sales via these blooming channels. In other words, you have to hone your restaurant’s elevator pitch so that its messaging is easily transferrable across all mediums – apps, third-party websites and word of mouth.
While it is impossible to draft an entire F&B strategy in a single editorial, especially without factoring in specific geographic concerns, what we stress is that, with so much rapid redirection of customer habits over the past year and a half, you have to cut through the noise. Once you have adopted a pseudo-minimalist approach for your signature restaurant, you can then look at how this model can be applied to your catering, room service, sundry and other food service amenities.
Guests are going to continue to reemerge from their pandemic-born sheltering-in-place habits, and you must be fully prepared to welcome them with something that’s truly worth leaving the house for. In this sense, less is more can also be adapted for other operations as a means to achieving a profitable hotel for 2022 and beyond.