In an age when time-pressed, health-conscious travelers are used to customizing their options at coffee shops and casual eateries, hotels are tweaking the type of food they prepare and where they serve it.
"The typical breakfast, lunch, dinner - appetizer, entree, dessert model is not something that our guests are responding to anymore," says Beth Scott, who's in charge of restaurant concepts for Hilton Worldwide's 3,900 properties.
"People don't want to ask to be seated and be given menus," says Brad Nelson, corporate chef at Marriott International, which has nearly 3,800 properties. "They want to sit down, maybe meet for an hour and then order. They want flexibility. We can thank Starbucks for that."
In New York at the newly opened Westin New York Grand Central's almost-open LCL: Bar and Kitchen, for example, visitors can grab a locally produced, nutrition-packed Organic Avenue Giving Green Juice ($10), a cup of locally roasted Stumptown coffee that costs about the same as a Starbucks coffee and scrambled eggs to go to kick start their morning.
"We're finding a lot of people prefer to eat like that now," says Scott Gerber, CEO of the Gerber Group, the company - best known for nightlife venues - that runs LCL. "They really want that quick bite instead of sitting down for bacon and eggs."
The space is also a nightlife venue that stays open on weekends until 4 a.m., letting the hotel maximize revenues from high-margin alcohol - some of which will be mixed with the specialty juice.
"Hotels are really trying to move away from that hotel dining room that sits empty seven nights a week," Gerber says.
Food and beverage revenues represent the second-largest source of revenue for full-service hotels behind rooms, according to industry tracker PKF Hospitality Research.
And PKF's analysis of revenue from about 670 full-service hotels' restaurants, lounges, room service and catering between 2007 and 2011 revealed that food-and-beverage department revenues are still 13% below pre-recession levels, despite a double-digit jump in 2010 and 2011. Hotels must come up with new innovations to boost revenues in this area, says PKF research director Robert Mandelbaum.
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