Posts Tagged ‘ Hotel Restaurants

Is Your Breakfast Menu Up-To-Date?

F&B Directors: how much has your breakfast menu changed in the last two years? How about your dinner menu? I often find that hotels focus more on updating the dinner menu while breakfast stays the same. Except for pricing. But these same hotels serve five to ten times as many guests at breakfast as they do at dinner.  

Next question: what is your breakfast capture rate compared to one or two years ago? Well, it may be “red alert” time. Your competitors had an interesting view of the recession, apparently thinking it was the right time to grow the breakfast segment. While casual dining remained stable, with 17% serving breakfast, and midscale or family dining remained steady at 77%, QSR including coffee shops grew to 48%. “In total 47% of all commercial foodservice units currently menu at least some breakfast items.” All of this data is courtesy the 2011 edition of QSR ONESource Magazine (www.qsrmagazine.com). For their publication on January 14 they used data from a number of sources. Here are some highlights. For much of their breakfast menu insight QSR used data from Datassential menutrends™ Direct (http://tinyurl.com/4zodz92).

  • There is significant growth in menuing  nontraditional proteins, including chorizo, sirloin, crab and salmon.
  • Parmesan and goat cheese are the fastest growing cheeses across all types of operators at breakfast.
  • Upscale dinner preparations/descriptions are showing up at breakfast, including wood-smoked, oven-roasted and fire-roasted.
  • Ethnic items continue to increase in popularity on menus – while Mexican shows up the most, there is growth in Italian and Greek inspired items.
  • I know you’ve heard about “health” as a growing trend for years; this latest information says that your guests are more likely to desire healthy food at breakfast than at any other time, and that even incorporating “healthy attributes” will have an impact. Think whole and multi-grains, super fruits and lean meats they say.

Looks like it’s time for breakfast.

Those are my thoughts, let me know yours.

 

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Is Your Menu Missing Something?

Your dinner menu lists appetizers, right? Or maybe “Starters” or “Small Plates” or a clever synonym suggesting that this is where you start your meal.

But really, it isn’t the start, is it? I mean the start is usually a beverage. Perhaps you offer a beverage menu or a table tent that promotes beverages. OK.

"I wonder where the cocktails are..."

But experts suggest that you (also) list drinks, including wines, on the food menu.

January 26 was interesting for me. That morning I was asked by a client to review a dinner menu for a top notch hotel in the upscale segment.

The dinner menu I reviewed had no cocktails, beers or wines listed anywhere. This isn’t unusual for hotel dinner menus. The menu did have coffee, milk and juice. I recommended enhancements which would put select beverages at the top left of the menu, at the beginning. Why not let the menu “begin at the beginning”?

That same afternoon I attended 2011 Cheers Conference (www.Cheersconference.com) in New Orleans, and an excellent presentation (one of many at the Conference) – Menu Trends:  What the Top 25 Chains Are Pouring. The presenter was Michael J. Ginley, a Partner at Next Level Marketing (http://www.nextlevel-co.com).  Ginley suggested that 86% of the top twenty-five full service restaurant chains list at least “some” drinks on their menus. He then stated that he was puzzled that the number isn’t 100% since there is evidence that the practice improves sales.

But there’s more. In October 2009 I published a blog “How to Sell Less Wine”. In it I cited the remarkable Cornell wine list placement study. Thanks to Sybil S. Yang and Michael Lynn, Ph.D., and The Center for Hospitality Research at Cornell University we now understand which wine list attributes correlate to increases in wine sales. In their breakthrough finding, “Wine List Characteristics Associated with Greater Wine Sales”  [Cornell Hospitality Report, Vol. 9, No. 11, July 2009, http://tinyurl.com/6c8tsc9], Yang & Lynn detail how they meticulously studied the wine lists and wine sales of 270 restaurants spanning several major markets.

In my blog I summarized the findings, and now refer to this one: Wine list design: only two attributes were found to correlate to higher wine sales: placing the list on the menu (instead of a separate book), and not using the dollar sign ($).

Are you using your dinner menu to optimize beverage sales?

Those are my thoughts, let me know yours.

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Time to Lose (Inventory) Weight?

Well, this IS the month to trim fat, right? Every fitness center is filled, this is the number one month for fitness center enrollments, etc. But I’m not concerned here about body fat. Not that I don’t have plenty to be concerned about. The topic today is inventory fat. That’s right: inventory fat – otherwise known as dead inventory – is bad for you. 

What is dead inventory? Usually I think of beverage inventory. Mostly wine. Food inventory is easy to work out: banquet menus, employee feeding and systems for daily specials enable us to do this with some ease. We’ve gotten good at it because it’s perishable, and because storage space is limited. Dead beer inventory happens – hard to sell that summer seasonal in December. But in my experience it doesn’t represent a lot of dollars. Spirits can be a problem if you let distributors make your inventory decisions for you by giving you “free” sample products you wouldn’t otherwise order. How’s that banana-lime tequila cordial working for you, the one your distributor swore was the hottest thing going in (name any trendy area in California)?

So, we’re back to wine. I’ve seen dead inventories as high as $100,000. I’ve seen dead inventories that increase year after year after year with no movement. Does your bar accounting team wear dust masks when they do your beverage inventory? Like those extra pounds you want to shed, you know the risks of too much dead wine inventory:

  • Ties up cash
  • Perishable – it goes bad eventually
  • Takes up valuable storage space
  • Discourages you from updating your lists with the latest products

The most commonly used methods for reducing old inventory still work. “Selling” it to the kitchen and “selling” it to your sales and marketing department for VIP amenities, sales gifts, etc.

Here are some additional ideas:

  • Have a “Wine Sale” – Use this to build business on slower nights by offering it on those nights only. Example:  Sunday & Monday half-price bottles
  • Or, make a separate half-price wine list, noting that these are available until sold out
  • Or, where legal regulations allows this, prepare a half-price “to take home after dinner” list (unopened by you, of course)
  • Or, a variation – a BOGO. Buy a bottle from our “special” list for dinner, get a second bottle “free” to take home. (Promotional wording and procedures subject to your local regulations, of course.)
  • Pour off as a special BTG Happy Hour promotion
  • Create a “special” list with lucrative employee incentives for selling these itrems. Increase the value of the incentive with each sale. $2 for selling the first bottle. $3 for the second. Up to $5 per bottle. In other words, “give” the discount to your employee instead of the guest (or price it so the discount is “shared”).
  • Create the world’s best Sangria, and promote it

Those are my thoughts, let me know yours.

 

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Side Ways

Frankly I was shocked. I dined at a nice seafood restaurant last week. I was hungry. The menu was sizeable and impressive. The appetizer section featured an extensive raw bar. And the seafood section featured regional fish and shellfish as you might expect. There was another section, “from the land”, not uncommon in seafood restaurants. Even a seafood restaurant will have patrons with a craving or predilection for chicken, pork or beef, often dining with their seafood-loving partner. In fact I had come with a craving for beef, maybe a nice sirloin. Imagine my surprise.

Under “from the land” there was a single notation about beef: “We will be pleased to serve any three of our beef side dishes for the entrée price of $23.00.”  Beef side dishes?

When I asked the server about this she replied “Sir, we do have a nice selection of beef side dishes. Our tenderloin kabobs are delicious and the sliced sirloin is really good, I have it all the time. Our most popular side is the Chef’s braised short rib. But don’t overlook the beef rib which I can serve with barbecue sauce on the side, or the half-slice of prime rib.”

“But I don’t want a side dish or three side dishes, I want an entrée. Something that the Chef has thought about, created just for this menu. I want flavor, maybe multiple flavors, maybe something original. I want to be pleased by the presentation. I want to be delighted by the creative assembly of flavors and colors and textures on a single plate. I want to be delighted by the way the flavors come together to create a memorable experience. If I wanted sides, I’d go to a cafeteria or buffet restaurant, wouldn’t I?”

OK, enough silliness. Sure this is made up. Unless you substitute the word “vegetarian” for “beef”. Then it’s realistic and happens every day in many restaurants. Or, the variation: “we don’t have any beef (vegetarian) items on the menu, but the chef will be delighted to create a beef entrée for you”.

Why does this happen? Restaurant servers may respond a) “people don’t come here for vegetarian dishes, they come for our great steaks (or seafood or barbecue, etc.)” and b) “we tried putting a vegetarian item on the menu but no one ordered it” and c) “we will make anything the guest asks for if we have the ingredients in the kitchen, so we don’t need it; our vegetarian customers seem pleased with that”.

Is this OK? Well…a) people don’t come just for your seafood (steaks, pork) but you have seafood (steak, pork) items on the menu, right? Because not everyone in a party has the same preferences, and b) was the creative and culinary level of the vegetarian item on a par with your best non-vegetarian items, and was the selection as robust as it is for your other secondary items?, and c) right –  the chef makes a great vegetarian item, but it’s a secret and we can’t print it on the menu?

There are less obvious reasons. “I can’t charge the same amount as I do for my seafood and meat items”, for example. This isn’t correct, but it reflects the inferiority some restaurateurs have about their vegetarian culinary ability: “who would pay $20 for vegetables?” It’s the wrong question. The right question is “what can I create that has the same levels of creativity and complexity as my best items, and leaves the customer wanting more, wanting to come back?”

This isn’t a plea to save animals. Or a tribute to “World Vegetarian Day” (it was Oct 1). It’s a reminder to stay in touch with trends. Consider some recent findings:

  • Vegetarian meals aren’t just for vegetarians: Although New York City-based Harris Interactive reports that 3% of Americans are everyday vegetarians, R&I’s March 2010 New American Diner Study finds that 23% of consumers are eating more meatless entrées than they did a year ago. Meanwhile, 40% of nonvegetarians say they sometimes order vegetarian or vegan menu items just because they sound good.
  • Young people drive the trend. Last year’s Harris Interactive Poll commissioned by Vegetarian Resource Group asked adults about eating meat (“meat” did not include poultry or fish). 8% said they never eat meat. The demographic details are telling.  But for students alone the percentage nearly doubles, to 15%. For females 18-34 it’s 12% – even for males in the 18-34 age group it’s 9%. www.vrg.org/press/2009poll.htm 
  • Females drive the trend. Women are 60% more likely to be vegetarians than men are (3.33% vs. 2.07%) (www.PsychologyToday.com)  
  • Vegetarian entrees hit support other trends, like the industry’s “sustainability” and “healthy eating” trends
  • The very best establishments and Chefs already offer standout vegetarian items – of course, there’s the story about Steve Wynn and the restaurants at Wynn Las Vegas (and Encore) that added or expanded their vegan offerings. But just Google “top restaurants” for any major city, even in the Midwest which has fewer vegetarians, percentage wise, than the coasts, and download their menus. I did this and found 8 of the “ten best” had at least one enticing vegetarian item on the menu.

Those are my thoughts, let me know yours.

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My Banana Has a Web Site

Yup. It does. See for yourself: www.ChiquitaChampions.com. Chiquita is working to associate – to make you associate their product with sports achievement.

My question is, hotel restaurant managers, GM’s, F&B Directors, et al: do you? Have a web site? For your restaurant? And for your bar if it’s a separate concept?

Many have “preached” for years that to be successful, a hotel restaurant must be deemed separate from the hotel, an independent entity. In fact many hotels have a truly independent restaurant operated by a separate company, sometimes a high-profile brand or chef, and to me that seems to work well. Most hotels don’t have the right location or the ability to invest in a high profile third party operation, and/or they prefer to operate F&B themselves for sound reasons. In these cases, the majority of hotel restaurants and bars make attempts to separate their concept(s) visually or functionally: individual name, logo, trade dress; separate entrance; separate phone number; reservations through OpenTable, etc.

So, why not create separate identity in the easiest of all ways: through an independent web site? The data on this is compelling.

As far back as 2007 AIS Media reported that more than half of American consumers look at a restaurant’s web site prior to dining. I’ve seen research more recently suggesting that two-thirds of consumers look at restaurant or bar web sites before they visit. Perhaps surprisingly, the numbers are similar for Boomers and Millennials. Most-often looked at? Menus. At the NRA show in May, Yelp!’s VP for business development stated that the average Yelp! user looks at three sites before selecting a restaurant.

I should mention that there is no data on the percentage of Millennials or Boomers checking the internet prior to purchasing bananas.

And now for a little GVC “research”. Not enough for statistical validity perhaps, but maybe interesting? During a virtual visit to a medium-sized market I looked at the top ten (of 415 reviewed) restaurants on Yelp! Nine had web sites. Then I looked at the bottom ten: only 5 had web sites. Maybe part of the formula for being a top restaurant is maintaining contact with your customer?

OK, more. All ten of the top ten had pictures posted on Yelp!, while half of the bottom ten had posted pictures. Of those who had pictures: top ten restaurants averaged 3 pictures per store, bottom ten 1.2.

And now for hotels. Same market. Eight hotels had 17 different restaurants or bars. Only 3 of the 17 had independent sites.  To their credit, more than a third of the hotel sites had their menus posted.

So, now what? Well, the cost of creating a dedicated restaurant web site is lower than ever. A company at the NRA was charging $1,200. Four others I’ve spoken with will create one for $1,000 – $3,000. These lower-cost sites use templates, but can be made to look fine and serve you well. A few more dollars for SEO accompanied by some strategic social media activity and supported by a social media “champion” within your hotel will get you in the game.

Oh, and we need more research on banana-buying and the Internet.

Those are my thoughts, let me know yours.

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Method to the Madness: Part I, Hotel F&B Concepts

So, “Why is a raven like a writing desk?” What is the right concept for our hotel restaurant? And, do either of these questions have a definitive answer?

Maybe. At GVC we use a 7-part “methodology” to create a concept. It’s not rocket science, right? Perhaps it’s more difficult than rocket science, since thousands upon thousands of very experienced and bright folks have failed at it, one time or another. An outline of the seven steps methodology can be found at the GVC web site. Here I’ll go into a bit more detail.

Stephen R. Covey’s seminal The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People says (habit 2), “Begin with the end in mind”. https://www.stephencovey.com/7habits/7habits.php. Well, if I knew exactly what the final concept should look like, I could skip the methodology. But Covey is right – let’s figure out what it has to be like, let’s begin by determining the criteria by which success will be judged. What must the concept achieve to be called successful?  If the concept doesn’t meet the criteria, then it won’t work.

In general, a concept within a hotel should support the hotel’s brand image. For example, a concept for a Holiday Inn hotel could be too upscale, while the reverse holds true for a Ritz Carlton. I recall having to convince a senior hotel executive that he should abandon his plans to make a Waffle House (albeit a successful company and brand) the exclusive restaurant for a Crowne Plaza hotel (another successful brand).

A second criterion concerns the hotel’s functional needs. How must the concept “serve” the hotel? Which meal periods must be offered? Which services (food, beverage, to-go, room delivery?). What are the hours of operation that a successful operation must serve the hotel? And what is the expected profit contribution to the hotel?

Next, what is the restaurant’s role? Is it to be a destination or an amenity? In other words, is its purpose to draw local guests or to service the hotel guest? Most often the answer is a complicated combination of these two perspectives, but the discussion needs to occur early in the process.

A fourth criterion requires a primary Unique Selling Proposition – a feature that differentiates it – and the hotel – from the competition. A final concept will have many special attributes, but it should have a prime USP that defines it, enables us – and our customers – to talk about it. But it’s too soon to say what that should be – that comes with ideation.

Chains will sometimes add that they should be able to duplicate the concept in other hotels. This will spread the development costs and will serve to give the hotel brand a talking point as well. It will further help optimize the company’s resources, and support its development team.

The test of these and other criteria is this: if the concept fails to meet one of the criteria, can it still be judged a success?

Perhaps you can think of additional criteria. I’d love to hear from you. In the meantime, how about the answer to that riddle?

“Have you guessed the riddle yet?” the Hatter said, turning to Alice again.
“No, I give it up,” Alice replied. “What’s the answer?”
“I haven’t the slightest idea,” said the Hatter.
“Nor I,” said the March Hare.
Alice sighed wearily. “I think you might do something better with the time,” she said, “than wasting it in asking riddles that have no answers.”

These are my thoughts, let me know yours.

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Another Way to Structure Corporate F&B?

First, let’s get real about hotel F&B.

If you’ve been in hotel F&B most of your career, you may be surprised to learn that all F&B at all hotels (USA) accounts for about 4% of “food away from home”. The remaining 96% of the $400-billion+ industry, which includes restaurants, institutional feeding, caterers and kiosks, is generally profitable. Those that are not profitable go out of business. Hotel F&B is generally unprofitable unless there is a lot of banquets/catering space. And hotel restaurants are never profitable, unless they are operated by an independent operator.

Unlike freestanding restaurants, hotel restaurants that are not profitable (and this would be nearly all of them – see previous sentence), do not go out of business. Nor should they, as their purpose is to support the hotel. This isn’t wrong, and it isn’t stupid. It is, well…tradition. So we accept it. And build structure and infrastructure around it.

In the last decade or two, some hotel chains have started to lease to or partner with restaurant brands (including celebrity chef “brands”). If you’re willing to relinquish control of some of your services and maybe even a portion of your image, and especially if you can retain the most profitable end of the business, banquets/catering, this can be a rewarding strategy.

But there may be another approach. It’s a paradigm shift, really. “Spin off” your corporate F&B into a separate (wholly owned) corporation. Next, lease all of your restaurants and F&B to the new corporation. F&B employees will work for the new company, and F&B Directors (they will now be restaurant “General Managers”) will report to the new corporation. And surely you will have to “beef up” the corporate F&B infrastructure.

What a mess, huh? Hotel GM’s – or whomever is responsible for the lease – will have to negotiate services and payment for services as well as lease rates and terms. All of those free meals, discounts and other bargains passed on to sell rooms will have a real cost attached to them.

And what about F&B? Well, they’ve got to make a payroll don’t they? And pay their vendors. They may have to pay for administrative and accounting services and maintenance services, and utilities – all of which can and should be negotiated and included in the lease.

Wait a minute – this is a lot of hassle! Why bother? Well, unlike a standard lease to a third party, your company is still “in control”. And this new perspective may go a long way toward making both businesses – hotel and F&B – more profitable than ever before. Oh, and now you own a restaurant company. I wonder if that makes you part of the “remaining 96%”?

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