Finding the perfect hotel-restaurant match involves soul searching, "first dates," compromise, and trust, in order to build a healthy and successful business relationship.
"Without the trust that you're both in it for the same reasons with the same objectives, then it becomes adversarial," says restaurant, retail, and foodservice consultant Arlene Spiegel. "The last thing you want as a hotel owner is to have an adversary living in your ground-level retail environment."
There is no one-size-fits-all solution for hotel owners who are hunting for the right food and beverage operation to match their properties. Chain restaurants can mitigate risk because the brands have already been proven successful in other locations, but their formulas and protocols often don't provide much flexibility. Property owners who want more control over the customer experience might consider implementing their own restaurants.
Building and operating a unique restaurant can help a hotel enhance its brand while reaping all the profits. The target market will dictate hours of operation, menu offerings, price points, style of service, overall design, and ambience. Another option for owners who don't have a firm grasp on the demands involved with operating their own restaurant involves leasing out their ground-level space to a skilled executive chef. That way they can still count on the safety net of a monthly rent check.
"My restaurant clients are always open and ready and willing to go into a hotel situation. They love it," says Spiegel, a third generation restaurateur and founder and president of Arlene Spiegel & Associates and Hospitality Matchmaker. "There are built-in guests to the restaurant, common area parking and facilities, and the build out is usually less expensive because the infrastructure, the mechanicals, the engineering, and the plumbing are usually already in place.
"It's very often not just about money," Spiegel adds. "It's really about the restaurant brand and the hotel brand enhancing each other to go to a different level."
By conducting a feasibility study, foodservice consultants like Spiegel can determine the best solution to reduce risk. For example, would the owner prefer to focus on marketing, occupancy, and community outreach, becoming the business hotel of choice, or hosting special events for leisure travelers? "Once you determine what the goals are of the ownership," she says, "then you can start narrowing down and filtering what their best options are."
Generally speaking, Spiegel would choose control over guaranteed rent. "Even if you bring in a high profile celebrity chef it does not guarantee that what that chef wants to do is going to resonate with the guest. Nor will the chef necessarily be flexible because of egos or his own brand positioning to maybe come up with some more pedestrian culinary offerings that the hotel needs but the chef doesn't want to stand behind," she says.