F&B experiences in accommodation aren’t new. Since medieval times when European inns provided for the needs of travellers, including food and lodging, the two have come hand in hand. It was the French revolution that created restaurants as we know today, when chefs of the nobles found themselves without nobles to cook for anymore and decided to strike out on their own.
And with the ongoing rise of standalone restaurants and the competition they bring, it’s not always been easy for hotel restaurants. They’ve often not been able to provide what the people wanted, and so guests left the four walls of the hotels to find what they were looking for elsewhere. Here in the UK, the high street cashed in, delivering F&B dining experiences the humble hotel simply wasn’t.
Whilst approaches to F&B in hotels have changed over time, F&B within the hotel space has historically been a loss leader, an afterthought, with the bulk of revenue derived from rooms. Success was often measured on whether the hotel’s F&B managed to break even. Then something changed.
Hotels have started fighting back by creating world-class F&B concepts. Initially this took shape in the age-old franchise or leasing model; bringing brands in who already had the operating framework and brand awareness the hotel could benefit from. Over time, hotels have begun to develop their own, creating a more memorable and ownable experience for their guests.
Treehouse London, which was designed by Keane and launched in 2019, is the perfect example. With its multiple F&B offerings Madera, Pizzeria Mozza, The Nest and Backyard – each with their own unique proposition and offering. The challenge was to create spaces where guests and locals would equally and become destinations of choice in the highly competitive London dining scene.
Another angle for hotels is adopting renowned F&B brands and turning them into whole hotel offerings, such as the Hard Rock Hotel (from the Hard Rock Café) and Buddha Hotel (from Buddha Bars).
So, what’s behind these changes? We’ve looked at how social media, culinary travel, experience economy and remote working trends have shifted the hotel industry’s focus from ‘heads in beds’ to ‘restaurant with rooms’.
There is no doubt about it. Instagram turned the restaurant industry on its head. From visually appealing plates to eye-catching décor, restaurants are capitalising on the sharing craze to boost their business and get free advertising from legions of adoring foodies.
Instagram is foodie heaven. Whilst hotel rooms are prevalent images to share, our research shows restaurant images are 28 times more popular. And #instafood is tagged a huge 710 times more than #instahotel. Leveraging the popularity of food and beverage on social media can increase awareness, drive footfall and change overall brand perceptions from simply just a place to sleep, to a more rounded visitor experience.
And it’s not just static photography, video marketing is predicted to be the major focus for the hospitality industry, with 82% of all internet traffic expected to be video-focused. TikTok marketing is proving to be an effective way to reach and engage with audience and show glimpses of the hotels best amenities and offering.
Hilton Hotels have seen great success with their Taste of Hilton social platform – showcasing their F&B offering and expertise. Shining a light on the amazing gastronomic experiences you can have within their hotels, and in turn making them destinations in their own right.
The demand for culinary travel continues to grow and is expected to continue as more travellers plan their trips around food.
Individual restaurants like Noma and El Bulli played their part in kick starting the culinary travel phenonium but have spawned an alumni. For example, in Copenhagen some of the original Noma chefs have now started up their own network of restaurants.
Why must where you stay and where you eat be different? Hotels can maximise on food lovers travelling the world based on the best places to eat, Michelin star meals and unique dining experiences.
The complete immersive experience that customers are looking for in retail has moved into dining. Creating stories is a huge part of building a customer experience they want to share with others. With the combination of COVID-19 and the current cost-of-living crisis in the UK, customer desire for experience has heightened further. They want to know that their money is going on a unique and interesting experience – and not something they can get at home.
A great example of this is when we were briefed to create an immersive and totally ‘instagrammable’ experience at Conrad Hilton in Dubai. As a result, Kimpo was born - a Korean chicken and beer restaurant where the whole environment was designed with a focus on engagement, messaging and getting customers sharing their experience.