Hotel Food & Beverage Trends: What’s Hot, What’s Not And What’s Coming

As part of the “Birth of a Hotel” series, we’re exploring these major trends in hospitality food and beverage concepts. From small plates to seasonal cuisine, we look at what’s driving guests – and locals – to visit their local hotel for dinner, drinks, and every meal in-between.

“Today, everyone is a little bit more educated about food,” says Jeff McInnis, the James Beard Award-winning chef and owner of Miami’s Yardbird restaurant. “I think that’s a good thing … America is definitely stepping in the right direction.”

As home pantries evolve, so must hotel restaurants. No longer are guests satisfied with a standard dining room. The restaurant must be a reflection of the hotel’s location, ambiance, and, ideally, have unique selling points all its own to draw in local guests.

“We are 100% targeting the local market,” says Guy Rigby, vice president of food and beverage for Four Seasons, Americas. “If we get the local market, the hotel guests dine there.”

Satisfying the “Foodie” Palate without Pretension

But just what lures in the local guest? A great meal … but what makes a “great meal” is inherently subjective and constantly evolving.

One thing’s for sure: easier access to what would formerly be restaurant-only foods means that hotels are required to cater to a savvier consumer.

“You can eat caviar on the couch in your underwear watching football if you want to … and that’s great,” says Jacqueline Sainsbury, managing editor of Food Arts magazine.

But that doesn’t mean that great food needs to be haute cuisine. The great escoffiers and high dining concepts of the 1960s aren’t currently en vogue.

Playing with “street food” or “comfort food” and elevating it to a higher level is currently in favor at both hotel restaurants and the food industry in general, with chefs like José Andrés launching a food truck in addition to fine dining restaurants like The Bazaar in Los Angeles and Miami’s SLS hotels.

“We’re not trying to elevate [your food],” says Top Chef Season 5 contestant McInnis, who has worked for Orient Express’ Keswick Hall as well as Ritz-Carlton resorts around the globe.

“We’re trying to do the best damn fried chicken you’ve ever had.”Celebrity Street Cred

Of course, it’s easier to sell a simple concept like fried chicken when you have a James Beard award or a “Top Chef” credit to your name. Hotels, particularly in the luxury market, have capitalized on this trend of drawing in celebrity chefs.

Yvon Ross, director of special events for the James Beard Foundation, says that in recent years she’s seen an explosion of interest from the “non-industry” community in these acclaimed chefs and their cooking – whether they’re making fried chicken, simple meatballs, or working with molecular gastronomy to prepare a fine dining meal.

But how does this trend translate to the hotel restaurant? Rigby says that many of his hotels have celebrity chefs, including Daniel Boulud in the new Four Seasons Toronto and Michael Mina in D.C. and Baltimore. Rigby isn’t sure that star power will be the norm, but rather a strategic decision when the partnership makes sense both for location and for the hotel’s ownership group.

Still, hotels are pushing hard to differentiate their food and beverage outlets from the property themselves, often utilizing separate design teams to create unique concepts and utilizing exterior entrances to make restaurants more accessible to the public.

Locavore Dining
In recent years, drawing on the “local” angle has become increasingly important for all restaurants, including those in the hospitality space.

Hotels like the “Birth of a Hotel” feature property Capella Washington, D.C., Georgetown are attempting to source as many items as possible from local farms, as well as to engage craft breweries, distilleries, bakers, coffee roasters and more to partner with the hotel to enhance food and beverage options.

Still other hotels have turned to apiaries, beehives and on-site herb gardens to grow their own ingredients, and many resorts are even “catering” to guests by offering cooking classes to help teach them how to prepare restaurant-quality food at home. Capella Washington’s sister property, Capella Pedregal in Cabo San Lucas, offers such classes in a restaurant-quality kitchen for day-long or multi-day cooking class series.

Ingredient-Driven Conscious Consumption
As America develops an increasing pre-occupation with dietary restrictions like gluten-free, and low-carb diets as a way to combat expanding waistlines, so too must dining out evolve. No longer are hotel restaurant menus always full of “splurge items” for that special occasion visitor.

In addition to more careful food sourcing, in part inspired by the local food movement, hotels are also introducing menus that cater to both the calorie and the ingredient conscious. Sofitel Hotels and Resorts in North America have done this through the introduction of their De-Light Program, which offers low-calorie but high-nutrient menu items prepared with fresh, seasonal ingredients.

Gabriela Navejas, vice president of marketing and communications for Sofitel, says that the menus, launched in early 2012, were originally supposed to be a one-time event but have become an ongoing offer due to their overwhelming popularity. Today, the De-Light program is offered in all North American restaurants and in-room dining menus, as well as extended to become “Delight Breaks” for meeting groups as part of the hotels’ catering programs.
Wherever possible, hotels use herbs and vegetables grown onsite for added local flavor. Sofitel is currently working to roll this program out to all of their properties worldwide.

“It’s about health,” says Navejas. “With people having more access to information, it’s really about a lifestyle. [Guests are] more demanding, they have more knowledge [about food] but they want to enjoy their meals and the experience.”

Grab n’ Go Goes Social

Hotels have worked to craft that “experience” in all aspects of dining, from sit-down restaurants to coffee shops and in-lobby bars and social spaces.

Hospitality brokerage owner Steven Kamali of Steven Kamali Hospitality says that the hotel lobby “has become the epicenter of our social world,” a social space where guests and local business people, traditionally in big cities, can gather for meetings that bleed into play when work extends well beyond the typical 9 to 5.

He points to Starwood’s W Hotels as well as boutique properties like New York City’s Ace and Marc hotels for their success in this “lobby as a social space” concept. Here, you’ll see a typical hotel bar transformed into a destination for locals and guests alike, a place where one can grab more than a sub-par sandwich and instead enjoy a gourmet burger or an organic chicken breast and craft cocktail.

Hyatt brand Andaz brings the social lobby concept to a new level, offering communal tables where guests can relax and unwind, and front desk staff that offer wine, tea, coffee or soda upon check-in.

Kimpton Hotels embraces this trend as well, offering nightly “Wine Down” happy hours with complimentary beverages at many of their properties.

Capella offers a similar concept, with daily snack and soft drinks available in the hotel’s lobby “Living Room,” a guest-only space where the hotel’s on-staff personal assistants wait on attending guests.

Better Beverages

Speaking of bars, the beverage movement has certainly evolved past the perfect dirty martini or great glass of wine. Hotels are rivaling with the industry’s best restaurants to produce creative cocktail and beverage menus.

“There’s a huge trend towards mixology,” says Rigby, who speaks of the farm-to-table concept as it makes it way towards farm-to-bar, with chefs and cocktail specialists whipping up house-made juices and sodas.

Restaurants are also looking beyond wine, although the concept of having a well-educated sommelier and robust wine list won’t be leaving anytime soon.

“Beer is having an enormous resurgence,” Ribgy says, musing that hotels and resorts are seeking out craft beers to both round out a locally focused set of beverage offerings and to make menus more accessible to guests.

Similarly, many properties have focused their menu around specific spirits, pairing menus with cocktails rather than the more traditional beer and wine.

Beyond The Trends
But which of these trends will stay and which are simply a flash in the pain? Sainsbury points to a time last year when she found all restaurants suddenly obsessed with Neopolitan pizzas, and many can recall the nation’s current obsession with cupcakes.

“People do want to feel challenged [by new cooking techniques and cuisines], but a lot of times they just want to feel comfortable and know they’re being fed extremely well,” says Rigby. “I don’t mind [embracing trends], I just want to make sure we do them exceptionally well and that we also have the service component right.”

Experts seem to believe that while no one food or restaurant concept will reign supreme in years to come, concepts like farm-to-fork cuisine and the use of high-quality ingredients will only continue to grow in popularity, exceeding “trend” status and becoming an expectation, if they haven’t already.

And, in the words of Ross: “I just hope people will enjoy the food and stop Twittering about it as they’re eating.”


[Image Credit: The Bazaar Miami]

Birth Of A Hotel: Before And After Room Images

Capella is fast moving towards its projected January opening, and one of the best updates we’ve seen this week is the model showroom interior. Here, you’ll see the original guestroom renderings.

[See more Birth of a Hotel posts here.]
During our first tour, we saw the initial build out of the guestrooms, including this magnificent tiled wall in the bathrooms.

Now the bathrooms look like this, thanks to the addition of an oversized soaking tub and Aqua di Parma amenities.

The rooms look significantly different as well. Here is a glimpse at the “media wall.”

This is one angle of the final product. See how far the room has come!

[Image Credit: Renderings and completed room imagery courtesy of Capella Washington D.C.; tour imagery property of McLean Robbins]

How Washington’s Hotels Are Readying For Inauguration: Our Favorite Luxury Packages

Election day has come and passed, but hotels in Washington are still racing the clock to ready their hotels for inauguration on January 20. We reported earlier on what hotels in the area are doing to freshen up, but now we’re telling you which properties are going to go all out with posh packages for guests.

Here are a few of our favorites, ranked in order of price.

Putting on the Ritz (Carlton)
The Ritz-Carlton Washington, DC is offering an exclusive “Access Washington” package for high-rolling guests. The $100,000 price tag includes four nights in a luxury suite, round-trip first class domestic airfare for two, a private fitting for designer inaugural wear, special behind-the-scenes tours, a cupcake decorating class from cult favorite shop Georgetown Cupcake, a one-of-a-kind diamond and ruby pin from jeweler Ann Hand, gifts each night and a special dinner, the value of which will be donated to a local charity.

More Than a Fair Deal
No expense will be spared for the Fairmont’s “President and First Lady” during their visit to Fairmont Washington, DC for inauguration. This package also tops the price list at $100,000, but includes a fair-ly awesome array of amenities, including four nights in the Presidential Suite, Fairmont Gold floor access, and two “Presidential Detail Agents” to assist and consult with guests throughout their stay. Other perks include use of a 7 series BMW with driver, a $5,000 Shopping Spree at SAKS Fifth Avenue in Chevy Chase with personal shopper, champagne, and lunch, a visit to “First Ladies Exhibit at The Smithsonian,” daily in-room breakfast, in-room hair styling, a private makeup consult and application, a midnight buffet for up to 20 after any inaugural balls, and matching Rolex watches for the “President” and “First Lady.” The completely pet-friendly package also includes perks for the “first dog” if you’d like to bring along Fido or Fifi.

P.O.T.U.S Worthy Pampering
The Mandarin Oriental’s “P.O.T.U.S.” (Presiding Over The Ultimate Suite) Package ($15,000 per night) features four nights in the three-bedroom Presidential Suite, the largest suite in the city. In addition to panoramic views, guests will enjoy 24/7 butler service, house car use, a keepsake amenity, and the option to host a private dinner at CityZen, the city’s only AAA five-star restaurant, for up to 80 people.Getting Glam at the Park Hyatt
Stay in style for the weekend of inauguration at the Park Hyatt Washington, DC. The $57,000, four-night package includes four nights in the hotel’s presidential suite, daily turn-down amenities, chauffeur-driven, round-trip, airport transfers and daily sedan transportation, a private Kennedy Center tour, spa treatments, a handcrafted American rocking chair and much more. To add a fashionable element to the package, guests will enjoy a custom styling session from Saks Fifth Avenue to include clothing for the entirety of their stay as well as to personalize the room itself with a variety of home goods. Guests will also enjoy a cheese tasting party for 12 from the hotel’s cheese specialist, including wine and selected accompaniments. All meals are included for the duration of the stay, including a private chef’s table in Blue Duck Tavern for up to 12 one evening and daily in-room or restaurant breakfasts. A donation will also be made on behalf of the guest to the U.S.O.

Go A-List at AKA
Also honoring the 57th inaugural with a $57,000 package is AKA Washington DC. The over-the-top package includes occupying the entire penthouse floor with a seven-night stay in two, one-bedroom suites and two, two-bedroom suites (total occupancy of 12 people), which comes with 1,100 square-feet of outdoor terrace space to enjoy memorable views. Guests also enjoy a 24/7 on-call butler and driver, a two-hour cocktail party for up to 25 with open bar and appetizers, a fully stocked fridge and welcome grocery package, 12 robes and daily breakfast served en-suite for up to 12 people.

Presidential Style at The Jefferson
This intimate 99-room hotel is just four blocks from the White house. During the week of inauguration, The Jefferson is offering a four-night minimum stay ($950-$8,500 per night) that includes daily breakfast for two, an on-call concierge assistant, access to the Neiman Marcus satellite store in the St. Regis for evening gowns and suits and gifts including a silk and cashmere scarf, sea salt caramels and a large graphite writing quill.

[Image Credit: Mandarin Oriental Washington DC Presidential Suite Dining Room]

Birth Of A Hotel: How Lighting Affects A Traveler’s Hotel Experience

As we’ve explored in the “Birth of a Hotel” series thus far, hotels, particularly those in the luxury sector, take the little details very seriously. To (pardon the pun) shed even more light on the issue, we turned to Jeff Dross, corporate director of education and industry trends at Ohio’s Kichler Lighting.

What we found? Much like our interview earlier in the series with Mood Media, lighting is a delicate blend of art, science and environmental awareness.

There are three basic types of light for any room – task, ambient and accent. The wattage and placement of each can dramatically affect everything from a guest’s mood to their sleep habits.
Task lights, for example, are found over work desks or in a bathroom, allowing for a guest to fulfill basic needs like applying makeup or to do work.

Ambient lighting is a general layer of light applied to any room, taking into account natural light from windows or other spaces. These lights are often your basic on-off switches when you enter a room.

Accent lights, Dross explains, are what makes the room look pretty. “It’s the reason we might wear jewelry… it adds to the general interest of a room.”

These terms apply to any interior space, but are particularly important in hotels looking to craft a specific aesthetic or mood.

Dross, who has been working in lighting for nearly four decades, says that hotels have only recently begun to put these lighting techniques into regular practice, including guidelines for specific lighting types as well as the aesthetic (lamps, etc.) into manuals and best practice guides.

The biggest challenge, he says, has been moving away from incandescent lighting to more energy-efficient products. These changes, along with a greater focus in the residential front on light color, opened up the average homeowner and traveler’s eyes to the power of properly-lit rooms.”Oftentimes lighting is forgotten. [Designers] make take a week and a half selecting the lamp or the sconce and [debate] how they’re going to illuminate the light in the bathroom or powder area… but I don’t know that they’re taking as much time with the color,” he says.

Hotels, he explains, had previously purchased lights that were “very blue,” ranging to nearly 5000 Kelvin. Appropriate lighting would be nearly half that, at around 2700 Kelvin, which offer a warmer, more comfortable tone.

The good news is that hotels have improved. “If you to compare 2012 with 2008, I would say every hotel is spending more time thinking about the appropriate color of lighting.”

Hotels still have a long way to go, however, particularly franchised brands. Standards may spec out the lamp or bed type, but they often neglect the light bulb itself, or staff replacing the burnt out bulbs could opt for cost instead of color.

So do us a favor – next time you’re in a hotel, take a mental comparison of the lighting techniques used throughout the room. Do you like what you see? Your answer may be a clue into how deeply the hotel delves into the details of the guest experience.

The Birth of a Hotel” is a Gadling-exclusive series that details what happens as a hotel prepares to open. Follow along with the articles and updates at “The Birth Of A Hotel” page, here. We’d also love to hear from you, our readers. If you have a topic about hotel development or trends that you’d love to see explored, or leave a comment below.

[Image Credit: Capella Washington D.C. preview image of the hotel’s Presidential Suite]

Birth Of A Hotel: Farm To Table Is Here To Stay

This week, we’ve been busy talking to hospitality experts for our upcoming feature on hotel food and beverage trends. Simultaneously, our featured hotel, Capella Washington D.C., Georgetown, has been preparing their own F&B offerings.
Capella’s soon-to-be-announced restaurant won’t feature a celebrity chef (like their neighbor The Four Seasons, with its Michael Mina restaurant) but it will draw on a major trend in the restaurant world: local cuisine. Much of the hotel’s produce will be sourced from local farms. Guy Rigby, Four Seasons Americas vice president of food and beverage, says that local foods are more than just a passing trend – the use of local foods and high-quality ingredients has become an expectation of the discerning diner.

Trends do play an important role in menu development, however, as shown by the craft beer selections being considered for the restaurant. Hospitality expert Steven Kamali told us that the beer market is nowhere near its saturation point, and, in Washington, beer bars have made waves in the community in recent years, including the opening of the District’s first brewery, DC Brau.

Speaking to the local community will also be a critical part of opening this new restaurant. Located along the city’s scenic C&O Canal, hotel managing partner Bruce Bradley expressed his desire to showcase the restaurant as a place welcoming to the local community as well as hotel guests. Kamali and Rigby also spoke to the importance of this marketing segment, stating that hotels must carefully consider the local market when developing their restaurant concepts.

We look forward to bringing you a larger feature – just in time for Thanksgiving. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, catch up on all of your “Birth of a Hotel” coverage here.

[Image Credits: Capella Washington D.C.]