Are hotels missing rewarding F&B opportunities?

I was recently supporting a bespoke patisserie manufacturer in North London which involved me having to stay at a “Budget” hotel overnight. Now I think we can all agree that budget hotels have greatly improved over the years, so the thought of staying in one did not feel me with as much dread as it would have done previously!

The hotel I stayed at (part of a well-known world-wide brand) was a new build, being only 6 months old. The greeting at reception was excellent and the bedroom absolute fine.

It had been a long day and I needed to get something to eat and drink before catching up on my emails, so I made my way to the bar and restaurant area. I eventually found the menu which was completely out of kilter with my experience of the hotel to this point. The menu consisted of soup, Indian bites, pizza, chicken tikka (what a surprise!) chips, garlic bread or naan bread. Bear in mind, this is a world-wide recognised hotel chain operating a brand-new hotel in London and the menu was supposed to encourage customers to eat in the hotel’s restaurant! Not only that, but the prices were outrageous.

Whilst I sat and contemplated what to do, I could hear the familiar ping of the microwave in the background. Looking around me, I saw a full bar and restaurant area with a complete cross-section of people. Businessmen and women, engineers from Crossrail and tourists.

Apart from the tourists, almost everyone else had a Tesco’s bag with them which had items purchased from the supermarket opposite. This had meant that guests were so unimpressed with the hotel fayre that they had left the hotel and walked across the road in sub- zero temperatures to obtain sustenance from a supermarket rather than eat in the hotel! The only people eating hotel food were the tourists who look like they had wished they had gone to Tesco’s as well when their food turned up!

What was interesting was the food that people had purchased, salads, nibbles, sandwiches, wraps, soup and cooked meats. Easy to eat, fresh, tasty food. The restaurant area was like a massive picnic with everyone eating food from anywhere but the hotel.

I too made the trip across the road and duly came back with some items which I ate in my room whilst attending to the afore mentioned emails.

In the morning, I decided to see what culinary delights would be available for breakfast. This was a sparse but adequate buffet of hot and cold items. As I chomped my way through a bowl of cereal, two Crossrail engineers came into the restaurant. It was interesting to see them both have fresh fruit, yoghurt and wholemeal toast. No fried breakfast for these guys who were clearly giving thought to what they ate! One of the Crossrail engineers went over to the person who was looking after the buffet and asked if he could have some poached eggs. The response? “I am afraid we cannot do poached eggs. We can do scrambled eggs or an omelette if you prefer”. The Crossrail guy declined and sat back down at his table looking bemused. As I walked past his table as I left the restaurant, I felt obliged to explain to him about Liquid Egg and Frozen Omelette which, although surprised that such things existed, thanked me for the information.

Is it me, or have some hotels groups completely lost the plot over Food and Beverage offers in their hotels? The public are far more discerning than they were a few years ago, and want a decent offer to match the improvement hotels have made in their bedrooms. Microwave pizza and curries just don’t cut it anymore. You don’t need a huge brigade of highly skilled chefs to produce some nice soup and crusty bread, or a falafel filled toasted flat bread with sweet potato fries or a steaming hot bowl of Beef Bourguignon with rice. These products can be sourced and finished off on site with the maximum of ease and will see hotel revenue increase! We all know that bedrooms are the most profitable part of the hotel but Food and Beverage can become a valuable source of income as well if thought through. If the hotel I stayed at had offered its hotel guests the option of some good wholesome food accompanied by arealistically prided beverage offer, then then the restaurant would not have been strewn with empty Tesco packaging and the reception staff would not have felt like microwave technicians!