Millennial sensibilities shape hotel food and beverage programs

It is no secret within the hotel industry that millennial travelers represent a crucial growth market, and this generation’s sensibilities are shaping things like hotel design and technology, but they’re heavily influencing hotel food and beverage programs as well.

To appeal to millennial travelers' desires for a connection to the local community, which often translates into a draw towards local and specialty foods, the Arlo hotel in New York stocks guest mini-bars with locally sourced, artisan products.

“The trend is being driven by a new generation of millennial Airbnb-savvy travelers who are looking for an authentic neighborhood experience rather than a formulaic cookie-cutter luxury stay,” said Adam Farmerie of design firm AvroKo, which designed interiors for the Arlo, in a South China Morning Post article.

Hotels are increasingly focusing on the unique experiences that their food and beverage offerings can provide, in addition to creating destinations that will attract both hotel guests and foot traffic. Some hotels are even becoming travel destinations in their own right, thanks to their restaurants that draw on the fame and food of local chefs, according to “10 Trends Changing the Face of the Hospitality Business You Need to Know About,” a new white paper produced by the Wall Street Journal and SmartBrief. Examples of the trend include Seattle restaurateur Josh Henderson opening Scout and Nest, the restaurant and bar at the Thompson Seattle, and the Four Seasons, which has partnered with local chefs Ford Fry and Ethan Stowell in Atlanta and Seattle, respectively.

“This generation is bringing out a creative side in all who shape food and beverage programming because they seek a unique experience every time they enter the hotel,” said Shawn Hauver, managing director of New York’s The Knickerbocker, in an interview with Smartbrief.

This winter, The Knickerbocker created an Alpine lodge experience inside the Club Room in its rooftop bar, St. Cloud. The goal was to create “a cozy respite from the winter weather and providing guests with the opportunity to experience an urban retreat,” Hauver said.

Hotel food and beverage programs have responded to millennial tastes and tendencies in sourcing decisions, including an emphasis on local fare and grab-and-go convenience. Hotel Zephyr in San Francisco, for example, teamed up with K-OZ Restaurant & Brewery to bring a food truck dubbed The Camper to the property. The Camper serves sustainable, locally sourced food, craft beers and California wines, according to a recent article in Hotel Management.

Likewise, London’s Hotel Indigo just completed a delicatessen with local flair.

“It’s all about working around the individual hotel and the space available, its functional needs and brand character,” Dexter Moren, director of design firm Dexter Moren Associates, the firm that handled the delicatessen project, as quoted in Hotel News Now. “Expected uptake numbers will always play a part in incorporating this offering, but it’s also about providing a service for the guest by presenting a varied and healthy choice that is convenient and also rivals any equivalent High Street cafe.”

The demographic is driving trends in experiential dining as well, The Knickerbocker’s Hauver said, and while this consumer group is vital to target, it’s important not to forget about your other guests. In order to cater to all of its guests, ranging from experiential to business diners, The Knickerbocker makes sure to offer a variety of amenities and services, like the rotating themed Club Room and its one-hour Power Lunch, Hauver said.

“It’s important to create a straightforward, yet on-trend dining environment, beautifully prepared dishes, and over-the-top beverages that can be shared on social media channels,” Hauver told Smartbrief, adding that millennials are also looking for strong, free Wi-Fi to share it all.

The appeal of boutique hotels that bring one-of-a-kind experiences was a key factor in SBE’s decision to purchase Morgans Hotel Group.

“I think the evolution of hospitality, whether it’s now boutique, has turned into lifestyle," SBE CEO Sam Nazarian told Fox Business. "Lifestyle has turned into integration of food and beverage, [which] has turned into integration of entertainment.”

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