Stuffy, formal hotel lunches are dead - look to the high street to survive, says Phillip White, Brakes' business unit director - hotels, pubs and restaurants
For years the hotel restaurant has provided a vital extra revenue stream, but this is under severe threat. Consumer behaviour is changing and demand has shifted towards more informal high street-style lunch options and away from the more formal dining environment offered by hotels. Now the industry needs to adapt or face the consequences.
This trend began with breakfast, with many, particularly time-poor guests visiting on business, choosing to eat breakfast on the run or even skip it altogether. Hotels have responded by introducing lobby coffee shops, partnerships with quick service restaurants, breakfast concepts, better buffets and quicker service.
However, it's high time that the industry took the same approach to the rest of the day. A recent study showed that lunch spend per head in hotels was down 7% in 2013 compared with 2012. Lunch is severely lagging behind, with many hotels offering only a very formal option or not offering lunch at all in an attempt to reduce overheads.
But those hoteliers are missing a massive opportunity to generate income and stand out from the competition.
The lunch occasion is far from dead and, depending on your customer base, that demand will always exist. To drive lunch trade, hotels need to take a much more flexible approach and cherry-pick a mix of best practice from pub, restaurant and café chains.
Consumers enter hotels and seek the same offers they would find on the high street, such as fresh soup, salads and sandwiches, served in a similar way and in a similar environment. If they don't find them, they will quickly and easily find that experience elsewhere.
Hotels need to consider how they can be perceived as a destination venue for food and not just as somewhere to stay. They can start by offering a carvery on Sundays or by maximising special occasions, such as Mother's Day, as these will provide a platform to start challenging local restaurants.
Lunch is a huge opportunity for operators as a lot of options are simple to prepare and serve and offer fantastic margins. We are working with customers to identify and develop food solutions to help them maximise their opportunity, but some brave decisions may need to be made by hoteliers along the way.