Room service?

    Hoteliers need to shout louder online to improve food and drink sales, HELENA SPICER tells Better Wholesaling

    As part of our regular food-service market watch, Helena Spicer, senior foodservice analyst at Mintel, covers the key trends affecting eateries and what these mean to wholesale suppliers.

    This month, she reveals that if your hotel customers want to sell more food and drink, they need to shout about it online: 30% of consumers are more likely to use a hotel eatery if there are menus and images on the hotel website, while 39% of guests staying at a hotel are more likely to use the restaurant if it has a positive review on Trip­Advisor.

    BW: How big is the hotel & leisure foodservice market in the UK?

    HS: Valued at £4.1bn in 2012, the hotel catering market has stagnated
    in recent years, as the recession has pushed consumers to cut back on spend on leisure and hospitality. The anaemic performance of the UK economy has really dampened the growth of various leisure markets as well as hotels in recent years.

    How has this affected the eating‑out market?

    It has had a direct effect on hotel restaurants through the number of hotel visits, but has also suppressed consumers’ willingness to spend extra on hotel facilities such as catering: half of people surveyed say


    6 tips to give your hotel customers

    • START EARLY: Hotel restaurants and bars should be mentioned at the time of booking to raise awareness with consumers.
    • ONLINE REVIEWS: Encourage happy customers to post feedback on the hotel website, social media sites and trusted third-party sites like TripAdvisor.
    • GET CREATIVE: Some of the leading hotels are doing well with historical-themed food and drink – how can you support them with menu ideas?
    • WHATS YOUR POINT OF DIFFERENCE? The Grand Hotel in Brighton only serves fish caught within seven miles of the hotel.
    • BE AWARE OF EMERGING CUSTOMER TYPES: ‘Flashpackers’ are the new, wealthier backpackers – does your proposition appeal to them?
    • GO VIRTUAL: Why not encourage hoteliers to add virtual tours of their restaurants to their general websites?


    they have cut back on hotel-use in some way – for instance, reducing the number of stays, length of stays and what they spend – because of the ­recession.

    How does the market break down in terms of types of outlet?

    The image of hotel restaurants as more expensive than competing venues has dampened demand, as value for money remains a core consideration for consumers. Food and drink continue to generate a significantly lower share of hotel revenues in London than on average. This is likely to be due to the wide choice of venues off site at which to eat out. Making sure that catering options reflect the current eating-out trends on the high street should help hotel operators improve revenues derived from food and drink, though they will remain under pressure.

    How can operators compete with the high street?

    Driving awareness of the hotel restaurant when guests are booking their stays is crucial for hotels in urban areas: 37% of consumers would be more inclined to use a restaurant at a hotel at which they were staying if there was better information online, such as menus and photos, while 30% of consumers say that this would encourage them to use restaurants in hotels at which they weren’t staying.

    Good reviews by customers on websites such as TripAdvisor are thought to encourage 39% of consumers to use restaurants in the hotels in which they are staying, putting the emphasis on hotel operators to encourage happy customers to post positive online reviews.

    What food and drink trends are you seeing in this market?

    Hotels are arguably becoming more focused on specific customer types, in order to be seen as leaders at various price points. For example, earlier this year, it was announced that a new chain of ‘boutique hostels’ was being developed to target ‘flashpackers’, who are independent travellers with an increased willingness to spend compared to traditional backpackers.

    How about trends in the wider eating-out market?

    There is evidence that hotels are catching on to the opportunities of positioning their restaurants as product or cuisine specialists so as to be seen as better quality and good value for money. A good example of this is The Grand Hotel in Brighton, which opened its new seafood restaurant GB1 earlier this year. This only serves fish and seafood that has been caught within a seven-mile radius.

    Another example follows the trend of more design-led venues. In late 2012, the Churchill Bar and Terrace opened within the Hyatt Regency London hotel The Churchill. The British-themed bar offers a cocktail menu that features its own Churchill Craft Gin and serves
    British-themed dishes.

    What other innovations are you seeing in the hotel-catering market?

    The Grosvenor’s new destination Reunion Bar aimed to tap into the trend for historical food and drink by launching a limited-edition Victorian theme cocktail menu at the end of 2011. Similarly, the venue later picked up on retro food trends, which it reflected in a time-limited ‘Ye Olde English Sweet Shoppe’ themed cocktail menu in April 2012. Drinks included Pineapple Rock, The Humbug and Rhubarb & Custard.

    What trends will we see over the next six to 12 months?

    London Olympic and Paralympic Games boosted interest in UK tourism in 2012. However, there are fears that factors such as poor weather and the ‘Olympic hangover’ will see the conditions toughen in the hotel market again this year.

    On a more positive note, the market is also increasingly responsive to wider trends: for example, targeting consumer groups more specifically in terms of overall hotel design and facilities.

    Hotel restaurants and bars are also being positioned as destination venues in urban areas, in an effort to drive extra footfall from local diners.

    How can wholesalers help their independent hotel and leisure customers to grow sales?

    Consumers’ are getting more digitally savvy and the increasing ‘online research’ mentality should prompt hotel operators to improve coverage of their catering offer on the web to build a buzz around the restaurant and address concerns about the venues being overly ­formal.

    What are some of the best operators doing to boost business?

    Some hotel chains are already tapping into wider industry trends, making websites more visual as well as offering basic information about the venue.

    For example, early this year, Travelodge announced that it would be improving its website with new additions such as video footage of its rooms. This strategy could be extended to provide better coverage of hotel restaurants.

    Helena Spicer is the senior foodservice analyst for research-consultancy Mintel, where she is responsible for the publication of the foodservice report journal. 


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