Hotel food and beverage offerings – in-house or out-source?


A recent look at ‘mega trends’ affecting the hotel industry draws attention to food and beverage offerings and, more importantly, what guests are expecting from a hotel from these departments. During the ’80s and ’90s, we saw a popular trend of hotels outsourcing their food and beverage to major restaurant operators and franchises, but that trend has waned as more hotels take back ownership and management of their restaurant offerings.

Most hoteliers outsourced their restaurant service because they didn’t have the food and beverage skills and it seemed a lot easier to sit back and collect the rent every month from a restaurant operator. The problem with this, however, is that you have little or no control over the service levels and standards – essentially you have abdicated all services and responsibilities to a third party. Hotel owners, managers and operators have realised the current need to be differentiated and recognised that hotel catering has historically been a poorly managed afterthought, mostly due to inherent myths that:

‘’There’s no money in hotel food & beverage (except breakfast)’’ 
‘’Hoteliers should focus on selling rooms’’ 
‘’Hotel guests don’t eat in hotels’’

Although there is an element of truth in the above, hotels have the ability to create very exciting options for guests while creating a profit centre within their hotel. There is truly a major opportunity in hotel food and beverage. Hoteliers should not give away these outstanding gateways so that they can focus on rooms; it is very possible to do both and do them well. Industry is waking up to serving the markets that support them, so it’s definitely a case of horses for courses. To illustrate this, a hotel that serves mostly airlines or international inbound groups would really only need to offer a breakfast service (which incidentally has been proved to be the most profitable hotel meal), whereas a corporate, business-focused hotel with support from regulars will see guests wanting to eat and drink at the hotel and even in their rooms.

This brings us to room service – this seems to be an endless challenge for hotel operators and one that is going to need particular attention as the trend for eating in-room grows. Guests are even wanting to SMS or digitally send an order through. With modern travellers’ tight schedules, many people are working and eating at the same time. Single travellers are looking for inventive, healthy options as well as the classic old favourites. Those who are venturing out of their room for a meal are certainly looking for a great vibe and quick turnaround time. Ergonomically designed seating with plug points, WiFi and work space is a win, giving guests the opportunity to work and take in the local crowd too.

Another trend that has lost favour within the four- and five-star bracket is the outsourcing of the restaurant offering to high-profile chefs and restaurateurs. A great idea, but often doomed for failure in a five-star environment where guests have extremely high expectations and are waiting for Gordon Ramsay himself to pop out from the kitchen.

In line with global trends, there is an excellent opportunity for local operators to create their own restaurant brand. There are many ways to skin a cat and if you look at international standards, there are so many great ideas out there. One has to research the local market, surroundings and guest profile and adjust one’s offering according to the patrons’ needs. Create cool spaces with lounge areas, cubicles and great bar areas that come alive during the evening. Tsogo Sun has been leading the renaissance of mid-market hotel and food and beverage offerings and the rest of us need to catch up and take note of the opportunity that’s under our noses.


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