So much has changed with hotel operations since the COVID-19 pandemic began that it’s difficult to know where to begin when thinking about the impact on Food & Beverage (F&B) operations at your hotel. But for many hotels F&B was an important driver of revenue be it from restaurant operations, bar service, nightclub operations, catering and events business, or complimentary breakfast common at limited service hotels. While it is crucial that you check with your state and local health authorities as well as your legal counsel and insurance policies to determine what F&B offerings you can currently offer, there may be some creative solutions that can help you drive revenue.
Limited service hotels may be in the best position here because instead of cooking for a breakfast buffet with excess food that can go to waste, switching to a grab ‘n go bagged breakfast option is a more effective way to control portions and costs. These bagged options can still be tasty but extremely cost effective. They also eliminate the need to determine how you may be able to accommodate seating options as the guest expectation is to pick up a breakfast bag and either return to the guest room to eat or to leave the hotel and take breakfast to go. There is also much less public area cleaning as guests cannot eat in the previously designated breakfast space.
For hotels with a restaurant, the challenges have been much greater as many jurisdictions have eliminated indoor seating for dining but allow outdoor seating. Evaluate your hotel’s outdoor space and determine if you may have some open, attractive outdoor areas where you can place tables and chairs spaced apart in line with state and local health mandates. If you have some outdoor areas that may not be as attractive, is there a cost-effective way to spruce them up to make a seated option a reality? Be mindful that a cost-benefit analysis is crucial to determine if seated dining makes sense for your property. If not, does takeout make sense? Perhaps from a limited menu?
For branded properties, you may be wondering how you can change up your F&B offering while still adhering to brand standards. Most brands have provided revised guidance for F&B offerings realizing that many brand standards are no longer permissible such as breakfast buffets or three meal per day seated indoor dining. Be sure to engage with your brand manager for more guidance but also understand that the brands want to see your hotel succeed so they will be willing to work with your hotel during this crisis.
There are many creative solutions that can cater to guest needs while strictly adhering to state and local health guidelines. Be sure to communicate your F&B offering to guests on your hotel’s website and upon guest check-in. It remains an unprecedented time for hoteliers throughout the country and even a small leg up through a carefully thought out F&B offering could make the difference as we continue to navigate these challenging times.