When we think about what is the restaurant “product” that will deliver my expectations as an owner or operator, it becomes a broad question. What is the “product” of a restaurant? Is it the items on the menu? Is it the extent of the food and beverage options available? Is it the décor and atmosphere? Is it the price points and policies? Actually, it’s all of them and that brings us to brand. How do we create a brand experience that needs to be different things during different parts of the day which is unique to a hotel environment?
It requires a thorough and quantitative measurement of your available market by meal period and weighting of priorities. Each day part of the restaurant has different markets available to it. In the morning you have the captured hotel guest from out of town that doesn’t know what the breakfast place of the locals charge and just wants the convenience. It takes two to three local guests to add up to the same revenue of a hotel guest. Not too hard to figure out.
Now comes lunch and your hotel guest is gone. You’re staring out at the local opportunities but lunch is turning into grab-and-go unless your place is a business class lunch restaurant (which by the way have not done well in recent years), not really conducive to attracting that local worker.
Come dinner you are really in a conundrum because you are back to your hotel guests who really wants to go out to the local favorites or just wants simple convenience and has lower expectations on quality and selection.
The last few years have been very challenging because the traveler is acting differently than they have in the past, but that will not last forever. If you look at your hotel restaurant, first assess your in-house guests needs (style, price, palate, speed) by meal period. Grab-and-go has taken a lot of full service restaurant customers due to price, speed, and convenience. Price is a big issue and I think will be so going forward. Providing a full service experience is often contrary to what they want, have time for, or are willing to pay for.
People are in a hurry in the morning so quick service (buffet or otherwise) meets their time needs. Since you have this, why not offer a high-value, quick service option at lunch for the workforce in the business’s around you? Local workers need to get a lot done during their lunch time including grabbing lunch. Your average check is probably not much different than a Chipotle burrito, but the guest is not dependent on a service sequence, a tip, and the amount of time. Develop a food and beverage program that fits the style and décor attractive to your guest.
This is where, (finally, Bill) the tangible product questions come in. Designing the menu to balance what the customer wants (not easy as described above), quality and portion of ingredients (food cost), preparation skill (labor cost), and let’s not forget management of this highly variable operation is the next big step. You will quickly become aware that you can’t afford to please everyone with such different needs and price perceptions. This is where many give up. If it (success) was easy everyone would have it.
If you look closely at successful food business’s and keep in mind the scale you are able to or want to operate at, the answer is in doing a few things exceptionally well and developing a cult following. There are restaurants known for their oatmeal, soup, a sandwich, fried chicken, etc. Pick a few things each meal period to excel at, be good at the others and drive it home. Success in food is signature items sold so frequently that the staff gets almost perfect at it and the guest can rely on it.
I could go on and on, but you see why you need to quantitatively measure your available market, the competitive environment you compete with, and find that opportunity to get more volume. You have a substantial fixed cost if you are going to be open, why not maximize the potential? In the end, are you running a percentage business or a profit business?