Simpler Taste

At the Clarion Waterford Inn & Conference Center in Elmhurst, Ill., guests of the Choice Hotels branded property are getting a new taste of the possible future of midscale food and beverage service. Bistro C is a new beta test concept Choice is rolling out as part of its overall Clarion brand repositioning strategy.

Dan Sweiger, brand leader for Clarion, says the new concept is something that the company believes could turn into a game changer for the midscale hotel market. It is specifically designed to address the challenges midscale hotels face when it comes to food and beverage, especially during hotel conversions.

“When we were looking at Clarion and developing a long-term strategy, we saw a trend that’s been going on for at least seven or eight years. Limited-service and full-service hotels seem to be tending to the same place, meaning limited-service keeps adding more and more to its F&B offerings while full-service seems to keep offering less and less,” Sweiger says. “We looked at it as they are all heading for the same place but no one has a solution for that middle ground.”

That’s the area where Bistro C is aimed at serving. Bistro C employs one multi-use room, a 14-by-18-foot kitchen—literally converted from a closet space—and two hourly employees to deliver hot breakfast, lunch, dinner, carryout, retail, lounge, and basic catering. Everything is done in one place.

“We wanted something that was made specifically for midscale hotel operators, particularly those who are converting flags,” Sweiger says. It, of course, is a way to help attract owners and developers to the Clarion brand. “It’s a little crazy, but we are using food and beverage to attract people.

“But, it’s a solution built first for the needs of the operator to make it simple to put up good food with the least amount of capital investment and labor investment, as well as the highest degree of consistency,” he continues, “and, do that in a way that meets the basic requirements of corporate travelers and groups.”

“The concept is designed to be efficient,” adds F&B Director Tom Prykanowski. “It’s about following a program and a system rather than opening a restaurant.”

The beta test is currently only at the Elmhurst property and has been operating since April. While exact numbers aren’t yet available, Swieger says there have already been positive results and feedback. “The pro forma on the return on investment is 18 months. Everything I’m hearing anecdotally from the hotel says that we are on track to smash that,” he says.

Sweiger says a second beta site is being planned for Del Mar, Calif.

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