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2006-10-27 The Dorn Group Hospitality Newsletter
  1. Food & Beverage -- When Did You Last Revamp Your Menu?
  2. Customer Service -- Does your property offer the WOW factor?
  3. "Hotel Interactive" Increase Your Business 1 Neighborhood at a Time.


Food & Beverage -- When Did You Last Revamp Your Menu?
On a recent visit to a Country Club, I noticed a beautiful menu. It was elegant, artsy and eye catching. A menu any manager would be proud of… except it was laminated. So being the nosy consultant I asked about it and was told member's loved it. When asked how often it was changed, the manager told me, "the members love it and I don't want to change it because it was so expensive to produce." It was everything I could do to keep my mouth shut…

There is probably no more difficult task then figuring out what your guests want to eat. A small suggestion is in order. Start slowly. Change is hard for everyone, for your employees, your guests and for your purveyors. So figure out where you want to go, how long you want to take getting there and develop your own Strategic Plan. You know your guests and your employees. You know what they want and what they can handle.

Planning for these changes can be so gradual it is not even noticed. If you decide the entrée portion of your menu is outdated, begin running specials utilizing new items and methods. As they are accepted, slowly integrate them into your program. If your menu had a dozen entrees and you change 1 or two a week, a complete change can occur in less then two months. The great benefit in doing it this way is the ability to change at your pace. If an item is a dud, take it off, if prices soar on the center-of-the-plate item, take it off or re-price it. In this day of computers, there is no reason to have an out of date menu.

While emphasis on food is obvious, do not forget your beverage program. How long have you served the house wine? Do you buy it because of price or quality? If your answer is price, you've made a huge mistake. House wine is often the first bit of food or beverage tasted by a guest. If the $2.00 Chateau Garbage is how you want them to remember your establishment, so be it. I'd rather them remember how good it is.

According to Marriott Hotels F&B executives Robin Uler, senior vice president of food & beverage, spas and retail services, and Brad Nelson, vice president of culinary and corporate chef for Washington-based Marriott International, the 10 top trends are:

  1. Back to basics and sized to order. Guests are looking for great food served with friendly, professional care in a "buzzing" contemporary environment that offers a "sense of place.
  2. Breakfast is back. Diners are starting the day off with eggs cooked to order, and healthy options that have "good carbs" yet are low in fat and high in both protein and nutrition.
  3. In good company. Communal tables continue to grow in popularity, even going the next step to the "gathering area".
  4. Kitchen meets bar. With the advent of more premium spirits on the market and the push for evermore creative cocktails, the pairing of food and spirit in one will be on the menu.
  5. Healthy--not diet-food. Diners are seeking healthy options on menus.
  6. Soft, comfortable, hip. The pendulum will start swinging away from the very angular, overly retro or stark look of many dining rooms in favor of a softer and more opulent ambience.
  7. There's always room for ... Strongly flavored gel squares and desserts made with gelatin sheets and fresh purees are popping up on menus.
  8. High on heritage. Foods from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe--cured salmon, goulash, stuffed cabbage and the like--will make an appearance but with a contemporary twist.
  9. Non-'engineered' product. Diners will be looking for a more "natural" product.
  10. Try a taste. We taste while shopping in the market, so why not when dining?

While you may not agree with all of the trends above, it has to get you thinking… Food and Beverage trends are difficult to keep up with but in an attempt to help you, we've developed a short list of resources for you to use to see what is going on.

Print - Magazines and Newspapers

  • Art Culinaire Magazine
  • Bon Appétit
  • Restaurant and Institutions Magazine (Free)
  • Food Arts (Free)
  • Food and Wine
  • Gourmet Magazine
  • Restaurant Business (Free)
  • Restaurant Hospitality (Free)
  • Nation's Restaurant News
  • Santé (Free)
  • Hotel F&B Executive (Free)
  • Nightclub and Bar Magazine (Free)
  • All About Beer Magazine
  • Wine Spectator
  • The Wine Enthusiast
  • Local Newspapers

Internet - By no means a complete list, but somewhere to begin…

Please feel free to pass this list on to your staff. We'd love to make this the most comprehensive list available. Please e-mail us,, with any resources you know and we'll add them to the list.

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Customer Service - Does your property offer the WOW factor?

In our last issue, we wrote about the changing environment at Ritz Carlton Hotels. Gone are the 20 "Rules" replaced by the "12 Service Values", a less rigid set of guidelines designed to be more appropriate for today's style of guests. As soon as many of our readers had the opportunity to digest the article, emails and calls came flying in. Most of the comments were negative and thought Ritz was making a mistake. One reader went as far so to call the change, "the Marriottization of Ritz Carlton" It's all about staying relevant in a space that has changed dramatically in the last 20 years," says Simon Cooper, Ritz's president and chief operating officer. "Ritz-Carlton has the best and most recognized luxury brand names in the world, and we need to focus on 'relevant luxury.' "Only time will tell…

What separates the hospitality industry from others? Danny Meyer, restaurant extraordinaire (Union Square Café, Blue Smoke, Gramercy Tavern, Tabla and others in New York City) writes in his new book "Setting the Table" about the restaurant business Meyer says, "And the purpose of all this is a product that provides pleasure and that people trust is safe to ingest into their bodies. Also, unlike any other manufacturer, you are actually present while the goods are being consumed and experienced, so that you can gauge your customer's reactions in real time."

How many people in our business have forgotten it's still all about the hotel room, the food quality and the service? Are the sheets soft enough, the pillow firm enough? Is the menu what the guests want at a price they are willing to pay?

It's time to get back to basics. Provide a quality product at a reasonable price. If you are going to serve a prix fixe menu, do not price it at $100 if your average diner spends $25 for dinner. He or she will not spend the money! If the average rate of your hotel is twice the competition's price and you both offer the same product, you are going to lose business to the other guy Guest's will pay for loyalty only to a certain point.

What separates the good from the bad or the mediocre from the outstanding? Great Service! We've all had those experiences… call it the WOW factor. We walked out saying, WOW, the experience was amazing. After you digest the experience you go back or tell others about it. It's the best advertising you can do, it costs nothing extra.

Ever been to Per Se in New York? A group of five of us walked in one night at 9:35 pm for a 9:45 pm reservation. We had waited two months for the reservation. As soon as we walked in, the well dressed hostess looked up, smiled and said, "You must be my 9:45 Dorn party." She knew who was due in and she capitalized on it. She welcomed us as if it were her home using our name and the remainder of the evening continued on the same level.

Does your property offer the WOW factor? Do your employees know how far they can go to please a guest? If you are interested in seeing what it would take to bring your property to the next level, please contact Charles Dorn, CCM, Managing Director at

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"Hotel Interactive" Increase Your Business 1 Neighborhood at a Time.

The article below shows an attempt to try and find business from non-traditional sources. Niche marketing is not done by many operators because of the mistaken belief it does not pay and could be costly. With the advent of the internet and email, the costs of this marketing attempt and others have dropped significantly and can be tried for little upfront money. In this particular case, hoteliers and restaurateurs are tapping local markets and acknowledging frequent users.

Why not try it in your operation?

Increase Your Business, One Neighbor at a Time
By Francine Cohen

Billy Joel sang about folks who like to get away and take a holiday from the neighborhood, but some big city hoteliers are enticing their neighbors to stick close to home. Clever hotel managers are reaching the local market with creative brand building and loyalty programs, which are filling rooms and restaurant seats during slow periods. These unique ideas position the hotels as the place in town for meetings, quick getaways and a place to stash the relatives.

Down in the nation's capital, DC residents welcome visitors to town, but frequently have nowhere to put them. Kimpton solves that dilemma with the "Get Out of My Apartment" rate. In November, door hangers announcing the special pricing will begin appearing in nearby apartment buildings, just before relatives descend en masse. At the seven downtown Kimpton properties, various marketing tools are used to keep the hotels top of mind.

Paige Dunn, Regional Director of Sales & Marketing Kimpton Hotels, East Coast notes there are plenty of opportunities to serve locals when it comes to social events, business meetings and more, "The biggest feeder market in DC is DC itself. It makes sense, from a business standpoint, to support the community and we do love our neighbors and want them to think of us first." To make sure that happens Dunn and her staff connect with residential and commercial building concierges to increase awareness through special offers for residents. These include invitations to wine hour in the lobby, test meals at new hotel restaurants, and a special local's only room rate discount that is cross promoted at the restaurant. Kimpton also pairs with local charities.

Charitably sharing the local discount with the in-laws definitely minimizes the guilt of putting them up in a hotel, not spending the holidays in the same city might even be better! That's the spirit that inspired Omni Hotels "Run From the Relatives" program. At any of the five Omni Hotels in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Tucson and Boulder it's easy to escape annual family drama by checking in (under an assumed name like celebrities do) and taking advantage of the package that includes a list of amusing excuses (Including: "They wouldn't let me on the plane with a fruitcake", and "I am still recovering from last year's dreidel defeat") and a $50 American Express gift card to send to family members to apologize for not seeing them for the holidays.

At the holidays, and year round, local incentive programs prove successful for hotels and their restaurants that are also eager to build repeat business. In Las Vegas, Chef Wolfgang Puck welcomes area residents with a program he calls "Compliments of the Chef." Locals in the know mention their residency when making reservations at one of five Puck restaurants (Spago ,Chinois, Lupo, Postrio, and Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill) and are rewarded with VIP treatment and a little something extra (usually an appetizer or dessert). Stephanie Davis, Director of Brand Communications, Wolfgang Puck Fine Dining Group, noted that an ad campaign for the program had been running in local publications and said, "We've had great success with it."

Back in Washington, DC, Paul Ohm, Director of Operations with the Fairmont Washington D.C. was looking for a way to capture revenue during quieter periods and launched the "Neighborhood Card" in April. Membership is extended to individuals who reside in the hotel's West End neighborhood; already 75 people have signed up for the program that includes a 10 % discount on guestrooms and a 10 % discount on breakfast lunch or dinner for four at the Juniper Restaurant, and Sunday Champagne Brunch in the Colonnade. Members get e-mail blasts with advance news on special holiday meals, on-going promotions and notices of the hotel's special events, like the annual Tree Lighting Ceremony for Toys for Tots. Ohm remarks, "We're involved in the community. It's our opportunity to be a partner and extend something to them."

The Carlyle, A Rosewood Hotel, has been a fixture in New York's Upper East Side community for generations. Magical New York experiences, like sipping cocktails while Bobby Short played piano, is part of the fabric of this neighborhood. To remain a neighborhood favorite the hotel offers something for young and old. Children can bring their parents to a Madeline High Tea at Bemelmans Bar; a tea party served on Madeline-inspired linen and china set among the renowned Madeline murals painted for the hotel by Ludwig Bemelman. Dining without children is also a treat at the luxurious Café Carlyle where a prix fixe ladies lunch is offered. Diners design their meal from any combination of two courses from the list of Appetizers, Entrees, Plats du Jour and Desserts. The choice is endless.

When it comes to appealing to the local market there are endlessly creative ways to reach out and never ending opportunities to be the kind of neighbor everyone wants to sleep with.

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About the author:
Charles D. Dorn, CCM and The Dorn Group, Ltd. aid hospitality businesses in discovering and implementing new strategies to develop their business. Are you looking into taking your business to the next level? Contact The Dorn Group by calling 914-921-3150 or emailing Discover and implement new avenues to help your hospitality business flourish.

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