Comment: Time for an extreme lobby makeover

The traditional hotel fixture needs a rethink, says Duncan Fraser-Smith

Duncan Fraser-Smith
Duncan Fraser-Smith

Good Morning Mr. Lobby Lounge, This is your wake up call. Those of you that have heard me speak, know that I classify hotel F&B outlets into the following three separate categories: core, destination and impulse.

Recently I have been working with three-, four- and five-star hotels on the development of their F&B masterplans and it occurred to me that the one outlet we continually treat as ‘core’ needs a little more attention.

The lobby lounge is almost like a distant relative aunt whom you know is there but does not really contribute to your life in any significant form. And yet, in hotels, it is probably the one outlet that every single guest either walks through, or by, with an intention of going somewhere else.

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Potentially I will ruffle some feathers here, but it has occurred to me that across the board, we as an industry create our lobby lounges because ‘we need to provide a place for people to sit and have a coffee whilst waiting’.
Waiting for what is my next question?

So, given great consideration (and healthy debate with owners and operators alike), we looked at moving this outlet away from the ‘must have’ operation it currently rests in and into another classification. The question was where should it sit?

The lobby lounge as a destination outlet? Hmm. It might work in certain unique and specific locations, but as a general rule of thumb, I would say probably not. An ‘impulse’ outlet seems to fit the bill more satisfactorily.
What do I mean by ‘impulse’? I am referring to an outlet that you did not have an intention of utilising and then as you walk past it, its mere presence and offering drives you to utilise it.

Coming from the food & beverage background and having worked with some amazing international hotel chains, I have always pondered the thought of food & beverage being one of the first experiences people have when they walk into a hotel.

In my ideal world, after the bellman, the next person seen would be a chef! Cooking and activating food in a space that you did not expect, but that naturally draws you into it anytime of the day or night.

This is an enormous opportunity to transition and transform the outlet throughout the course of each day.

Imagine landing at 3am from a long haul flight, you are on a different time zone and as you walk into your hotel there is a chef baking fresh croissant in the lobby. Motivation for a quick select roasted coffee and pastry I think.

You continue your activities throughout the course of the day and as you return to the hotel in the evening, a transformation has occurred with the space offering a fine selection of mezze and cheeses matched to exquisite beverages.

Ok this may be the extreme, and yet it points to the fact that food and beverage is always an opportunity for activation. Sometimes we need a little motivation to make change and for the traditional lobby lounge, that time has come.

Duncan Fraser-Smith is the founder of The Cutting Edge Agency which specialises in developing and creation of benchmark F&B concepts through conceptualisation and training, as well as sourcing and partnering with international brands and high profile chefs to successfully establish their presence in the Middle East.

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