Successful all-day dining design
How limited service properties can fulfill their F&B potential
By Luxe Interior's David Rooney
The Middle East restaurant and bar industry is unique, with the distinct advantage of not having to face traditional high street competition for its customer share.
The majority of the sector’s traffic is hotel-centric, driven not by passing trade, but by hotel location and reputation.
This situation lends considerably more weight to a hotel’s F&B offerings, in terms of commercial contribution and customer perception of the overall venue.
The luxury end of the hotel market has acknowledged this potential and invested heavily in providing dining experiences buoyed up by celebrity chef endorsements and culinary exploration; tactics which are used as a vehicle to reinforce the host hotel’s aspirational brand values and cement its market position.
Indeed, F&B offers are often so fundamental to the way a hotel engages in dialogue with its customers, that one could be forgiven for asking which came first: the restaurant or the hotel.
Yet while the luxury sector appears to have it all sewn up, with an established marriage of F&B offerings working diligently for the hotel operators, the same cannot always be said for lower-tier commercial properties.
Three-star commercial hotels are one of the largest growth sectors in the Gulf’s hospitality market, yet the synergy between host hotel and its F&B portfolio often lacks maturity, leaving both halves of the whole suffering the consequences of falling trade and damaged profits.
At the same time, brand standards associated with the leading limited service commercial hotels are pretty high; customers will quite rightly expect the F&B to fit these global brand values.
This isn’t always the case.
From a design perspective, there are three main areas where such hotel operators can work with design companies to better fulfil their F&B potential.
The first issue is the nature of the offering and the multi-layered demands placed upon it.
Unlike larger hotels, limited service concepts often don’t have the luxury of several F&B outlets providing guests with a range of culinary options throughout the day.
Instead, one lone venue has to meet all the requirements. Consequently, the design planning and atmosphere of the restaurant is based around the one peak service time: breakfast.
While undoubtedly logical, this approach to planning and roll-out can often lead to a restaurant venue which loses its appeal during the post-breakfast period.
This situation is particularly acute for the evening dinner service, representing a missed business opportunity when guests go elsewhere.
The key to overcoming this is to adopt a design approach which supports the venue’s desirability throughout the day, while still fulfilling operational requirements.
The space should first be an appealing venue that meets operational requirements as a natural consequence.
The second influential factor is that the planning and spatial organisation of many hotels in the market sector is understandably formulaic.
Designers are too often introduced to a building and format plan when it is a fait accompli, with the restaurant and bar offer fixed in a location that makes perfect operational sense in its proximity to services, but which fails to maximise its potential contribution to the culinary and aesthetic value of the hotel.
The key is to introduce the consultants earlier on in the process, so they can influence the quality of the final result.
Specialist designers, catering consultants and F&B managers all bring a wealth of understanding to the process of locating and planning a venue in the context of the overall hotel development.
The third and probably the most important element for the operator is budget.
It is understandable that the costs associated with an F&B offer should be proportionate to the overall development budget, but this percentage can be limiting if the design professional is not prepared to operate with flexibility and creativity.
A limited budget should not be a barrier to creating effective design solutions; design need not be a slave to cost.
The success of a design should be judged on how well it meets the demands of an operator and their guests: it should work aesthetically and practically, regardless of budget.
With more forethought and the involvement of key stakeholders, three-star commercial hotel operators can corner their in-house F&B market to give the guest a better overall experience and support the outlet.
Just remember: be clear on operational and design objectives; understand guest expectations with a view to exceeding them; plan well to ensure that the F&B venue makes a contribution the hotel beyond its role as a provider; and adopt a design philosophy that is appropriate, pushes the envelope but remains within the limits of a prescribed budget.
David Rooney is the design director at Luxe Interior — the firm currently developing the new F&B concept for Premier Inn in the Gulf.