Hotel Dining Insights: How to prepare your food offer for the future

Insights Lab's Kateline Porritt was a guest speaker at the Annual Hotel Conference last month, with our Head of Trends spotlighting how hotel operators can negotiate the financial crisis and create successful dining concepts that elevate overall experiences
Hotel dining photography
For UK hotels amid a cost-of-living crisis, the idea of launching or expanding dining propositions may seem a risky one. Yes, consumers up and down the country are tightening purse strings, with travel costs and longer hotel stays much less of an automatic go-ahead with finances under the spotlight.

So, with the primary aim of getting beds filled arguably challenge enough at the moment; why should hotels double up with added food and drink components?

Put simply: food can play a huge role in compelling customers to spend money within a hotel environment. Indeed, in its most successful form, hotel dining is a perfect synergy of hospitality concepts, and not unnecessarily complicated. Money is a challenge for many, but a considered food & drink hotel component, established with value and a sense of destination as the bedrock, can be a game changer for independents and groups alike.

Here at Insights Lab, we help hotel operators isolate best routes for all types of menus and wider food propositions, using our deep knowledge of macro trend trajectories and key consumer drivers to establish dining components with clear value and inherent longevity.

Last month, our very own Kateline Porritt delivered exclusive insight into UK hotel dining trends as a guest speaker at the 2023 Annual Hotel Conference (AHC) in Manchester, with our Head of Trends spotlighting and defining a number of ways in which operators can harness current consumer needs to create successful dining concepts and elevate overall hotel experiences.

For those of you who missed the event, we're showcasing three of Kateline's hotel dining talking points below, building out with real-life examples. And if you're interested in viewing her full AHC presentation on how to prepare your hotel food offer for the future, click here to get in touch.
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Affordable vs Valuable
The 5* Lowry Hotel in Manchester launched two affordable menu offers in the Summer, with its 'Chef's Special' set menu delivering two courses and a bottle of wine for £59 per couple. It also offers a £20-per-head sharing small plates menu.
Broadly speaking, there are two primary pivots available to hospitality operators when considering the financial and economic restrictions brought about by a cost-of-living crisis: you can establish elements of affordability, or you can add extra value to encourage (and justify) a higher spend.

For the latter, adding value to a meal - that extra bit of 'je ne sais quoi' to the whole F&B offer - can make an experience seem more valuable to the consumer, and make them feel like spending a little extra money for the pleasure.

Tableside service is a great example of this, with both hotels and restaurants able to elevate meal experiences with this traditional element of flair.

For example, new casual restaurant Bébé Bob in Soho carves whole chickens tableside, served with chicken jus and a range of sauces and sides.

At the other end of the spectrum, the concept of affordability obviously resonates with consumers during a financial crisis, with 'value for money' set menu offerings or even the latest in fresh food vending machines can deliver on convenience and value.

Memory Making & Hotel Identity
Last summer, Holiday Inn (US) launched a brand-new breakfast buffet with upgraded core items - such as decadent French toast, herb breakfast potatoes and thick-cut bacon - and introduced in-house fresh-baked pastries
As a hotel considering dining offers, arguably the most important aspect (and the one that we at Insights Lab hold highest) is actually your own market context and brand identity.

For example, a 'family-friendly' hotel might not be making memories for its guests through Michelin-starred fine dining. But it might be through becoming a destination for family-style sharing roasts. If you're a business-centric city-centre hotel, it might be about room service or event catering.

The point here is about keeping your food concept uncomplicated.

Instead of attempting to integrate something like Korean-fusion or Mexican street food into your offer when your established hotel identity says something different, just because the food trends are moving as such; focus on what your guests might expect of you, streamlining and enhancing core elements while building in considered newness to keep things fresh.

Make It Personal
Solutions such as Bartech's automated minibars allow for personalised selections based on guest preferences, enabling hotels to create a more tailored and memorable experience, leaving a lasting positive impression on guests
Personalisation is a very relevant trend across the food industry, with customisable elements and a sense of uniqueness appealing across the board.

The wrong turn that is an overcomplicated hotel food concept is also relevant here. It's easy to think you need to incorporate everything into the day-to-day to validate your offer, from breakfast, brunch and self-catering elements to room service and full dinner flourishes.

And while, for some operators, this can obviously work, but it's not always the case. And it doesn't translate to a personal experience.

A personal experience might be a waffle bar where guests can add their own toppings at breakfast for an indulgent, self-created eating experience that feels unique to them. Or it might be as simple as finding out ahead of time how the guest takes their tea, and having the right milks stocked in their mini bar.

It's those little things - often quite easy things - that really make an impact.
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