Hotels took a major hit during the pandemic, and while business is slowly recovering—occupancy is expected to average 63.4% in 2022, per the American Hotel & Lodging Association—food and beverage teams have learned that it’s no longer smart to rely solely on overnight guests for the bulk of sales.
“We have 555 hotel restaurants around the world and 55% to 60% of our diners are locals,” said Kimberly Grant, senior vice president, food and beverage and global head of restaurants for Four Seasons Hotels. “Most of the restaurants have exterior entrances and all are uniquely led by individual chefs, so they have the look and feel of an independent restaurant.”
Dining is the gateway to the brand, Grant believes, and these are the trends becoming ingrained in the Four Seasons brand.
Redefining the meaning of local. Local used to be about product procurement and sourcing, and while local sourcing of ingredients like honey and fresh produce is still a focus, the Four Seasons hotels are paying more attention to local culture. The dining programs strive to celebrate the food culture of the city or region in which each hotel is located.
“When guests go out to dine, they are looking for an immersion into the local culture and spirit of the area, so we hire chefs who are immersed in the cuisine,” Grant said. At the Four Seasons Hotel New Orleans, for example, local celeb chef Alon Shaya oversees the Miss River restaurant, while award-winning chef Donald Link is in charge of Chemin a la Mer, both highlighting Louisiana fare.
Breakfast is the new lunch. The increase in remote workers has been a boon for hotels. The chain has seen a rise in weekday meetings held over breakfast, and morning menus are meeting the demand.
The Four Seasons Hotel Boston has the traditional selection of Eggs Benedict, omelets and frittatas, but also serves up an acai bowl made with local berries and avocado toast with inspired toppings.
Although weekend brunch is still an opportunity for socializing, breakfast is emerging as a strong daypart.
Innovation with plants. The hotel chefs are increasingly celebrating vegetables and grains on the menu. Chef Brandon Salomon at Evelyn’s Fort Lauderdale brings in single vegetables, like carrots, and showcases them in many different ways. A specialty of his is squash blossoms stuffed with mushrooms.
“Customers are not ordering these plant-based dishes because of lifestyle or dietary choices, they’re really enjoying them,” said Grant.
Merging drinks lists. The rise in demand for alcohol-free cocktails has impacted the way Four Seasons menus drinks. “We now merge menu categories, no longer separating out no-alcohol drinks from traditional cocktails on the list,” said Grant.
Hotel bartenders are equally creative with spirit-free cocktails and the trend is happening worldwide, she added.
House-made bottled cocktails to go, a trend that took off during the pandemic, is here to stay, too. A bottled single-serve negroni is a favorite of travelers in Florence, Grant said.
A focus on eliminating waste. Chefs and mixologists have joined together to reduce food waste. “There’s lots more collaboration between the kitchen and bar. Teams continually talk with each other about how the remains of one product and be used or reused on the culinary or beverage side,” said Grant.
Composting and donating leftover food are still priorities, but collaborative waste reduction is now woven into the brand’s ESG plan.