Building accommodation around the dining experience
A strong food and beverage offering can be the bedrock of a successful hotel. Restaurants and pubs are waking up to this, with many of them creating an overnight experience as an extension of their existing F&B offering.
Even breweries and vineyards are turning their hand to accommodation. In 2018, the Scottish brewery BrewDog created “the world’s first craft beer hotel”, in Columbus, Ohio, complete with 32 bedrooms featuring beer taps and in-shower beer fridges. They followed it with a second DogHouse hotel, this time in London, paving the way for the craft beer hotel scene.
“We were looking for a next-level way to engage with craft beer fans,” explains Beth Miles, Project Manager at BrewDog. “Consumers are demanding more. There is an increased thirst to know where ingredients have come from, how something is produced and by who, plus a demand for a heightened level of craftsmanship. Bespoke offerings, personalisation, focusing on local businesses and an increasing demand for farm-to-table freshness and transparency across the supply chain are here to stay.”
Miles advises other F&B businesses considering setting up as hotel to remain true to their core values. “Authenticity and integrity are key,” she says. “Research your audience, know your local suppliers, keep it fresh, simple and honest. Your menu should reflect who you are. Take the experience beyond a functional operation, ensuring your guests see your brand in every element of the experience, from décor to service, and of course, in the food itself.”
Extending unique dining experiences
On the island of Zut, in Croatia’s Kornati National Park, Festa is a top restaurant that has gained a reputation for serving the finest seafood, delivered daily by the best local fishermen, with expertly trained staff and a well-stocked wine cellar. Its isolation and excellence has made it a magnet for celebrities – everyone from Luka Modric, captain of the Croatian football team, to the Russian prime minister Dmitry Medvedev, has dined here.
Since the restaurant opened in 1993, diners have had to sail their own boat to the island for their evening meal. But last year, Festa added a new ingredient to its menu – glamping. Diners can now enjoy nights under canvas in one of its five top-end bell tents. “We are already a gastronomic destination, and people visit because the food is so great,” says Festa’s owner Kresimir Mudronja. “But we wanted to offer something to non-nautical clients, so they could have the same gastro adventure without having to own their own boat.”
The island is located 30km away from the mainland and, though its remoteness is one of its major attractions, it also presents a challenge in introducing accommodation. Every tent peg is brought in by boat and rubbish is taken away by sea. Generators supply electricity, solar panels dot the roofs and a desalination system treats water. Glamping guests are transferred from the mainland by boat. “It’s an extra cost to both the guests and us, but when they arrive they are met with privacy and untouched nature that you don’t get on the mainland,” says Mudronja.
According to Mudronja, the secret to success is precisely this uniqueness. “You need to offer guests something that no one else does,” he says. “Just reaching our restaurant and accommodation is an adventure for guests. It’s part of our character, and makes us different from everyone else. That individuality can guarantee success.”
Making the most of an already-established clientele can set a new accommodation apart from the rest. The Red Lion, a pub in Leytonstone, London, has just added ten boutique bedrooms. “The Red Lion is an essential part of the Leytonstone community,” says Anthony Thomas, Founder of Antic, the group The Red Lion operates under. “If you have friends or family visiting you could either put them in a chain hotel or in a place with history and character. I know if I had friends visiting I’d want them to stay above my favourite pub.”
Keeping the pub open while renovation work was ongoing proved the biggest challenge, but careful management helped overcome this. “It would have been easier to close the pub but we wanted to keep normal service for our regular clients,” says Thomas. “You need to pre-plan and think carefully before doing anything so you understand the implications of your actions. If you do this, you’ll be able to keep the doors open and will be ready to welcome a new set of guests when the building work is complete.”
- Restaurants and pubs looking to branch into the hotel industry should remain true to their core values, reflecting who they are from the decor to the food.
- Offer guests something unique – whether that’s a remote location or exceptional food – that will keep guests coming back.
- A F&B business that is already part of the local community has a massive advantage over a chain hotel – draw on this and highlight your individual character to make the most of this advantage.
- Careful management and forethought is needed to keep your existing F&B business open while renovation work is ongoing.