How to transform your hotel restaurant into a destination
First you need to carefully consider the concept, according to Liliana Anichiarico.
To create a place with real buzz that has people wanting to stay and come back again and again, the Food and Beverage Director of Nobu Hotel Ibiza Bay says looking around to see what’s lacking in your area is a great way to start. “It’s difficult to get quality Japanese food on the island of Ibiza, so this immediately makes us stand out,” she explains.
But just because there isn’t a Polish restaurant in your town, for example, doesn’t mean you should open one. You need to consider the area and if it’s the sort of cuisine and atmosphere your hotel guests and the locals would want. Because Ibiza is a glamorous holiday island with ample access to fresh seafood, a laid-back Japanese restaurant makes sense.
Once you’ve decided on the concept, adding a local flavour is imperative. “We did some sourcing to find out the types of seafood available, then we created some sashimi specific to our region, such as mackerel and red snapper,” explains Anichiarico. “And make sure you create at least one impressive signature dish, such as our octopus carpaccio with jalapeño sauce and dry miso.”
And if you have more than one restaurant, as at Nobu Ibiza Bay, which has four, you need to strongly differentiate them.
“Each of the restaurants need to have its own personality. So while Nobu is the most famous, our Mediterranean beach restaurant Chambao, health-food café Celicioso, and poolside Mexican eatery Peyotito are all equally popular with guests, who are pleasantly surprised to have such varied choices on site,” she adds.
Striving for excellence
Once you have your concept, ensure you can deliver an outstanding level of excellence in the menu, atmosphere and welcome. Anichiarico says: “It’s most important how you make people feel when they are with you. Having too few or poorly trained staff, or low-quality ingredients, is a recipe for failure.”
And if something does go wrong, address it quickly. “In one of my previous hotel restaurants, someone left a review saying they’d had to ask a waiter for something five times. It turned out a new runner (aka busser) had stepped in to cover for a waiter who was unwell. But the runner didn’t speak the language, so didn’t know what the guest wanted. We gave the runner proper training, and invited the guests to join us again for some complimentary cava, and they had a much better experience at their next meal,” she explains.
Anichiarico says it’s vital to set up alerts for TripAdvisor, Yelp and local customer-reviews sites, so you can respond quickly to both positive and negative comments, like the one above, yet many hoteliers fail to do this. But addressing these issues can make all the difference between a renowned destination restaurant and one that struggles to draw in any guests at all.
Setting up alerts so you’re aware of reviews and can respond swiftly can make a huge difference
Time to grow
Once you have your concept and quality offering, you need to give it time to grow, and for word to spread. “Ambassadors can make a huge difference. These are the people who have been to your restaurant, who tell their friends, family and social media networks how much they enjoyed it,” she says.
To facilitate this, put real effort into making all of your dishes as beautiful as possible. While some people might not like the #foodporn trend, if your target demographic uses social media – whether it’s Facebook, Instagram or Twitter – then having your guests snap photos of your dishes and sharing it with all of their connections can give a huge boost.
...choosing a great public relations agency is vital if you want to create buzz
“And choosing a great public relations agency is vital if you want to create buzz,” says Anichiarico. It’s very difficult to get media coverage without this. PRs have spent years cultivating contacts with key publications and freelancers, so they can help you get coverage from journalists you wouldn’t even be able to get an email address for.
Getting a celebrity endorsement can make a huge difference, too, and PR agencies can help with this. “We have Robert De Niro, one of our hotel’s owners, coming to our sake ceremony next month,” says Anichiarico. And recently, Jaime Winstone and Sadie Frost have both stayed and written about their visits.
But above all, remember that first impressions are vital, says Anichiarico. “Everybody is looking for the new place to go, so an opening will already generate excitement. Impress guests with your warm welcome the second they walk in the door, follow through with a memorable meal, and they’ll keep coming back for years.”
Liliana's top tips
- Create a unique concept that provides a desired niche in your area
- Make sure you have at least one signature dish that photographs well and people will talk about
- Host top journalists, influencers and VIPs to generate coverage
- Pay close attention to review sites, and immediately address any complaints