After having spent over 30 years in hospitality, I learned that constant innovation is a must in the food and beverage arena. To innovate means to stay current with and initiate industry trends. It is also an opportunity for hotels to leverage the expertise and skills of their people in order to appeal to more customers and maximize their profit potential.

NB: This is an article from Strategic Solution Partners, one of our Expert Partners

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In hospitality it is easy to become set in our ways, such as in the menu and everyday operations. However the scope for innovation remains open and staying current and listening to customer feedback can give you an edge over the competition. There is also space for brands with an original value proposition and, most definitely, for those that can effectively accommodate the constantly changing landscape of lifestyle trends that influence how people eat.

But what does this look like in practice, and how can you, as a hotel, maximize your profit potential through innovation?

Ask Your Target Audience: You Don’t Have to Go it Alone

You need to know your target audience when looking to change your F&B program for innovation. Your target audience (along with their needs, wants, and expectations) will often shift and change, particularly in an age of fleeting social media trends and rapid media consumption.

Therefore, an accurate market reading is necessary to remain agile and adept at understanding market trends. And the best way to gather this information is to go directly to the source.

Listen to feedback from your current customers, look at the local market, what are your customers looking for. Talk to local vendors and assess what has been asked for and how certain products are being used. A great place to assess the local area is your local supermarket, do they have a large selection of organic foods, are they locally sourcing produce in season. Looking at this can tell you a lot about your local market and customers.

Learn from Your Community’s Culinary History to Understand Recurring Food Trends

Hotels need to understand cultural trends around them better, as well as their customers’ ever-evolving health considerations. This includes knowing the origins and history of the foods they serve and highlighting them on the menu.

Health factors are a rich area for innovation in an era of heightened consideration for what we put into our bodies. They can be addressed by looking at the nature and quality of ingredients used in recipes as well as potential diversification, such as the growing availability of meat alternatives and organic, free-range, and non-GMO foods. Any consumer-savvy menu will include plant-based options and demonstrate careful consideration for the quality of meat on offer to reflect growing concern for animal welfare and ethical consumption.

Knowing more about what’s in the food you are serving is becoming more and more important to hotel guests – and in order to tell them, you have to know. Strengthening relationships with suppliers will reap greater insight into the history, quality, and components of the food and beverages you serve, as well as allow for greater transparency on menus and equip staff with the knowledge to inform customers with health concerns better, pique the interest of any foodie, and incite curiosity about local foods and customs by having more, and richer, information than your competitors.

Start With Sustainability in Mind When Developing Your F&B Program

Sustainability, transparency, and flexibility are the cornerstones of any longevous F&B strategy. Starting with these core values in mind will make staying current easier.

That’s because sustainability is such a crucial and widespread concern in the world today and demonstrating your commitment to playing your part in healing the planet will attract the increasing base of eco-conscious guests.

As an example, in addition to sourcing local ingredients, you could explore growing certain indigenous ingredients on the property or using food waste as compost. This initiative would add a unique story to the menu, and food or herb gardens are an attraction for guests hoping to learn more about the area.

Seasonal menus that make locally available ingredients the star of the show are also a great idea. Making them a norm can reduce the need for energy-intensive greenhouse production (as well as long-distance transportation) and add a locally inspired angle to your hotel’s sustainable brand story. Guests can learn about the community they’re visiting, and locals can enjoy delicious twists on their favorite seasonal ingredients.

Being transparent with customers about what your venue is doing to adapt to (and implement) sustainable solutions will inspire trust and foster a sense of community – particularly if this sustainability pledge is adopted as part of your brand’s long-term strategy.

Collaborate With Industry Experts to Fine-Tune F&B Innovation

Consider working with industry professionals, such as chefs with expertise in a particular cuisine or dietary preference and mixologists who can update and upgrade a drinks menu with unique ingredients or non-alcoholic options. Bringing in an industry expert (or even a team of F&B experts) at sporadic intervals on a per-project basis can keep catering fresh and interesting without compromising the underlying ethos.

The more collaborators involved in the process, the more chance that your F&B program will have a variety of hyper-specific menu items to create an unforgettable experience that caters to a wide range of potential patrons – whether they’re staying at your hotel for business or pleasure, or they live in the area.

That’s not to say that you need a huge team of industry experts. According to F&B expert Norman Van Aken, collaborative dining experiences are one of the ways that hotel restaurants can connect more deeply with their community while also increasing their own visibility in the area.

“It brings more people into the restaurant during soft times, and it also continues to shine a light on our love affair with the cuisines of the world. The journalists tend to like these kinds of things too because they have the ability to show community.” – Norman Van Aken, Chef and Author

Increase Your Visibility Online

Branding is integral to contemporary F&B marketing for hotels that want to positively shape perceptions, foster loyalty, and drive revenue growth. It’s no secret that a unique identity can help hotels stand out in an increasingly competitive industry. However, this goes beyond having an eye-catching logo or fancy fonts.

Instead, brand values that are clearly and effortlessly built into the entire guest experience have a greater (and more long-lasting) emotional impact on guests. But don’t forget that the guest experience can start and continue online – so what can you do to bring your unique brand experience online?

For starters, it’s a good idea to look at how social media and digital platforms have altered consumer behavior:

  • There is more freely available information now than ever.
  • Peer recommendations hold more (visible) power,
  • Customers can engage directly with brands more easily,
  • Trends have the potential to be more widely (and rapidly) adopted, among other factors.
  • Websites are being designed to prioritize their restaurants rather than hotels as a whole.

Based on these changes, the main focus should be on communicating brand values authentically while showcasing the unique F&B experience your hotel offers to build trust with your community – regardless of the digital channel you choose.

Well-defined branding gives you the freedom to adapt and innovate while staying true to your core identity across all customer touchpoints.

How Out-Of-The-Box F&B Solutions Can Directly Maximize Profit Potential

Maximizing profit, of course, ultimately comes down to having more guests willing to pay a premium for the added value that you’re offering.

One of the ways to do that is to leverage your guests’ zeal to share their experiences on social media. Paige Duke, SSP’s Sales Industry Expert, encourages creativity in this regard:

Don’t be shy about throwing things out there when you’re brainstorming. Do something that’s going to make them want to post for your event.
Paige Duke, Sales Expert

And it’s not just about photos, it’s about getting more exposure and solidifying branding. For F&B innovation to directly impact profit potential, it needs to become part of the hotel brand experience and be communicated in a relatable way that is visible to consumers online (and offline). This is a multifaceted process that looks different for all hotels.

For instance, some hotels may opt for collaborations with local influencers and encourage guests to share user-generated content on social media to spark an online conversation, while other hotels may look to more traditional media such as advertorials in local newspapers or magazines.

What does F&B innovation look like in the long term?

Constantly evolving food trends and changing dietary preferences will always present a challenge to any F&B team, but numerous opportunities for innovation are within these challenges.

However, innovation doesn’t mean reinventing the wheel every couple of months. F&B innovation involves using hands-on industry experience and comprehensive knowledge of previous food trends and culinary history to identify patterns.

Hotels that go above and beyond the usual fare (while still catering to guests’ unique needs and desires) can demonstrate the flexibility and creativity of their F&B program to inspire curiosity from existing customers and attract the attention of new guests. When guests are excited to try your F&B experience for themselves, the sky’s the limit for profit potential.

Read more articles from Strategic Solution Partners

Reprinted from the Hotel Business Review with permission from