Why Does Hotel F&B Often Have No Identity?


Why is hotel food and beverage so perplexing? There is often no difference anymore between what defines a full versus limited service hotel,  In the past this difference was primarily defined by having (or not having) an on-premise restaurant. There are so many limited service hotels with multiple leased food and beverage options and full service hotels more and more often have a single leased restaurant.  Do full service hotels that operate their own restaurant want the hotel guest or outside world to come in? Or do they lose money on each meal served and only offer the outlet as a money losing amenity? Many hotels are touting “local” everything but why are so many naming their restaurants after a street number? Go ahead and ask a hotel employee the address of the hotel and you will more often than not receive a blank stare, but they will likely know the name of the restaurant.
Consider a downtown Hilton…211 Restaurant & 211 Lounge; Grand Hyatt Airport has 1823 Kitchen and Bar; even the landmark Chicago Hilton got rid of two restaurants and opened 720 South Bar and Grill. Many of these spots serve excellent food and offer splendid service, but why such unmemorable names?


Ever spend the night in a hotel where you were amazed, perplexed, shocked or excited? Whether your experiences were delightful or dreadful, hotels are funny places that are living, breathing and evolving organisms.

Post a Poor Hotel Review… What’s the Point?

IMG_1258Is there value in sharing your hotel review on social media sites? Sure, it might make you feel good to blow off steam if you had a deplorable experience and if that is your goal go for it! Or if you want to warn fellow travelers about a horrific hotel stay then post a review. But what if all you want to do is let the owner or manager know so they can take corrective action?  Or perhaps management is oblivious or does not care… is it always appropriate to post a review?

Consider a recent experience at a relatively new, upscale, not large, center-city hotel. Upon arriving an hour after the posted check-in time, I was greeted by a sea of foreheads at the front desk, banging away on their keyboards. Although a smiling face would have been nice, or a mere acknowledgement pleasant, I had to announce “hello… I am a guest and would like to check-in!”  Stunned, four heads looked up at me in unison, three of which appeared to be managers. I was promptly told that no rooms were available with no mention of when a room might be available, no offer of preliminary check-in, no suggestion to call my cell phone when the room was ready and not even a suggestion to store the bags I was struggling to hold. Stunned, I walked away and was assigned to a room two minutes later when I asked a new desk clerk to be checked-in. When I opened the door to my prized guestroom, furniture was disheveled, air conditioning did not work and a light bulb was burnt out. Nobody at the front desk cared, even though this property was vying to be the new market leader.
Things did not fare better the next morning. There is a first time for everything and this was the first time a hotel ever completely missed my wake-up call (and with no remorse when I brought it to their attention). Bewildered at how to charge for up a “coffee to go” on their computer system, no offer of milk or sugar and no “to-go” tops for the paper cups… perhaps I was the first guest ever to ask for takeaway coffee. It took 45 minutes for my parked car to arrive from the mandatory valet service (no self parking), even though this hotel charges a rate double (or more) of the competitors… I was told the delay was caused by the valet hiker being on break. No need to elaborate on the lack of directional signage at the confusing layout, the loud buzz of an air conditioner mounted outside my window, the arrogance or flurry of other disappointments at this hotel. At  check-out I was again greeted by a bunch of foreheads. Not one of them even uttered “how was your stay?” but I was proudly informed that the “resort fee” (for this non-resort) would be waived, which included free internet access (every other hotel in the market offers free wifi) because the miniature indoor swimming pool was not functional.
Again, management seemed to be present during many of the occurrences and employees across the board did not care or alert their superiors. So if it is your goal to share an experience hoping that someone cares, be sure to notice the signals you are given and trust your intuition.
Any Hotels Still Have Live Music?

Live Music Hotel Pfister Milwaukee Entertainment

It is becoming more and more rare to find a hotel that features live music anymore. Pianos in lobbies and bands in bars seem to be a thing of the past but live music is alive and well at The Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee. On a recent Friday night, a pianist was playing in the Lobby Lounge; female vocalist with her trio in the rooftop Blu and a jazz trio in the Mason Street Grill! Can anyone else name a hotel so committed to live entertainment?


Where Am I?

Ever wake-up in the middle of the night when travelling and have no idea where you are? As hotels look more identical from brand enforced standards and most every hotel from budget to luxury has implemented bed scarves, a lack of connection to the consumer has become the norm. Views of interstates and chain restaurants when peering out of sealed windows are here to stay and the name changing game is picking up momentum adding to guest disorientation. And now even hotel addresses add to the state of confusion. How odd is it to sleep in a hotel on a street named after another hotel!? When patronizing a hotel in Green Bay (WI), your address at the Hampton Inn will be 2840 Ramada Way, Econo Lodge 2815 Ramada Way, Travelodge 2870 Ramada Way and Comfort Inn 2841 Ramada Way. At least when staying at the Ramada Plaza located at 2750 Ramada Way, the address will give you a clue to where you are!
– sjm from chicago, il
Fun At Breakfast!


It was a beautiful morning at the upscale limited-service hotel located in the Midwest. Hungry, I strolled down to the breakfast bar. Little did I know I would get breakfast and a show from an unexpected source. The breakfast bar had the usual: waffles, cereal, bagels, sausage, bacon, and cinnamon rolls, but In the center of the dining area was something truly marvelous that I had never seen before. There was a machine with a large button on the front. The side read “Pancakes.” I had to try it. I pressed the button, and within five minutes the machine spit out two fresh, perfectly round, golden brown pancakes right onto my plate. After I sat down to enjoy them, I watched a little boy go up to the machine. He pressed the button, and smiled in anticipation of fresh pancakes. When he saw a pancake coming slowly through the machine, he held up his plate. But the pancake didn’t stop coming. All the people in the dining room stopped what they were doing and stared. More and more pancake kept coming for at least seven minutes. Finally, the boy gaped at the five foot pancake snake and had just been excreted onto his plate. Everyone was staring at the boy, and after a few seconds of silence he said, “Um, pancake anyone?” That morning everyone at the hotel shared a delicious community pancake. The moral of the story: When you come to this hotel, you will get your money’s worth if you use the pancake machine.
– sophia age 13 from milwaukee, wi
A New Sense of Place: Bowery House NYC


Hotels often try to convey a sense of place. It’s still up in the air whether serving local craft beers, displaying artwork created by folks in the neighborhood, sourcing farm-to-table produce or hiring a hipster concierge makes your hotel “local.” But the Bowery House NYC takes creating a sense of place further… much further! They house trend-setting guests in 72 square foot cubicles directly above men paying $10 a night for their accommodations.
According to the New York Times, “On the Bowery, on the second floor of an ancient flophouse, nine men pay less than $10 a night to sleep in cramped cubicles topped with chicken wire. Half the stalls in their shared bathroom are missing doors, and their halls are lined with spooky rows of empty cubicles whose last occupants either took off or died off. Directly above them, on the third and fourth floors, stylish young men and women pay $62 to $129 a night for a refined version of the gritty experience below. Their cubicles have custom made mattresses and high-end sheets. Their shared bathrooms have marble sinks and heated floors. Their towels are Ralph Lauren.”
In the 1940’s through the 1990’s, the Bowery was New York City’s “Skid Row.” What is now known as the Bowery House opened its doors in 1927 as the Prince Hotel. During the 1940s the hotel was reconfigured to serve as temporary lodging for soldiers returning home from World War II. All floors of The Prince Hotel were rebuilt with single room cabins that were just large enough for a bed and storage of essential items and bathrooms were located down the hall. Because of its prime location, many of the soldiers never left and made the hotel their long-term home.
According to the Bowery House, they “decided to preserve and restore every detail of the remarkable 1940’s cabin craftsmanship and in turn provide unique, authentic and historic accommodations to travelers from around the world.” Cabins range from “just large enough to house a bed” to larger-dorm style bunk rooms.
– sjm from chicago, il


What Is A Boutique Hotel? 


The definition of a boutique hotel is ever-changing, broadening and often controversial.  As this segment of the hotel industry matures, there seems to be fewer consensuses on what a boutique hotel stands for. Can a boutique be over 500 rooms, part of a chain, soft branded, operated by a large corporation, budget oriented?

Some characteristics presented at a recently held Boutique Hotel Conference Include: luxury finishes; individualized experiences; local experiences; stylish; fashionable; size does not matter; self-expression: reflection of who the guest perceives themselves to be; sensory: smell, music, fabrics; bring community into the hotel; guest touch experiences: spa, food and beverage; not about the hotel brand but about the guest themselves; wide spectrum; different psychology; intangible.  The possibilities seem to be endless!

– sjm from chicago, il


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