The Hotel Restaurant

As I travel around the country speaking at conferences and meetings that take place in various nameless hotel/conference centers, one thing is always the same. It’s the hotel restaurant.

I’m sure you’ve eaten at this one restaurant that’s scattered around the country. Sure, it has different names…depending where you are….
In Denver, it’s called “Rocky Mountain Grille”.
In Chicago, it’s named “Windy City Grille”.
In Boston, it’s the “Patriot Grille”

The idea is the same in each spot. The chain hotel’s corporate “gourmet chef” has developed a menu that sounds fancy and high-priced. The entire experience and pricing is built around the idea of the corporate expense account. The trouble is that it’s iceberg lettuce…not mixed greens. The waitstaff’s last job where they learned the meaning of “service” was a fast-food place…not a white-linen steakhouse. Most of the food came off the same food service truck that just visited the local schools and prison.

And yet people flock to it.

I currently sit writing this in the lobby of one of those Holiday-Marriott-Sheraton conference hotels (at least they’ve figured out the need for wi-fi). People are scurrying into the hotel restaurant. You can see on their faces that they think they’re going to a fine restaurant and will truly get a great experience of the local taste.

I dare say there’s better BBQ in Memphis than at the “Blues Grille”.
There’s better crabs in Baltimore that at the “Chesapeake Grill”
I bet the key lime pie is better at Kermit’s than at “Hemingway’s Grille”

So what’s the attraction? Simple. It’s the marketing. Marketing to a captive audience that’s too busy, too ignorant, or may be too scared to get out and walk 2 blocks to get the real thing. After a 9-4 day of conferencing and continuously seeing the menu in the elevator and seeing the menu laying on your pillow, you convince yourself that the Chicken ala St. Louie is the best thing next to the Arch.

The next time you think that marketing isn’t worth it, then remember this. If someone can convince intelligent world-traveled businesspeople that the “Golden Gate Grille” is the best option in one of the world’s best food cities, you can market ANYTHING.


4 thoughts on “The Hotel Restaurant

  1. jt winebrenner

    Sorry, I don’t buy this one as a prime example as to why Marketing works. The only reason that these restaurants work is because they have captive audiences. The reason this is exactly why I believe it is NOT an example of good marketing is because the marketing is a load of crap. The feeling that they have to “market” a shoddy product, rather than creating a good product with a good story to ensure the captive audience doesn’t go somewhere else is insulting.

  2. Chris Houchens

    @jt–I’m not applauding either the buyer or the seller in this example. I’m just offering the example that it seems to be working. While they are pushing “crap”, they are creating a story about it that people are buying into. It’s a “good” story about a “bad” experience. It happens everyday, but that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from these people who use marketing power for “evil” purposes.In the long run, of course, these marketers lose. We must take these lessons of how to capture attention, and make the story authentic so the story can be spread.

  3. jt winebrenner

    If your intention was to point out a scenario where Marketing was being applied as a decal at the end of the creation of the hotel, we are in agreement. This is a scenario where it could be significantly better. Which is not how I interpreted your post.I read your posting as supporting what these hotel/restaurant chains are doing as a good example of Marketing efforts.

  4. TAStaples

    See I look at the whole restaurant in the hotel thing as a revenue padding investment for the hotel – NOT an attempt to be recognized for fine cuisine. Hotels put restaurants in their lobbies for the sole purpose of gaining expense account dollars from guests too lazy to walk a few blocks to a restaurant around the corner, and maybe too proud for the order in delivery Pizza. Think of this as the same thing as movie theatres and their popcorn and candy consessions. Certainly they don’t spend more than 2 seconds “marketing” their goodies to you, they don’t need to! You know exactly where to find them and because they ban you from bringing outide food in with you…they know you’ll be thirsty. Similarly hotels commonly prohibit Pizza and other delivery people from delivering to guest rooms out of a concern for “guest safety” requiring the guest to come down to the lobby, bunny slippers and all, to pick up their food. Let’s be honest though. Hotels don’t need to market their restaurants to outsiders or make any real efforts towards a quality product any more than the movie theatres need to sell their popcorn at Target. They are good examples of revenue fillers, value added, etc etc. The bottom line is, some customers will see them as great conveniences, some will be annoyed, but at the end of the day, the companies make a healthy income from these value added services and a profit above and beyond what they make at their core business.

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