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.