So, You Want to Open a Hotel Restaurant

By Naomi Balagot

Opening a restaurant in a hotel comes down to two questions, depending on your side of the business.

If you are a hotelier, you must ask yourself, “How much does my company want to be personally involved in the restaurant business?” Developing a concept, hiring a staff, and managing all of a restaurant’s operations are an enormous undertaking.

Don’t just take it from us. Check out this restaurant development and operations checklist, which hospitality management specialists Turner Lodging Co. calls “just the basics.” The checklist includes the business concept stage, planning and operations, location, menu and beverage considerations, marketing your restaurant and human resources.

Similarly, hospitality expert Gordon Cartwright advises hoteliers on what to consider if they want to open a restaurant on their property and whether or not they should contract out or run it themselves.

“Whichever direction you choose, franchise or expansion, your premises need to be suitable to deliver a sound level of functionality,” Cartwright explains. “You’ll need to consider, for example, the amount of staff you’ll require, your stock of crockery and cutlery, where you can hold a stock of food, if you have sufficient kitchen equipment and a dining venue that functions with the market you’re looking to engage. Your business will also need to have a structured, functional and rationalized business plan that links into and protects your current business model.”

Playing Well With Others

As a restaurateur, do you play well with others? It’s the question you must ask yourself before starting a business or expanding your franchise to a hotel. According to the experts at FoodserviceWarehouse.com, it all starts with a concept, a contract and a partnership.

From the concept perspective, restaurants have a great business opportunity for week-day hotel guest traffic, in addition to weekend guests and local traffic. The business agreement largely comes down to what the hotel owner or manger wants, since it is their turf. The contract may be formed between the restaurant and an off-site management company or between a private hotel owner and the restaurant.

Here are a few things to consider when forming a contract with a hotel:

  • What, if any, improvements are needed to the facility?
  • Who is hiring the labor to complete the work?
  • Does the hotel receive a portion of the revenue for providing restaurant guests?
  • What is the point-of-sale system when hotel guests charge meals to their room?
  • Will the restaurant and hotel share employees, including cleaning and maintenance staff?
  • Who handles property inspection and maintenance?
  • How are utilities such as gas, water and electricity shared and billed?
  • Does the restaurant have a liquor license or will the hotel provide one?
  • Will the restaurant be able to have live music and host parties/events?

Just like hoteliers, restaurant managers have plenty of their own concerns to address before signing an agreement.

Remember: Just because a restaurant is located in a hotel doesn’t necessarily mean it will survive. The same fundamentals of quality and service that apply to any standalone or shopping mall restaurant apply to hotel restaurants.

Also, if the restaurant is part of a chain, it must have a brand-consistent experience a customer/hotel patron expects when they’re stopping in from out of town. Due to the restaurant’s partnership with the hotel and the competitive nature of the industry, the pressure is on to create an enjoyable and memorable guest experience.

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