Transforming Hotels: Trends and Forecasts

by Sean kenniff and Antoinette Bruno
Antoinette Bruno
July 2014

StarChefs logs thousands of miles on the road and in the air, across the globe, every year. We wouldn’t be able to visit the chefs, artisans, and all the other wonderful food and beverage professionals without a place to lay our weary heads and full bellies each night. Needless to say, hotels are pretty much our second homes. We pay close attention when staying (and eating) at hotels, and we look forward to returning to many of them. (We love a pool! It’s somewhere to burn off the extra calories from eating our way through town.) We’ve noticed many changes in the industry over the last year or so. Hotels aren’t just integrating into the cities that surround them. They’re seamlessly integrating into the lives of their guests on a very personal level, using information made public on social media. They’re flexible, too. And from the practicality of gluten-free options, to the extravagance of fragrance butlers and soap concierges, amenities are becoming more innovative across the board. The hotel industry is constantly evolving. Here are the top trends as we’ve seen them, inside and out.       



Health and Nutrition

We’re living in a post organic, post spa-cuisine, post Zumba world. As a culture, we’re leading (or at least trying to lead) more healthful lives, and this health conscious mentality is walking through hotel doors. Luxury hotels, led by the likes of Chef Marius Blin of Beverly Hills Sofitel, are devising heavily researched and tested menus with caloric caps that have nutrition in mind as much as flavor. And hotels are educating their employees about their gluten-free options, forgoing separate menus or otherwise highlighting gluten-free dishes, so that when the gluten question arises, the staff is prepared with thoughtful answers and suggestions for the guest.

Seared Diver Scallops, Carrot Harissa Puree, Faro Taboule, and Grape Seed Oil Gremolata

Seared Diver Scallops, Carrot Harissa Puree, Faro Taboule, and Grape Seed Oil Gremolata

Seared Diver Scallops, Carrot Harissa Puree, Faro Taboule, Grape Seed Oil Gremolata

Seared Diver Scallops, Carrot Harissa Puree, Faro Taboule, Grape Seed Oil Gremolata

Seared Diver Scallops, Carrot Harissa Puree, Faro Taboule, Grape Seed Oil Gremolata

Seared Diver Scallops, Carrot Harissa Puree, Faro Taboule, Grape Seed Oil Gremolata

Chef Marius Blin of Estérel- Los Angeles, CA

Chef Marius Blin of Estérel- Los Angeles, CA

 Twice Cooked Soft Egg with Roasted Sunchokes, Buratta, Proscuitto, and Wild Rocket

Twice Cooked Soft Egg with Roasted Sunchokes, Buratta, Proscuitto, and Wild Rocket

Porcini Agnoletti, Sage Pecan Brown Butter, Caramelized Corn, Kale, and Roasted Squash

Porcini Agnoletti, Sage Pecan Brown Butter, Caramelized Corn, Kale, and Roasted Squash

 


Reclaiming Spaces

Hotels are reclaiming their common spaces. They’re transforming stodgy banquet halls and banal lobbies into spaces for dining, drinking, shopping, working, or just hanging out. Creative and casual are the buzz words when it comes to these types of re-imaginings and renovations. Design must flow from one concept to another and at the same time appeal to the most possible customers—guests and locals alike. The possibilities for style, substance, and profit within these reclaimed spaces may also be glimpsed by merely setting foot in an SLS Hotel in New York, California, or Las Vegas.         

 SLS Beverly Hills – Los Angeles, CA

SLS Beverly Hills – Los Angeles, CA

 SLS Beverly Hills – Los Angeles, CA

SLS Beverly Hills – Los Angeles, CA

 SLS Beverly Hills – Los Angeles, CA

SLS Beverly Hills – Los Angeles, CA

 SLS Beverly Hills – Los Angeles, CA

SLS Beverly Hills – Los Angeles, CA

 SLS Beverly Hills – Los Angeles, CA

SLS Beverly Hills – Los Angeles, CA

 


Sense of Place Through F&B Product

From in-house markets (a la Todd English’s Food Hall at the Plaza) and in-room amenities to menus and cross-promotions, hotels are creating a sense of place for guests by representing local products. They’re filling their market shelves with food and beverage from area artisans. Ingredients listed by proprietary name on menus are sparking guests’ interests, inspiring them to make excursions to specific farms or shops. Even food-and-beverage related items, such as cookbooks, are enhancing the guest experience as an in-room amenity. And at the Omni Nashville in Tennessee, they installed a true-to-the-South restaurant called Kitchen Notes—complete with biscuit bar—serving dishes authentic to the region on Steelite Craft—and spirit specific Whiskey Bar, pouring the best of Tennessee’s liquid gold.   

 Sofitel - Los Angeles, CA

Sofitel - Los Angeles, CA

SLS Hotel - Los Angeles, CA

SLS Hotel - Los Angeles, CA

Kitchen Notes at the Omni Nashville: Hoppin' John Frittata

Kitchen Notes at the Omni Nashville: Hoppin' John Frittata

Kitchen Notes at the Omni Nashville: Buttermilk Biscuits

Kitchen Notes at the Omni Nashville: Buttermilk Biscuits

Kitchen Notes at the Omni Nashville: the Biscuits Bar

Kitchen Notes at the Omni Nashville: the Biscuits Bar

Kitchen Notes at the Omni Nashville: Fried Chicken Bucket, Slaw, House Hot Sauce

Kitchen Notes at the Omni Nashville: Fried Chicken Bucket, Slaw, House Hot Sauce

Kitchen Notes at the Omni Nashville: Shrimp and Grits

Kitchen Notes at the Omni Nashville: Shrimp and Grits

Kitchen Notes at the Omni Nashville: Tennessee Patty Melt

Kitchen Notes at the Omni Nashville: Tennessee Patty Melt

 


Catering to Locals, Not Just Guests

Cultivating a restaurant or bar—spirit specific or otherwise—that is not only a destination for travelers, but for locals as well, creates a more dynamic atmosphere in which guests feel a part of the city they’re visiting and not cloistered within a resort. Not to mention the word of mouth and publicity that will then go beyond the usual hotel media. In San Francisco, Hotel Palomar has done this with Chef David Bazirgan’s Dirty Habit, and, perhaps most notably, the SLS Hotels have succeeded with their collaboration with José Andrés. In New York City, esteemed mixologist Leo Robitschek has achieved the same renown for the NoMad Bar in the Nomad Hotel.    

Chef David Bazirgan of Dirty Habit - San Francisco, CA

Chef David Bazirgan of Dirty Habit - San Francisco, CA

Chef Holly Jivin of The Bazaar by José Andrés - Los Angeles, CA: Pescado en Adobo, Spanish fried fish, Alioli, and Parsley

Chef Holly Jivin of The Bazaar by José Andrés - Los Angeles, CA: Pescado en Adobo, Spanish fried fish, Alioli, and Parsley

Chef Holly Jivin of The Bazaar by José Andrés - Los Angeles, CA: Sea Urchin, Pipirrana, and Andalusian Vegetables

Chef Holly Jivin of The Bazaar by José Andrés - Los Angeles, CA: Sea Urchin, Pipirrana, and Andalusian Vegetables

Pastry Chef Kriss Harvey of The Bazaar by José Andrés - Los Angeles, CA: Organic 66% Chocolate (Raspberry-Apricot, and Greek Yogurt-Mint), and Chocolate-Cream Cheese Canelés

Pastry Chef Kriss Harvey of The Bazaar by José Andrés - Los Angeles, CA: Organic 66% Chocolate (Raspberry-Apricot, and Greek Yogurt-Mint), and Chocolate-Cream Cheese Canelés

Mixologist Leo Robitschek of the Nomad Bar — New York , NY

Mixologist Leo Robitschek of the Nomad Bar — New York , NY

 


The Savvy Diner and the Power of Authenticity in the Kitchen

For many of today’s diners, quinoa is old hat (most of them even know how to pronounce it correctly). They have a favorite bulgogi or bibimbap place, and they can taste the difference between a farm egg and an industrial egg. This is a change that works to the hotel chef’s advantage. He or she can be more creative and adventurous, delving into personal background, because guests get it, and they want a delicious meal as much as an exciting, authentic experience. At the Palihotel Melrose in Los Angeles, southern chef and 2014 StarChefs.com Rising Star Brian Dunsmoor brought his down-home roots and cuisine to the menu at The Hart & The Hunter, transforming the restaurant space into an valuable asset for the hotel.        

The Hart and the Hunter at Hotel Palomar Los Angeles: Butter Biscuits, Cinnamon Butter, Persimmon, and Pimento Cheese

The Hart and the Hunter at Hotel Palomar Los Angeles: Butter Biscuits, Cinnamon Butter, Persimmon, and Pimento Cheese

The Hart and the Hunter at Hotel Palomar Los Angeles:Barbequed East Coast Oysters, Chili Garlic Buter, and Bread Crumbs

The Hart and the Hunter at Hotel Palomar Los Angeles:Barbequed East Coast Oysters, Chili Garlic Buter, and Bread Crumbs

The Hart and the Hunter at Hotel Palomar Los Angeles: Nola-Style Shrimp Boil, Blue Crab, Corn, Smoked Sausage, and Potato

The Hart and the Hunter at Hotel Palomar Los Angeles: Nola-Style Shrimp Boil, Blue Crab, Corn, Smoked Sausage, and Potato

The Hart and the Hunter at Hotel Palomar Los Angeles: Lemon Ice Box Pie

The Hart and the Hunter at Hotel Palomar Los Angeles: Lemon Ice Box Pie

The Hart and the Hunter at Hotel Palomar Los Angeles: Chef Brian Dunsmoor

The Hart and the Hunter at Hotel Palomar Los Angeles: Chef Brian Dunsmoor

The Hart and the Hunter at Hotel Palomar Los Angeles

The Hart and the Hunter at Hotel Palomar Los Angeles

 


From Here to Amenity: The Future of Creature Comforts

For the weary traveler, the proliferation of in-room services is a boon and many times a convenient extravagance. A rolling cocktail bar complete with mixologist may roll into your room—as with the gin and tonic service at the Mandarin Oriental San Francisco—or perhaps a bath salts concierge or a high tea service like at the Ritz Carlton, even a surf butler may arrive to take measurements for a wetsuit that you’ll don later when you hit the waves for a lesson just steps from the Whale Cove Inn in Depoe Bay, Oregon. You may arrive to find a charcuterie board in your room, accompanied by a whole tasting of regional wines neatly arranged in test tubes. That was at the SLS Hotel Beverly Hills, where for our 36-hour stay, a box of chocolates was delivered containing one square piece for every hour of our visit. And the Amenities continue outside the guest room: at the SLS there's a pool table on every floor and a cutting edge kinesis workout-wall in the fitness center; a punching bag at the International House Hotelin New Orleans; Chef Ray Garcia’s “Feed Me” menu at the Fairmont in Santa Monica where guests choose a few key ingredients and the kitchen assembles a plate to match their cravings (maybe in the form of an addicting rabbit melt!); and complimentary bicycles to explore the city at the Charleston Harbor Hotel in South Carolina. Hotels are putting the “Amen!” in amenity from coast to coast.    

Mandarin Oriental San Francisco - San Francisco, CA

Mandarin Oriental San Francisco - San Francisco, CA

Selection of Tea Sandwiches

Selection of Tea Sandwiches

High Tea Accoutrements

High Tea Accoutrements

Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina -Mount Pleasant, SC

Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina -Mount Pleasant, SC

Whale Cove Inn - Depoe Bay, OR

Whale Cove Inn - Depoe Bay, OR


Better Stays through Social Media

Amenities aren’t just becoming more decadent, they’re becoming more personalized. By tracking social media, hotel staff can become attune with a guest’s tastes, their likes, allergies, aversions, and even their memories. At the Siena in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, they call this type of information collection “reconnaissance”, and it’s part of their staff training. Do you like juice? Have you made it known in the social media universe? Then a Siena staffer will call you by name and hand you your favorite blend as you head out for the day. At the Peninsula Chicago hotel, we tweeted about their 19th-floor pool and by the time we towel-dried and returned to our room, the staff had already delivered a box of chocolates with a note thanking us for taking note of their spa and wellness center. Social media allows hotel staff to take small actions behind the scenes that make a big difference in the guest experience.      

The Siena Hotel - Chapel Hill, NC

The Siena Hotel - Chapel Hill, NC

The Peninsula - Chicago, IL

The Peninsula - Chicago, IL

The Peninsula - Chicago, IL

The Peninsula - Chicago, IL

A Personalized Juice

A Personalized Juice


Integrating City Sites and Attractions into a Hotel’s Profile 

Instead of making off the cuff recommendations to guests, hotels are partnering with iconic businesses and major attractions to create a more seamless guest experience and deepen the hotel’s connection to the city. Food carts are parking in front of hotels according to specified schedules and corporate retreats are curated around famous ball parks, theaters, and museums. Courtesy bicycles, like at the Charleston Harbor Resort & Marina in South Carolina, and cars are even being offered to help guests take tours of the city.

Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu, Peru

Inka Terra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel - Machu Picchu, Peru

Inka Terra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel - Machu Picchu, Peru

Peruvian Terraces

Peruvian Terraces

Tambo Del Inka - Urubamba, Peru

Tambo Del Inka - Urubamba, Peru

Water Street at the Harbor View Hotel - Martha's Vineyard, MA

Water Street at the Harbor View Hotel - Martha's Vineyard, MA

Restaurant Beck at Whale Cove Inn - Depoe Bay, OR

Restaurant Beck at Whale Cove Inn - Depoe Bay, OR

Looking ahead, we’re watching out for any more major mergers as with Sysco and US. Foods. And we’re curious to see how hotels continue to re-imagine their common spaces, coming up with more casual concepts, diversifying how space is utilized, and whether they’ll take on an anchor restaurant of their own, partner with a big name chef, or farm out whole projects. Hotels are changing the way they interact with guests from the inside out, and we’re eager to experience the transformation!