target customers The primary customer for a Hotel F&B outlet is hotel guests, but the bar/restaurant experience is also becoming a preferred choice for a growing non hotel guest market segment. Whether it be an end of business day crowd or transient visitor crowd, or even an end of day local residence crowd, a lot of these potential customers don’t want to go to a destination restaurant, or to a party bar – they want the same experience as your hotel guest.

There is huge focus on driving up guest counts in hotel bar/restaurant venues. Venues are evolving away from traditional restaurant concepts towards bar/restaurant strategies. It’s not uncommon to see no one in the hotel restaurant, yet the bar is full of folks hanging out, drinking cocktails, watching TV, working and having a small bite here and there through the evening. Hotel guests by a landslide prefer a hangout bar experience over a restaurant experience. This is good news as the average revenue per bar guest can be to 2x to 3x that of a restaurant cover.

right productWhen hotel guests walk in the door to check in or for an event, they can see you have an “extended hangout” venue that looks like the product they want. As long as you deliver the product they are expecting in terms of experience, menu offering, service and ease of finding a place to park when they walk in, you will maximize your revenue yield for that guest.

When your F&B venue is not visible from the lobby, you have to work harder. Lobby video screens running videos, elevator posters, in room marketing materials are tools that create hotel guest awareness, that same view of the venue as if they walked by it. Specialized email marketing programs that touch customers in the couple of days prior to check in, can also achieve the objective. But only if the email directs attention towards the F&B venue, and sends the message you need – “extended hangout bar here!” and perhaps entices a visit via a spotlight item promotion or feature.

Hotels have connect opportunities with hotel guests because they are physically present in your business and you are connected with them via email from a reservations perspective. But the non hotel guest is a much harder connection to make. Unless they hear about or get invited to meet at your venue by someone they know, “I know this great bar at the Hilton,” you are in a difficult connection situation. Word of mouth is the way folks find out about great new options they have, and the internet is the “word of mouth” communication portal.

Hotel brands and management companies understand the power of the internet. They run finally tuned digital marketing strategies designed to get their property to come up on the radar screen of choice for folks looking for hotel rooms. They deliver effective messaging about why your property is the right choice for that shopper. When the choice is made a finely tuned content marketing strategy is executed digitally to influence customer choices, driving more revenue from the visit, and making the connection permanent – a better position the next time a hotel room search is underway.

rules of road But none of that hotel marketing is going to work with a non-hotel guest for your F&B outlet. And given the non-hotel customer strike zone for your bar/restaurant is not the same as that of a destination restaurant, you can’t just do what they do either. First you have to make the connection. Then you have to send the right messages in order to get a visit decision. Then assuming your product delivered the desired experience, you have to nurture that connection. Nothing original in that list of to do’s, but what is original is pointing those techniques at non hotel guest customers for your F&B venue. Chances are no other hotels in your market are doing this, and chances are no other restaurants or stand-alone bars have the product you can deliver to these extended hangout bar consumers. Not all markets are the same. But it’s hard to imagine any hotel being built in a geography which does not have a residential, business or transient visitor demographic around it.

So who do you partner with to design and execute your non-hotel digital marketing strategy? A lot of companies will answer that call and most cannot execute. Also understand that this partnership will need to be a “burst” business relationship. There is not going to be a long term ongoing spend. You need a partner who:

  • picture message Focuses in on the messaging. What are the key messages about your product your target market non hotel guests will be interested in, and how best to send them? They have to be extended hangout bar messaging experts.
  • Will give you a comprehensive proposal for creating digital assets (pictures, videos, landing pages, etc.), developing your connection infrastructure (getting emails and being able to work those lists), a content calendar tied to an inbound marketing strategy that nurtures connections you make, an outbound marketing strategy (ads that pop up when folks are searching for something that points them in your direction), and a monitor/adjust program that adjusts based on analytics.
  • usual suspects Is not afraid to declare business impact results they can achieve and are focused on getting a mechanism to track results in place. Business impact is not measured in terms of clicks or opt in’s, it’s measured in terms of non hotel guest customer counts and corresponding revenue growth. An effective partner will know how to get you in position to track these metrics and report success to the owners whom you seek capital funding from.
  • Promoters will have the connections and know how to nurture them, but be careful about the business model. If you choose to use a promoter to fill your venue, when you terminate that relationship (and margin share), they usually still own the customer connection. It’s even more important that you have an effective digital marketing program when using promoters so you can get your own connection with the customer.

So as thoughts begin to turn towards your 2018 plan, is your product right for the extended hangout bar customer? If yes, do you think there are at least 50 more potential non hotel customers in your market today, who would find your bar to be the perfect place to hang? 50 more living room bar customers per day will yield a $900K increase in your F&B venue top line. You are likely a $25K capital spend away from achieving that objective.

  • Find the right partner who will operate independently of the normal corporate marketing budget programs.
  • Get a formal quote for a focused program on your F&B venue, which is property specific and presents a trackable ROI result objective.
  • Get that proposal in front of your ownership. You may be surprised how open they are to the spend. They sit in that bar. They say the same thing to themselves. This place should be full of non-hotel guests. They sit in other bars that are full of non-hotel guests and have hit that profit motherlode, so they know it’s possible.
  • About the author: Scott Martiny is CEO of Strategic Beverage Solutions Inc. (SBS) – a bar performance improvement company focused on the hotel segment. SBS offers a wide range of solutions that improve results in hotel beverage operations on both the cost reduction and revenue improvement scales. They are recognized as experts in hotel beverage business development with a client list of some of the most recognizable properties in North America and the Caribbean. A key solution offering is SBS InBound – a program that partners them with property teams focused on executing an effective digital marketing strategy to increase both hotel guest and non hotel guest counts in their F&B venues.

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