The changing role of bars and restaurants in hotels

Dexter Moren Associates Jacqui Kirk talks to Boutique Hotel News about the recent shift in both the design and operation of restaurants in hotels.

Restaurants in hotels have traditionally been a service reserved primarily just for guests. However, over the past few years we’ve seen a huge shift in both the design and operation of F&B components, as hoteliers realise that additional revenue can be driven from creating public areas which also entice external users. There is also growing acknowledgement that the F&B element is most successful if run as a separate business entity to the main hotel.

Certainly the luxury hotel scene has been driving this trend through the partnering of high profile chefs. In many of these cases the restaurant’s décor, menu, branding and staffing are managed separately from the hotel itself. This does not mean to say that a disjointed relationship is established, rather quite the opposite. One of the stand-out UK openings of recent times, the London Edition Hotel features the Berners Tavern Restaurant, a symbiotic partnership between the hotel and the restaurant’s chef Jason Atherton, to great success.

And of course the recent opening of Chiltern Fire House in Marylebone by hotelier André Balazs with renowned chef Nuno Mendes, is proving to be the ideal pairing, creating quite a stir in celebrity circles. Looking back, one of the first hotels to influence this trend was the Mandarin Oriental, which in 2001, co-branded with celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal to create the standalone restaurant Dinner. This partnership enabled Heston to secure a restaurant in a prime London location and helped to boost Mandarin Oriental’s status as a must visit destination.

But it’s not just luxury hotels that are leading the way. Brands like Ace, 25 Hours and numerous boutique hoteliers have all tapped into the art of creating a dining experience for guests. Everything from point of entry to the presentation of menus and interior design are all carefully considered to create a much sought-after and authentic experience. Customers today are more design savvy than ever before and as such are more aware of and interested in the heritage, culture and values of the restaurant they’re eating in. The Apero Bar & Restaurant (winner of the Restaurant and Bar Design Awards 2013) nestled in the vaulted cellars of The Ampersand Hotel in South Kensington serves Mediterranean food by chef Chris Golding and has intentionally been designed with a very different aesthetic from the main hotel.

What about the larger international hotel chains? Well they’re also tapping into this trend. IHG’s Hotel Indigo in Kensington is an example of a client with whom were working to completely rethink their F&B space. Currently under construction, the concept provides a “local deli” culminating in a multi-functional space, giving residents of the area a place to meet and shop for locally sourced artisan produce while allowing guests of the hotel to feel more connected to the neighbourhood. It also includes the key ingredient of a separate street entrance and will be operated by a third party.

The Hampton by Hilton London Waterloo is another example of how the role of hotel F&B design is changing. It has partnered with celebrated chef Cyrus Todiwala to run the Assado restaurant. Again the design and branding is very much set apart from the hotel. However, in order to accommodate breakfast for a hotel of 297 rooms, the doors between the hotel and restaurant slide open, enabling the entire space to be used for breakfast. Outside of breakfast no-one would know that the Hampton breakfast offer lies concealed behind a sliding door.

See the article on Boutique Hotel News here.