Revamping a F&B Program: How Charles Riley Skyrocketed Profits While Engaging Guests and Employees

Ignite Expert

Ignite Expert

How can you build a dynamic brand if your travelers don’t benefit from a consistent level of superior products and service standards when visiting your different locations? While familiarity is essential, it’s also vital to retain originality. For Charles Riley, this meant pulling together food and beverage operations at 55 hotels to satisfy senior leaders and guests. 

As an executive-level hospitality professional, Charles possessed the skills to tackle this challenge, which is why the corporate vice president asked him to develop and execute a plan that would differentiate the hotel brand in their F&B program without damaging financial metrics. 

The challenge: Add F&B standards without losing originality

As the hotel brand grew, it added one four-diamond hotel at a time to the portfolio. However, corporate leaders wanted to retain individual designs and personalities at each location. While this worked well for the hotel portion, it led to significant experience gaps in the food and beverage divisions. 

For instance, one hotel featured a fantastic menu in their restaurant while another had ordinary hotel food. Some locations offered some of the trendiest wines by the glass at their busy bar, yet another hotel had low-quality glasses of wine in their empty lobby bar. 

Although the owners wanted consistent standards, they didn’t want to forgo each location’s individuality. According to Charles, “This gave me the challenge of designing a dynamic food and beverage program while at the same time keeping in mind that one size does not fit all.”

The solution: Tackle the problem from every direction

Simultaneously increasing revenue and reducing costs while engaging employees and guests requires a multi-faceted approach. Charles relied on his advanced knowledge of F&B standards and hotel financials to break the solution down into six critical areas. 

1. Nurture relationships for successful partnerships

Never discount the value of building relationships with your suppliers. Your vendors want to see you succeed and will often help you reach your goals. Charles says, “Thankfully, I had nourished relationships with many of the leading wine and spirits suppliers across the globe who were each excited to partner with us to expose their products to our guests. This presented an opportunity to negotiate prices on a national level and request marketing support dollars for placing their products in our hotels. These funds paid for menu printing, training, bar serving equipment, and allowed us to hire one of the best mixologists in the business to design our specialty cocktail menu.”

2. Avoid a one-size-fits-all mindset

Maintaining the spirit of individual locations while reducing costs was tricky. But, Charles assembled a team of five skilled managers from various hotel locations. The crew worked together to split up assignments and focus areas. Key objectives included:

  • Establishing beverage standards. These brand-wide guidelines included a selection of the same wines by the glass for each location. 
  • Developing specialty cocktails. To avoid a one-size-fits-all approach, the specialty cocktails were created on a regional basis embracing flavors and cultural variations. 
  • Building a core selection of spirits. Suppliers helped teams pick the main spirits, but each hotel also provided an excellent selection of local or regional offerings. 
  • Creating a beer menu. The teams negotiated a core list of beers that every hotel would feature, then required every hotel to offer a local selection. 
  • Updating banquet menus. In banquets, Charles and his team had each hotel add a local spirits menu to their banquet menus, featured as a premium tier bar menu.

3. Stay abreast of trends 

To reduce costs while boosting revenue, Charles and his team closely monitored national trends and hotel beverage invoices. For instance, they kept an eye on current marketing campaigns by top wine, beer, and spirit brands. Charles mentions, “We were able to price those products a little more aggressively based on that wave of popularity. An example is a certain vodka from Texas that gained huge popularity nationally. Since people were asking for it everywhere, we could easily price it as a super-premium spirit such as Grey Goose even though the cost was that of a call tier brand.” 

Although overseeing invoices from dozens of locations is tricky, Charles developed a method to monitor the brand’s invoices. Doing so allowed them to discover discrepancies in supplier pricing and immediately reach out to receive a credit for the overcharge. But, Charles admits there were other advantages as well, “This process often made us discover that one of the units had accidentally ordered the incorrect item which certainly affects beverage cost.”

4. Make informed decisions by knowing your guests

Keeping a diverse inventory of spirits is pricey. The solution is to examine the needs of your guests and cater to those demands. Charles says, “Knowing our customer was paramount. In our case, we learned that our guests were seasoned business travelers who know what they like and want to see their favorite brands in our hotel bars and restaurants. And they’re willing to pay the price rather than settle for less quality. We know they aren’t coming here looking for a $5 glass of wine or a happy hour priced mixed drink.”

Charles used this customer data to rule out a lot of lower-end products. Instead, they populated their inventory with an impressive array of premium wines by the glass and premium spirits. According to Charles, “This was instrumental in tempering our beverage cost while producing solid revenue. But, we had to ensure the service was always outstanding.”

5. Prioritize employee satisfaction 

Along with in-house training, Charles turned to their suppliers to bolster their training program with continuing education for food and beverage associates. He says, “Vendors have resources for online training, and most of them are eager to pay for more advanced certifications for associates who desire further training.”

Since suppliers want to bring products into the hotel for server training and guest tastings, Charles requested all hotel locations conduct training and tastings in the public lobby as often as possible. This allowed staff to intermix with guests, increasing brand loyalty. 

6. Enlist help to repeatedly delight guests  

In the quest to keep guests delighted with a creative variety of food and drink options, Charles and his team created seasonal LTOs or limited time offerings. To do this, they came up with a theme that highlights a trend, flavor, or ingredient that would resonate with guests. The possibilities were endless. Charles says, “Think about the fall season where you have smoke, maple, and harvest foods and drinks.” 

To develop the best combinations, they hosted a contest to entice chefs and food managers to create innovative food and cocktail recipes. Charles and his team also tasked chefs with developing a bar food menu and cocktail selection based on the desired featured products. To save on costs, they partnered with a couple of spirits vendors. In exchange for adding their brand to the menu, the suppliers provided associate training and paid for menu printing. 

The Result: Increased revenue and better guest experiences

After working with suppliers and staff to design cohesive yet unique beverage selections, revenue growth soared. Charles reports, “At the end of the year, my plan improved the brand-wide beverage revenue over the prior year by $5.5 million and reduced beverage cost by $793 thousand. Plus, beverage cost went from 21.3% to 21.0%, illustrating that a focus on premium products paired with our team’s education to delight and surprise our guests can drive profit. Especially when we don’t lose focus on our costs and support our team to deliver the best of the best!”

Take action to raise your F&B quality and integrity 

Do you want to boost your revenues and design menus that delight your budget and guests? As an independent food and beverage consultant, Charles dives into your program to help you increase profitability while engaging guests and staff. Get answers to your questions by scheduling a call with Charles.

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