According to Skift’s “Megatrends Defining Travel in 2016” report, food is identified as a leading hook for travel. Local cuisine provides a direct connection to the history of a region, and travelers are eager to take part in immersive food and beverage programing offered at hotels worldwide. In doing so, consumers drive hotels to provide innovative programs that reflect the destination or city. Some of the 2016 F&B hot programs include in-room dining programs targeted at providing restaurant quality service, direct experiences between chefs and consumers, and innovative and sophisticated cocktail programs.

O'Dwyer's Mar. '16 Food & Beverage PR MagazineThis article is featured in O'Dwyer's Mar. '16 Food & Beverage PR Magazine

Cutting edge in-room dining

Hotels are changing the way they approach room service. At the Thompson Chicago, the restaurant and hotel work in tandem. The James Beard Award-winning Nico Osteria opened in the Thompson Chicago’s hotel in December 2014. More than a year later, there are still weeks-long waiting lists for the Italian restaurant, which offers 100 percent of the pasta made in-house. This prompted a revamped room service program that debuted this past fall. “Chefs are oftentimes hesitant to offer full restaurant menus for in-room dining orders because food may not travel well”, said Steve Shern, General Manager Thompson Chicago. “The Thompson Chicago is a boutique hotel, so the process is expedited compared to larger scale properties.”

Where many hotels offer only a limited menu for in-room dining, guests can now order the full restaurant menu from the comfort of their rooms. “Our desire is to make a change that sets a new expectation that guests may not even know to anticipate,” said Shern. Whether you order a full course like the Melted Leek Triangolini or a Pear Crema desert, you will be treated to in-room tableside restaurant quality service. The server will set up colorful placemats on the table inside the room, along with salt and pepper shakers, fresh bread and lime and lemon on small plates. There are also pistachio macaroons added to every entrée as a pre-desert item.

The Gold Coast BurgerThe Gold Coast Burger at James Beard Award-winning restaurant Nico Osteria, located in the Thompson Chicago hotel.

Getting close to the chef

The hotel food & beverage industry recognizes the desire for guest-chef interaction. At the Grand Residences Riviera Cancun, the Chef’s Table is an exclusive dining experience offered with the resort’s Executive Chef, Yann Michel Cozic. Diners can venture “behind the swinging doors” of the Grand Residences kitchen to watch Chef Cozic prepare multi-course meals with wine pairings selected for each course. Guests are able to experience an up close and personal meal with the chef and receive an autographed copy of the menu afterwards as a memento.

Relais & Chateaux properties are designated as such by having top notch restaurants inside their hotels. At the Winvian Farm, a Relais & Chateaux resort in Connecticut, The Restaurant at Winvian Farm sources ingredients directly from the onsite organic farm, which grows fruit and veggies year round. Guests are invited into the garden with the chef for tours and can peruse the plants on their own. As the property serves organic vegetables as 75 percent of the food, guests are able to pick their own vegetables and fruit and bring them to the chef to put in their meals.

Advancing beverage programs

Consumers have a growing appreciation towards sustainability in hotel properties. At the Hyatt Regency San Francisco, there is a newly incorporated water system to make guests’ hydration more sustainable. The hotel provides FloWater Refill Stations so that guests can have access to purified, crisp and chilled water instead of opting for plastic bottled water that is left in the rooms. Ice machines are no longer needed with this system, as the FloWater Refill dispenses optimally chilled water. It also provides a hot water option at the touch of a button. The unit tallies how many plastic bottles have been saved from the landfill with each refill, so guests experience how the hotel is helping with green initiatives.

Hands-on beverage learning has been a positive addition to the Costa Rica Marriott San Jose. The hotel is set on a thirty-acre coffee plantation and incorporates its beans directly from the property’s plantation into unique coffee-themed programing. The “Café Chorreado” option allows guests to experience making coffee in the traditional Costa Rican way through drip process. The property uses dark roast but offers coffee from different regions of Costa Rica. With the “Coffee Curator” program, the property features an onsite coffee curator at the Casa del Café that hosts latte design classes and demonstrates how to best harvest coffee at home.

Cocktail ingenuities

Cocktail carts are proving to be a trendy addition to hotel food and beverage programs. The Gwen hotel in Chicago offers a mixology happy hour, featuring a Prohibition Porter cocktail experience. The experience provides guests with perfectly crafted classic cocktails, created with fresh, high-quality ingredients, presented in attractive glassware from a vintage-inspired portable bar cart. When guests reserve the Prohibition Porter, they have their own bartender for 30 minutes to serve up to four drinks of their choice. The Porter can be arranged in the lobby, to their suite, guestroom terrace, or meeting room. “Guests love it”, said General Manager, Kim Corrigan. “The Prohibition Porter is certainly an eye catcher. Anytime it’s being used in the lobby, people stop and ask about it. It has definitely been the best way to create buzz.”

Several of ARIA’s restaurants feature spirit carts, which bring guests tableside liquors. The vintage rum cart originated at the ARIA New York inside the Carbone restaurant. The cart offers rare rums with a historic twist, like the Black Tot British Royal Naval Rum, the last rum ration ever issued aboard ships of the British Royal Navy. There is an absinthe cart at the Las Vegas ARIA restaurant, Sage. The spirit is often served by slowly dripping over a sugar cube, on the rocks with cold water, or lit on fire and poured over ice.

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Adrienne Jordan is a freelance travel and lifestyle writer based in Los Angeles. She contributes to publications like USA Today, The Washington Times, and Just Luxe.