THE BOOZE BIN
By Laura Petrosky (@chronic_ally)
Hotel bars used to be a sad place where lonely business travelers were wallowing in their average-at-best drinks at the end of a long workday. I just came back from a conference in Aurora, Colorado, where the hotel bar was just that – the last place you wanted to hang out at. Not even the property’s “Two for One” Happy Hour special could sweeten the deal, as the bar was uninviting, the beer selection boring and the cocktail menu non-existent.
Luckily, this Aurora hotel bar may soon be an exception to the rule, as hotel bars are making a steady comeback. Smart Food & Beverage directors are turning hotel-based bars from cost centers into profit centers by capitalizing on current beverage trends and using out-of-the-box Happy Hours to attract locals as well as travelers. The comeback in numbers: Beverage alcohol sales at hotels are forecasted to outpace all other segments in 2012, and overall food and beverage growth at hotels is up 4.5%, according to market research done by Technomic for VIBE.
Without further ado, here are some best practice examples of hotels making the hotel bar happening again:
Who let the dogs out?
Ever heard of The Yappy Hour? The Rumor Resort in Las Vegas is catering to dog owners and their four legged friends with this special Happy Hour in the hotel’s courtyard. On the menu: drink specials for the humans, yappatizers for the dogs; they are even hosting a Doggie Talent Contest where the winning pooch and its owner will get a two-night stay at Rumor. Doggie Happy Hours are not new, but now they are as popular as ever. At Kimpton’s Hotel Monaco in Alexandria, Virginia, the pet-friendly event has been a staple for years. Not only does the event set Kimpton apart from local competitors, but it has generated loyal return guests among local patrons who come every week.
It’s all about the micro-perspective!
You know a trend is booming if USA Today is writing about it. According to a recent article, the number of hotels serving microbrews to attract business is skyrocketing. America’s love affair with craft beers in undeniable: Craft beer sales grew by 13% from 2010 to 2011, according to the Brewers Association. Some hotels even go the extra mile and work with local breweries to have their own beers made, like the Fairmont San Francisco. In April, they launched Fairmont San Francisco Honey Saison in partnership with Almanac Beer Co, a local brewery. Four Points by Sheraton jumped on the craft beer wagon long before the topic was trending. In 2008, they appointed a Chief Beer Officer to put regional brews on Happy Hour menus. Nowadays, they have a brand-wide “Best Brews” program that features a variety of local, regional and imported craft beers.
Craft cocktails are equally “hot” right now, with hotel bars competing with some of the country’s best cocktail bars. The new Conrad New York Hotel is serving up boozy popsicles in a glass of Prosecco which landed the hotel a USA Today blog post and enthusiastic Happy Hour crowds. Guests of Santa Monica’s Casa del Mar can enjoy cocktails made to order by a Cocktail Trolley from 4:30pm to 9pm daily in the hotel’s Lobby Lounge.
Would you like free wine with that?
I consider myself lucky when a hotel has a decent self-service coffee station. The Chambers Hotel at Belhurst Castle in the Finger Lakes wine region has a complimentary wine tap built into the wall of the lobby that allows guests to enjoy a glass of wine whenever they please. Pretty awesome, would you agree? Dating back to 1981, Kimpton hotels offer a daily complimentary “Wine Hour,” allowing guests to discover new wines hand-selected by the hotel’s master sommelier.
Whether the idea of a cool Happy Hour is new to you or “vintage” in the case of Kimpton hotels, the benefits are obvious. Personally, I am a huge fan of Happy Hours that speak to both hotel guests and area residents. There is simply nothing better to wind down from a busy day while traveling for work than hanging out “where the locals go” to do the same. I have yet to find that bustling hotel bar in Aurora, Colorado. Comment on this post if you know a great hotel bar worth visiting.