The lodging industry recovers from an economic recession from the top down. High-end travelers return first, followed by business travelers. Dad, mom, the kids and the snorkels come back last.
That may explain why the lodging industry focused first on improving amenities valued by frequent travelers as the recession eased. Unlike vacationers seeking unlimited buffet trips, business travelers tend to watch their diets and their health. Gyms and spas already are in place at many top-tier hotels for that reason.
For its 2011 Hotel Food & Beverage Consumer Trend Report, Chicago-based researcher Technomic asked travelers about the importance of several key elements in choosing foods and beverages. High-quality fresh food and variety were the top choices for both groups, but 49 percent of business travelers cited healthy menu items, compared with 46 percent of leisure travelers.
Additionally, because business travelers’ hours can be long, they valued the quality of the late-night food and beverage menu higher (38 percent) than did leisure travelers (30 percent).
Recognizing those needs, British Columbia-based Fairmont Hotels & Resorts has set new standards for healthy dining in the lodging industry with its Lifestyle Cuisine Plus (LCP) plan.
Announced in January, the LCP approach goes far beyond offering a few lower-calorie dishes (as the original, more limited Lifestyle Cuisine menus did, beginning in 2006). It is a comprehensive program, at least two years in the making, which involves a cookbook of healthful foods that all Sheraton locations can create and serve.
But the important next step was Fairmont’s adoption of Axxya Systems’ Nutritionist Pro software, which frees chefs to develop dishes using local ingredients and meeting local tastes while ensuring that the dishes remain within set nutrition parameters.
Presented on request at in-hotel restaurants or for in-room dining, LCP menus can address one or more specific diets, from heart-healthy or diabetic to vegan, raw-foods, macrobiotic, or gluten-free.
For example, a recent LCP menu’s entrée selections under the gluten-free banner were Roasted Chicken Breast with Cauliflower, Green Bean Asparagus Ragout and Thyme Jus; or Golden Pan-Fried Cod Fillet, Roasted Cherry Tomato Coulis and Baby Carrots. Vegan choices were Mediterranean Vegetable Lasagna with Green Tapenade and Red Pepper Emulsion or Vegetable Sushi Platter. Each of the six diets also lists appetizer and dessert choices.
The goal at Sheraton Hotels is make all the healthy choices as high quality, flavorful, and indulgent as the food that’s offered on any other menu, according to Mariano Stellner, corporate food and beverage director. This capability of easily adjusting menus to meet special diet needs—especially gluten-free diets—also gives Sheraton a valuable tool in pitching meeting and conference business.
Starwood Hotels & Resorts focuses on breakfasts (the meal travelers are most likely to eat at a hotel) with Signature Breakfast for its brands.
At Westin, morning-meal menus have been shaped by the SuperFoodsRx approach to nutrition (based on ingredient pairings). At Le Meridien hotels, the foods are still healthful, but with more glam. The menu begins with Star Shots, unconventional juice drinks (think Raspberry Pineapple Clove) developed by chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten. Entrées include an oatmeal soufflé and scrambled eggs with espresso steam.
Technomic’s research finds that one in four business travelers will use in-room dining, compared with just 12 percent of leisure travelers. In response, San Francisco-based Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants this year rolled out ‘Travel Healthy’ in-room meals. The seven-item line includes Slim-Style Oatmeal and a Garden Omelet for breakfast, a Smoky Turkey Burger Melt and Whole Wheat Pasta with Seasonal Vegetables and Fresh Herb Goat Cheese.
Diners also can watch Kimpton’s four new “Travel Healthy” videos free on demand. Addressing healthy breakfasts, high-energy snacks, tips for “the morning after” and in-room workouts, the videos were developed with health-and-nutrition expert Joy Bauer (whose clients include the New York City Ballet).
“These new offerings arm guests with the means and motivation to stay true to their health and wellbeing,” says Kimpton president-COO Niki Leondakis.
By Scott Hume