And as Wyatt points out, if a restaurant attracts patrons from the surrounding neighborhoods, business wouldn't slow to a crawl every time guests check out. He adds that it would be a "dream scenario" to have a hotel that's always busy because the restaurant, in turn, would always be busy. But that's clearly an unobtainable goal.
“The good news about a restaurant being in a hotel is that you should have more foot traffic on a regular basis than a standalone restaurant," Wyatt says. "That being said, it’s 100 percent the most important thing to us to be a restaurant that the community surrounding it wants to dine at on a regular basis. If we rely strictly on hotel guests, it wouldn’t work."
Covid made that point abundantly clear when reservations plummeted. On-site concepts with a strong local following could buoy their hotels, even if it were through takeout or al fresco dining. On the flip side, restaurants that were as vacant as their hotels became extra deadweight—and that can be the case in non-pandemic times, too.
“If you’re just sitting around a sparsely populated hotel dining room, that’s just not going to have the same spirit,” says Robert Thompson, CEO of hospitality company Angevin & Co. “The locals make a hotel restaurant feel like a local restaurant, like the great restaurants you go to in your hometown.”
Get the word out
Bringing in area residents often boils down to creating a location-specific dining experience (more on that later), as well as getting the word out.
“It’s our job to educate the [hotel] guests as well as the local guests so they know who we are and what we do and what we stand for,” Wardhaugh says. “Visibility is a huge thing; it’s letting people know what you’re doing.”
To this end, the Epicurean offers a variety of events including live musical performances, weekly yoga sessions with complimentary libations, and more. Its on-site culinary theater can also host 60 people for cooking demos or about 16 for hands-on classes.
Another way for restaurants to reach beyond their four walls is to engage with the local community. Celebrated Minneapolis chef and restaurateur Daniel del Prado recently expanded into the other side of hospitality when he teamed up with the city’s historic Rand Tower to create a trio of F&B concepts. Although del Prado owns and operates more than a half dozen independent restaurants, he says the hotel space brought its share of learning opportunities. At the same time, the Twin Cities has lately proved a challenging market for any new business.
“I don’t know if there is any other city in the world as challenging as Minneapolis downtown right now. For sure, it will take some time to get back to where it was, but I have no doubt that it will. This city has always been resilient,” del Prado says.
And likely the new restaurants—Bar Rufus, Blondette, and Miaou Miaou—will benefit from the chef’s strong ties to the surrounding community and his established reputation.