Killing it at the on-site food and beverage game, these are the hotel brands to look out for and learn from.
The hotel brands in this list are acclaimed for their exceptional food and beverage programs and are thriving now more than ever because of them. Their restaurants are dedicated not just to guests, but also to locals, hoping to reflect the neighborhoods they’ve taken up residence in as honestly as possible. Many also offer chefs independence to serve based on their own expert knowledge and creative forces. The results, then, are unique concepts—many working in conjunction with one another on the same property—that compete with not just other hotel restaurants, but independent local restaurants, too. Suffice it to say, if one of these brands asks for help on a project, it might be worth getting into the hotel hospitality business.
8 hotels in the U.S. South and Midwest
This brand that features guest rooms, restaurants, and a museum all in one concept is just as passionate about hospitality and sustainably raised foods as it is about integrating art into daily life.
"Our goal is for our restaurants to be as much a part of the community as they are part of our hotels," says Sarah Robbins, chief hospitality officer. "Each 21c Museum Hotel chef and restaurant has a unique point of view and sense of place," she says.
The brand looks for chefs who have an appreciation for creativity and a commitment to continuous improvement, and each restaurant seeks to serve as a contemporary homage to the historic roots of the building it's in. "It is our opportunity to respond to the building, the neighborhood, and the character of the city in a way that sometimes a hotel room can't," Robbins says of the brand's restaurants.
21c works to please and excite guests who are after more than just a meal. "Our guests value a new type of travel and dining experience, one where our innovative contemporary art and culinary creativity enriches, challenges, and entertains," Robbins says. In Kansas City, Missouri, The Savoy restaurant's menu is an intentional throwback to mid-century modern, American classic cuisine, while The Hive in Bentonville, Arkansas, showcases the chef's take on the cuisine of the High South using ingredients like black walnuts and freshly milled cornmeal.
67 hotels globally, 64 of them in the U.S.
Parent Company: InterContinental Hotels Group
Kimpton has dedicated special attention to its food and beverage program since it began in 1981. "Our founder Bill Kimpton was adamant that our restaurants and bars should stand on their own two feet," says Scott Gingerich, senior vice president of restaurants and bars. "We take a 'brand of one' approach to every property." All 80-plus restaurants, bars, and lounges are unique.
Curadero in San Diego, for example, celebrates everything locals love about living so close to Baja, Mexico. The menu is full of traditional Mexican dishes, but the restaurant also adds its own flair. "Rather than replicating a taco stand, we offer a late-night taco window as well as a ceviche bar, providing some of that same appeal with a twist," Gingerich says. Curadero also offers an impressive agave selection, as well as Baja wines.
Although they strive to be distinct, the group's restaurants do band together in a concerted effort to stay on top of trends. "Every year, Kimpton launches a Culinary & Cocktails Trend Forecast that outlines the top food and beverage trends we expect to see in the year ahead," Gingerich says. "The forecast findings are uncovered via an extensive survey of leading chefs, sommeliers, general managers and bartenders from 80-plus acclaimed Kimpton restaurants, bars, and lounges across the U.S., as well as Kimpton properties in Europe and the Caribbean." Then the team uses discipline-specific support and coaching groups that operate across state and regional lines to disseminate trends and information as widely as possible to Kimpton restaurants. "At our yearly bar summit, we offer our bar leaders from across the company the opportunity to learn and share techniques with each other, so that we can move trends and sales techniques across the country rapidly and effectively," Gingerich says. Kimpton's goal with this effort and with the program as a whole is to create locally loved restaurants and bars.
4 U.S. hotels
Parent Company: Sydell Group
Instead of a brand of one, Freehand Hotels builds food and beverage concepts that speak to its brand and guests in location-specific markets. Take the Broken Shaker, for example.
Originally opened as a pop-up bar in the courtyard of the Freehand Miami in 2012, Broken Shaker was a departure from Miami's glitzy nightlife scene, with lush greenery, vintage furniture, and a laid-back vibe. It quickly became a permanent fixture at the hotel, was nominated for two James Beard awards, and, thanks to Gabe Orta and Elad Zvi from Bar Lab in Miami, has expanded to Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York City. Broken Shaker New York is the largest outpost of the concept yet, boasting 360-degree views of the city with a wraparound terrace and city-select drinks, like the Poppyseed Bagel Fizz.
5 U.S. hotels
When The Standard conceptualizes a food and beverage program, it turns first to the people. "My goal when coming into any F&B project is to identify the strengths of the culinary and bar teams and work towards building a program that encapsulates them," says Philip Columbo, director of food and beverage at The Standard, Hollywood. "We want to be able to develop a rewarding experience for the creative team and to captivate our audience by showcasing their skills."
For example, Chef Phuong Tran and his expertise in Southeastern Asian cuisine married with California classics was at the center of the Croft Alley restaurant in Los Angeles. "I think a chef's success in a hotel setting becomes really dependent on their level of flexibility," Columbo says. "Helming an operation that serves every meal period and several outlets can really challenge chefs with very specific culinary tastes and abilities."
Having a well-traveled chef helps, too, Columbo says. "You have to be able to put yourself in the mindset of a traveler and ask, 'What will satisfy the road-weary guest, who just checked in at midnight after a long international flight? And how can I make it that much more special?'"
6 hotels Globally, 4 of them in the U.S.
Parent Company: Dream Hotel Group
Focused on lifestyle with an emphasis on vibrant dining and nightlife venues, Dream Hotels is a pro at the multi-concept hotel food and beverage program. "Dream Hotels creates environments that are part of the fabric of the place it calls home," says Katie Fontana, vice president of communications and public relations for Dream Hotel Group. At Dream Hollywood in Los Angeles, the team says "more is more," offering a wide choice of high-energy food and beverage offerings to guests. At Dream Nashville or Dream Downtown in New York City, by contrast, the team has created more spaces that are intimate and tucked away.
"F&B is everything," Fontana says. "One of our biggest goals when it comes to new venues is to pinpoint the true persona of the location's surrounding community."
No matter what city the hotel is in, the team wants to provide hotel restaurant guests a communal, fun experience. "They want to meet a friend for a cocktail on the rooftop bar, followed by a chef-driven meal all while surrounded by chic and trendy design that embodies that locale's particular character and wit," Fontana says. "If we build something that our neighbors love, the transient guest will, too, because everyone wants to get a feel of the locale."
3 U.S. hotels
Parent Company: SH Group
Although hotel restaurants have historically been seen as amenities, 1 Hotels looks at them more as profit centers. "Our dining program is comprehensive, taking our guests from morning to late night. Like our hotels, our dining options are consistent with our brand ethos and are a direct reflection of the specific hotel location," says Matt Erickson, president of food and beverage at SH Group, who has a background in stand-alone restaurants. The brand achieves this with local, seasonal, and sustainable food, and a focused culture for staff. "I was a dishwasher, busboy, and bartender, so I know how hard our people work," Erickson says. "My goal is to create long-term partnerships, so I always make sure that we have a good relationship with our chef and team."
Aside from creating beautiful spaces, the team at 1 Hotels is focused on logistics, making sure the placements of host stands, tables, kitchen, and restrooms maximize space and tailor the experience for the guest.
"We try to think of dining as an all-encompassing experience as opposed to simply a meal. We look at service, hospitality, food, beverage, lighting, music, decor, ambiance, comfort, and vibe, and try to curate all of these aspects to leave the guest feeling like they were a part of something more," Erickson says.
2 U.S. hotels, New York City and Los Angeles
Parent Company: Sydell Group
NoMad New York can be found at the top of many lists of best hotel restaurants, with its romantic dining rooms and bars like The Parlour, Library, Rooftop, The Elephant Bar, and Fireplace that make guests feel tucked away and luxurious.
Chef Daniel Humm and restaurateur Will Guidara are the masterminds behind the NoMad's casual yet elegant food and beverage programs in both Los Angeles and New York. And, as of press time, another was planned for fall 2018 in Las Vegas.
"I think what specific food or beverage experiences our guests are looking for vary," says Alex Pfaffenbach, general manager of NoMad New York. "We have some regulars who come back for specific dishes like the burger or the chicken, and some guests who are coming to us to celebrate a once-in-a-lifetime moment." No matter what the occasion, however, the staff strives to provide the most delicious and gracious experience to their guests.
9 hotels globally, 8 of them in the U.S.
Parent Company: Atelier Ace
Multiple concepts can be found on a single Ace property, creating space for all-day dining and nightlife destinations to exist simultaneously. At Ace Hotel New Orleans, for example, the flagship restaurant Josephine Estelle is helmed by James Beard Award–nominated chefs Andy Ticer and Michael Hudman, and serves Southern fare the Italian way. Seaworthy features an oyster and cocktail bar inside an 1830s Creole cottage launched in partnership with New York City–based Grand Banks. And Alto, a rooftop bar and terrace, serves drinks, pizzas and small bites poolside.
"We feel lucky to collaborate with such talented people who inherently understand the industry, the city, and the Ace ethos; pulling in the best partners makes it easy to step aside and let them shine," says Kelly Sawdon, chief creative officer and partner for the group.
Viewing culinary experimentation as art, Ace allows chefs and bar managers to freely create for guests, who come from near and far. "If you're sitting at one of our bars, you're just as likely going to meet someone from the surrounding neighborhood as you are a traveling hotel guest," Sawdon says. "We want to contribute to the fabric of the neighborhood in an exciting, generous, and respectful way. We do that by crafting a narrative that's honest to place and that resonates with our partner's culinary vision. Hiring locally furthers the nuanced expressions of each city."
This provides the memorable, restorative food experiences that Ace believes both sets of guests are looking for. "Food, and what we want from a meal, is a universal language," Sawdon says.
8 hotels globally, 5 of them in the U.S.
Parent Company: Two Roads Hospitality
Thompson is developing quickly. In addition to its eight open locations, nine more are under development in destinations such as Los Angeles, Dallas, Washington, D.C., and Miami. The brand is run by Two Roads Hospitality, which specializes in lifestyle hotels, including another on our list, Joie de Vivre.
"We love to work with both well-established names and rising-star chefs looking to debut a new concept," says Lana Trevisan, vice president of restaurants, bars, and events at Two Roads Hospitality. "Our guests appreciate new, fresh experiences and the thrill of discovery."
Right now, Trevisan notes competition to be the biggest challenge. To attract guests despite the hospitality market's oversaturation, Thompson strives to offer innovative, interesting, and fully immersive food and beverage programming.
The company focuses on partnering with chefs and restaurateurs whose values align with theirs when it comes to sustainable sourcing and operating community-focused restaurants. "We have a roster of independent talents—including award-winning chefs and restaurateurs Tom Colicchio, Keith McNally, Paul Kahan, Enrique Olvera, and more," Trevisan says.
Because of the trend toward a more casual restaurant/bar business over the years, many of Thompson's restaurants have separate bar areas that can serve as both a grab-and-go or casual lunch space during the day, and a bar and dinner option during the evening. "This gives our hotels the flexibility to offer all options and allows for the widest range of F&B options and styles for the guests," Trevisan says.
60 hotels Globally, 56 of them in the U.S.
With 60 hotels and resorts on larger campuses, Omni encourages its chefs to get innovative. Many cure their own charcuterie, make their own ingredients like hot sauce, and tend comprehensive gardens on-site. Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort in Florida created The Sprouting Project, which consists of a state-of-the-art aquaponic greenhouse, an expansive organic garden, a large collection of beehives, and a soon-to-be-completed barrel room. And the Omni Homestead Resort in Hot Springs, Virginia, has a chef's garden, which features organically grown herbs, vegetables, and edible flowers.
Additionally, the servers are well-trained about what's on offer. "The more our team knows about an ingredient, dish, or drink, the more excited they are to share the experience with our guests," says Devin Burns, vice president of food and beverage.
Much like the chefs at the Kimpton, Omni's chefs band together once a season to flex their creatives muscles. "We have numerous culinary programs where we feature a special ingredient, and our chefs across the country create a unique and delicious menu of food and drink options using that ingredient. From morel mushrooms to mangoes, our chefs are always innovating for our guests," Burns says. This fall, Omni is celebrating cooking with smoke, ash, and open fire with its Season of Smoke series.
Omni's goal is to create a lasting dining experience for guests that takes them out of their typical routines. "When people travel, they are more open when it comes to food," Burns says. "Our ultimate success is striking a balance with what's trending and adventurous, with what's comforting and traditional." Guests love the classics like steak, but they may be willing to take more risks with the wine or dessert. "We want to make sure that the experience is the best it can be for our guests," he says.
18 U.S. hotels
Parent Company: Two Roads Hospitality
With hotels like Chicago's Hotel Lincoln or Baltimore's Hotel Revival that are not distinctly branded by the Joie de Vivre name, the company's restaurants lean into independent personas, too. "Our mission is to give the neighborhoods where our hotels are located a unique and complementary restaurant or bar—something that has a sense of celebration and joy," says Matt Stuhl, vice president of restaurants, bars, and events at Two Roads Hospitality. "All of our restaurants and bars tend to have a genuine sense of place."
The restaurant Rice & Gold fits right into Hotel 50 Bowery in Chinatown, New York, and the Americano Restaurant & Bar's sprawling patio in San Francisco gives locals and visitors alike a great view of the Bay Bridge lights.
"As a brand, Joie de Vivre Hotels attracts a guest that wants to feel the energy of the city and neighborhood they chose to stay in. They want to feel like they are taking part in a community rather than just gazing at it," Stuhl says. "If we make our guests and the locals feel comfortable while continuing to evolve our restaurant and bar concepts, they'll return."