Hotels That Buy Into Food-as-Medicine Trends Can Unlock Revenue

You are what you eat.

Every day, more people are coming to appreciate food as more than just fuel but as medicine that can restore the body, slim the waist, steady the mood, elevate cognition and even reverse chronic diseases. This burger wellness way of life is also reflected in various dietary trends such as plant-based or keto as well as buzzy meal additives such as probiotics, superfoods, nootropics or adaptogens.

Hotels must not only shift their food-and-beverage programming in stride with these cultural changes but also that there are specific ways within this food-as-medicine trend to activate new revenue streams and greatly enhance loyalty.

One of the beauties of pursuing the giant wellness pot of gold is that this segment of customers has, in aggregate, a substantially longer lifetime over other groups of people. While it’s easy to say that eating healthy, exercising, meditating and the like will all help you to live longer and have more healthy years within that lifespan to devote to travel — what’s called “health span” — many hotels still aren’t properly incorporating this in their loyalty strategies.

On an individual basis, one person with a preference for wellness may give you five to 10 more years of potential room reservations over another person who doesn’t value wellness. What’s more, there is a positive correlation between wellness and wealth, which makes sense when you consider that heightened intellect, reduced sickness and augmented quotidian energy levels that stem from healthy habits can all enable greater workplace productivity as well as more income-earning years.

In other words, wellness-oriented guests will probably have more disposable cash than other customer segments to allocate toward elevating their hotel stays. Wellness not only means more customer lifetime value, but also a higher average guest spend across multiple profit centers.

With the awareness for food as medicine ever-increasing — that is, the number of potential guests who have realized the value of healthy eating — one of the largest obstacles that consumers say they face is they don’t know where to start. The pandemic also catalyzed this growth as we were all forced to expand our home kitchen repertoire.

Changing habits is hard. Compounding this is that there’s a lot of conflicting nutritional advice out there. Then adding jet fuel to it all are the food-and-beverage providers who have hijacked the term “healthy” with marketing labels such as “all natural,” “low calorie” and “low fat.” Who has time to read the full ingredient list? Who has time to understand what each ingredient does to the body? Who has time to research the specific sourcing and quality of each ingredient?

It’s all very intimidating. Wouldn’t it be great if there was a place that assumes the role of being an inspiration by offering people a fun, dynamic and convenient way to learn about healthier eating habits so that said consumers could bring those lessons home?

Teaching hotel guests about great food through live demonstrations, an immersive tasting and an interactive cooking class is what we would denote as transformative culinary experiences.

Many properties already offer foodie-related activities that are likely to bring together local partners to weave in an authentic cultural narrative about the area. Keep going with this, obviously, but then take it a step further by thinking about ways to leave a lasting impression on guests through the lens of improving how they eat at home.

The world is your oyster, and oysters just so happen to be a superfood! A wine tour can incorporate wellness elements, as can a farm tour, cheese-making class, healthy baking class, guided tea ceremony or chocolate confectionary tutorial. Urban or rural, there’s always a way to fuse what’s local or what’s on the theme with interactive education into something that’s inspirational. Such experiences can then be reinforced through packaging with on-site vouchers, arrival amenities, departure gifts, other merchandising opportunities in the gift boutique and other wellness activities such as mindfulness classes or spa facility access.

The key to any experience is to make it accessible or visible with easy payment rails. Most hotels struggle to capture ancillary spending beyond meals at the restaurant, so going to the next level of designing experiences that are also well-attended are out of scope.

Get the technology ironclad first. Are these packages visible on the front-end website and then easily purchased on the booking engine? Are you talking about them in your marketing channels? What’s your communication process with public relations to get the word out? Given that many guests are only primed for upselling in the days preceding arrival, do you have these experiences available as add-ons and how are you telling guests about them in this context? Similarly, how are you telling them about last-minute experience availability once on-site, whether through the hotel app, in-room tablets or digital signage?

Consider other components in the tech stack. How are all the various elements of a purchased package parsed out to other software? Given that classes are time-based inventory, how do guests reserve spots? How are you prompting them to reserve a spot in advance of their stay? How are you managing to staff? For any physical good, how are you managing this within the inventory system?

There are lots of questions, but no one said this was easy. What you will find, though, is that answering these to help make experiential offerings more turnkey will also help solve a lot of other upselling and labor productivity issues along the way.

Adam and Larry Mogelonsky are partners of Hotel Mogel Consulting Ltd., a Toronto-based consulting practice. Larry focuses on asset management, sales and operations while Adam specializes in hotel technology and marketing.

The opinions expressed in this column do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Hotel News Now or the CoStar Group and its affiliated companies. Bloggers published on this site are given the freedom to express views that may be controversial, but our goal is to provoke thought and constructive discussion within our reader community. Please feel free to contact an editor with any questions or concerns.

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