Have you heard that T.G.I. Friday’s now offers room service? Many hotels are replacing their traditional dining service with brand-name fast food concession stands, chain eateries or convenience food centers. Radisson Hotels started the trend about eight years ago when they “co-branded” with T.G.I. Friday’s, Country Kitchen and Italianni’s restaurants under the Carlson Hospitality Group umbrella. Now other hotels are following suit. Holiday Inn opened Convenience Courts, featuring Little Caesars Pizza, Blimpie, Taco John’s and Mrs. Fields. Ramada Inn is planning to add delis, and Doubletree Hotels have added Au Bon Pain.
“People want a good, consistent meal by a restaurant they know,” says Curtis Nelson, executive vice president and COO of Carlson Hospitality Worldwide. Besides satisfying guest tastes, concessions draw in people from the local community, meaning bigger profits. Hotels that have minimal lunch and dinner crowds may “charge $25 for a waffle to cover costs,” says Gerard Smith, senior partner at the T&E Group in Newport Beach, California. Adds Nelson: “We can take a restaurant that has earned $1.5-$2 million annually, and convert it to a T.G.I. Friday’s and earn $3-$3.5 million.”