Have you walked into a hotel lately and been offered free F&B—a refreshing flavored water or maybe a locally made baked treat, no strings attached? You’ve witnessed one of the latest trends sweeping the hospitality industry, and it’s not them trying to woo you only because you’re a meeting planner.
“In the ’90s, no hotel would have wanted to compete with its restaurant by giving out free beverages, even if it was just water. The GM was trying to drive every cent of revenue they could,” says Noreen Heron, president of Heron Agency, a marketing and PR company specializing in hospitality. “Now, it’s about how comfortable you can make the guests so they don’t have to run out to get anything.”
No one does comfort better than millennial-focused hotel brands, though bigger brands are also jumping on the bandwagon. Hyatt’s Centric property in Chicago has a complimentary lounge area called The Corner, stocked with help-yourself snacks like Chex Mix, candy and fruit; Hyatt Regency Chicago serves up infused waters in flavors like pineapple-watermelon. In Georgia at Andaz Savannah, another Hyatt offshoot, guests enjoy local chocolate and honey from Savannah Bee Company.
Kimpton loyalty members will know about the brand’s traditional social hour, during which the hotel serves locally sourced drinks and bites. Hotel Monaco Pittsburgh, for example, is partnering with Wigle Whiskey and Penn Brewery this summer, while Seattle’s Alexis Hotel is pouring Washington rosés and huckleberry wines.
Portland, Oregon’s Hotel Monaco is one-upping DoubleTree’s famous chocolate chip cookies by wheeling out a freezer cart full of local Ruby Jewel ice cream sandwiches. Laguna Beach House in California also serves warm cookies and milk nightly from 6 to 8 p.m. Further sweetening guests’ experience, Hotel Allegro in Chicago rolls a candy cart with treats from local Whimsical Candy around the lobby on Saturday afternoons.
While these items are complimentary for guests, hotels are hoping they see ROI in terms of repeat visitors and higher customer satisfaction. As a bonus for meeting planners, these properties may be a boon for your budget if attendees fill up on lobby snacks instead of overdoing it at your hosted coffee breaks.