Opening a Restaurant in a Hotel: What You Need to Be Successful

L2O Kitchen

The L2O Restaurant Kitchen in Chicago, Illinois

Jean George at the Trump International Hotel in New York City. L20 at The Belden-Stratford Hotel in Chicago. What do these places have in common? They’re both famed hotel restaurants in well-known and high-end establishments. Although these establishments are run by successful brands with renowned chefs, they all started like countless hotel restaurants across the world: With a concept, a contract and a partnership. Here’s some tips to get your concept off the ground and on the path to success:

Find Your Location

A hotel with space for food and beverage service provides a business opportunity for independent restaurants to operate with week-day hotel guest traffic, weekend guests and local weekend traffic.

It’s important to choose a hotel with regular traffic during the week and a vibrant local crowd looking for brunch or Saturday night dinner spot.

Scout your location for guest traffic. When beginning talks with a hotel about opening a restaurant on their property, look at the average number of guests in every season, what type of guests the hotel is attracting and what the local scene has to offer in competition.

Contracting Partnerships

The business agreement between you and the hotel will depend on what the owner or general manager is looking for.

Consider the Following:

  • If the contract is made between the restaurant and an off-site hotel management company, consider obtaining an independent contractor agreement that is consistent with the hotel owner and the management company’s existing business agreement.
  • If the contract is made between a private hotel owner and the restaurant, consider obtaining a commercial lease to keep some independence without conditions or limitations.

Forecast Start-Up Costs and Shared Revenue

Be sure to specify how the build-out costs will be handled or shared in your contract. These are costs that will incur from finishing the space according to the restaurant and hotel’s specifications. Some hotels may have an architectural or design style that is maintained throughout the property.

Consider These Details:

  • What improvements are needed?
  • Who will pay for the improvements?
  • Who is hiring the labor to complete the work?
  • What can the restaurant owner take when the lease has ended?
  • Can the hotel receive a portion of the revenue for providing restaurant guests?

Meeting Hotel Guest Expectations

Hotel guests will want to charge meals to their room and might expect room service options. Hotel restaurants need to work out a shared point-of-sale system with the hotel as well as a standard accounting practice to properly record owed revenue.

Examine These Profitable Options:

  • Consider catering private parties in meeting spaces or ballrooms.
  • Offer more than one meal service a day and extended room service hours.

Hiring and Sharing Employees

Discuss whether the hotel restaurant’s employment will be shared with the hotel or stay independent of it. There are advantages and disadvantages of both, and each should be carefully considered before making a final decision.

Points to Consider:

  • Shared employees can keep regular hours in the low season by taking on other hotel duties. This may assist in retaining year-round employment.
  • Hotel employees can cross-train for restaurant positions. This will give the restaurant additional staffing options during high season or high-volume nights.
  • Hotel employees may be part of a labor union, which could affect an independent restaurant’s operation.
  • Separated employees may have restricted access to areas of the hotel or restaurant which could get in the way room service or catering operations.
  • Hotel and restaurant management need to have a unified agreement on handling guest issues.

Assessing Responsibility

The hotel may or may not provide certain utilities, licensing or facilities to the restaurant. Know what resources the hotel restaurant will have access to and what expenses will be taken on.

Responsibilities to Look At:

  • Access to utilities such as gas, water and electricity. Ask about installation and billing for these services.
  • If a liquor license is needed, find out if the hotel will provide one either temporarily or permanently.
  • Ask about the cleaning duties and whether or not the hotel housekeeping staff will be available.
  • Large spaces may want to include live music nights. Agree on what type of music can be provided and also on what quiet hours need to be observed.

There are challenges and advantages to owning and operating a hotel restaurant. Anticipate as many issues as possible ahead of time so written agreements are made before problems occur. An open line of communication is imperative in keeping investments in a sound and profitable venture.


About Author

Maggie Henderson

Maggie once gained five pounds in pursuit of the perfect Indian dal recipe. When she isn't cooking, she spends her days as a marketer and her nights and weekends blogging, taking pictures and chasing after her son and dog.

1 Comment

  1. Another consideration is that the branding of hotel matches that on the restaurant. I’ll never forget it, but I was staying at a fairly nice (or at least it was positioning itself as nice) hotel and the restaurant really left more to be desired. No one wants bar food in the lobby when I can get a burger pretty much anywhere. It was a pretty big mis-match.

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