Hilton Zeroes In On Quick Serves

Hilton Worldwide announced last week that it plans to open 500 new restaurants worldwide in the next three years, with a specific emphasis on quick serves. Up to a quarter of these restaurants will be within the company’s U.S. hotels.

QSR spoke to Beth Scott, vice president of food and beverage concepts, about plans for the new stateside restaurants.

Why is now the time to be opening new restaurants? For a long time it was “don’t spend,” and now everybody is catching up. Plus we are building new hotels, and third-party restaurant groups are now more interested in hotels as a way of growing their companies. Restaurant companies that wouldn’t look at nontraditional locations in the past are looking at them now—at hotels, airports, and schools.

How will you select which hotels they go into? Anything new gets them, as well as hotels we’re converting to the Hilton brand.

Will these restaurants be partnerships with existing concepts or unique to Hilton properties? For our luxury brands, like the Conrad hotels and Waldorf-Astoria, there’s a desire to partner with celebrity chefs or higher-end concepts. But overall, some of the quick-service concepts are appealing because of the way people want to eat now.

The rise of grab-and-go market concepts is huge—everyone’s got one now. Even the celebrity chefs are opening them, including Mario Batali and Cat Cora. People are on the move these days and don’t have time to sit down and have a meal. They want higher-end grab-and-go.

Do you expect to have some hotels with only quick-serve concepts? A quick serve probably wouldn’t replace a sit-down restaurant but it could, especially in a city where there’s a plethora of restaurants nearby.

Which brands are already signed up to work with Hilton? We’ve got the Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf signed up. They are expanding rapidly throughout the country. We’ve got Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse, the Il Mulino group, and Michael Jordan’s restaurant group. We have about 20 concepts listed already.

These are groups that know how to operate in a hotel environment, which is great, as sometimes they are the only restaurant in a hotel. Breakfast and room service are a key part, so if they don’t understand the operating environment, it becomes impossible to manage.

How do you learn what works in each market? We spend a lot of time doing market studies, not just on hotels but also looking at what the local diners are looking for. We have a captive audience, but we strive to build hotels that can stand on their own. So it’s a combination of what’s right for a hotel and the market that it’s going into.

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