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  • Kate Reddin

The Science of Saving Your Hotel Restaurant

Newton’s third law is something we all experience on a daily basis. A combustion engine propelling you to that next appointment. A bird flapping its wings overhead. An apple falling from your briefcase. Every action creates an equal and opposite reaction.

This physical law also extends into more abstract areas of life. For instance, why is your hotel restaurant still empty, despite everything you’ve tried? The effects are all too obvious. Bored waitstaff, wilting kitchen supplies, dismal bookkeeping. With every passing day, you wonder how your restaurant can possibly compete with the hottest spots in town.

The causes of your restaurant woes, on the other hand, have not been clearly delineated. Therein lies the problem. Newton didn’t need anyone to explain that an apple had fallen on his head. He needed to know why. As seen by the response to a previous article “Why are hotel restaurants empty?”, it is clear that this issue around hotel restaurants continue to gnaw away at conscientious industry professionals, so I thought it worth looking at a few scenarios from a Newtonian perspective.

Effect: Inconsistent service results in negative buzz and thinning crowds

Possible Cause: You haven’t developed a training program or employee handbook

Not all hotel restaurants are created empty. Some of them start off strong and lose steam. When this happens, it’s often because of a casual attitude toward service and training. You didn’t draw up an employee handbook, and you have no documented policies that spell out the service you want to deliver. Talk to any experienced restaurateur and you’ll hear what a mistake this is, especially given the notorious staff turnover in the business. Employees who are well trained and tuned into your service goals will generate a force almost as powerful as gravity: glowing customer reviews!

Effect: Your restaurant has a tedious appearance

Possible Cause: You didn’t have a distinct concept to begin with

Why do so many hotel restaurants become geophysical anomalies where no diner dares to tread? The concept is vague, the menu mediocre. Even the cutlery and furniture seem bland, unexceptional.

It all comes down to a lack of planning and integration. Maybe the conceptual foundations were weak from the beginning, and maybe an overhaul is less expensive (in the long run) than letting things continue on their current course. There may also be a shortage of quality cooking and serving tools on hand. If this is intentional, it’s a false economy. The effects of uninspired planning and poor execution will certainly be noticed. Get in the professionals for advice and reap the benefits!

Effect: The place looks good and the food works, but your staff aren’t motivated

Possible Cause: Too much focus on a set formula for hiring

We’d all like to have a star chef in our corner, and talent in the kitchen is a critical asset. But hiring the right people to host and serve is anything but an afterthought. These are the employees who shape the dining experience for guests. Not only are they an integral part of the restaurant’s functionality, they are a crucial aspect of its presentation.

Many hotel restaurateurs struggle to hire the right people because they’re looking at things from too traditional an angle. Is it more important to have X number of years’ experience and X number of verifiable references, or should you be focusing equally on, shall we say, more intangible matters? Would you rather have an old hat with fixed ideas on how to do every little thing, or a kinetic personality who is willing to learn? A recent client learned that technically competent staff do not necessarily help the bottom line as much as motivated staff with great personality.

There are things that can be taught and things that can’t. By staffing your restaurant with dynamic people, and providing thoughtful training to round out their capabilities, you establish the right kind of momentum.


Hotel restaurants have long been considered the Bermuda Triangle of the dining world; nobody can explain what happens to them, or why people tend to steer away. But it doesn’t have to be this way. There is a logical reason for everything. It may not be an exact science, and you may need help finding exactly what’s wrong with your setup. But taking a fresh look at the underlying causes behind your restaurant’s lackluster performance may just give you the Eureka moment you’ve been hoping for.

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