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Ms. Shallcross

Food & Beverage

How Hyatt Regency Savannah is Keeping up With the Foodies

By Juliana Shallcross, Founder, Trips and Giggles

Hyatt Regency Savannah is embracing the city's exciting foodie scene with a vibrant new restaurant concept that will give guests an authentic dining experience and an up close view of Savannah's riverfront, while at the same time, will meet the day-to-night needs of the modern traveler.

For the past few years, hotels have begun modernizing their offerings for a new type of traveler-one that's readily plugged in (sometimes literally with their smartphone in hand) to the newest trends in design, technology, food, and experiences. This traveler expects far more from their hotel than just a comfortable bed at night. They want the hotel to embody the spirit of the destination they are visiting, from the moment they check-in to the moment they check-out.

Yet these thoroughly modern guests also want the hotel to tick off all the right boxes when it comes to dining, amenities, and convenience. This can be a tall order for any hotel, even a newly built hotel, but for hotels that were constructed before the rise of this hyper-connected traveler, figuring out how to physically adapt their existing spaces for guests' rapidly-changing behaviors can be tough. But not impossible as evidenced by the plans in place at Hyatt Regency Savannah.

The hotel recently celebrated its 35th anniversary with a full renovation of all its 351 guest rooms, adding enhanced guest room WiFi, plus a new modern décor that was inspired by and complements the city's dramatic and artistic personality. The crisp and clean color palate of greys, smokey indigo and citron green evokes the shimmering contrasts along the streets of Savannah's historic district that are laced with slivery Spanish Moss trees. In addition, guests enjoy new carpeting, window treatments, soft seating with upholstery that includes subtle metallic touches, plus new bathroom vanities, showers, lighting, bed sets, and TVs. Specially commissioned artwork in the rooms consist of a series of bicycles capturing the spirit of Savannah. And the design of black iron lighting in the room's sconces, night stand lamps, and ceiling lights evoke the wrought iron gates of "Old Savannah."

Dan Johnson, the hotel's general manager, said the new look was due in part to the need to keep up with the new supply of rooms that have come online in Savannah in recent years. "It reminded us that we have to stay fresh and current," Johnson said.

The need to stay competitive also coincided with an interesting change in Savannah's tourism business.

"In the past five to six years, Savannah has become a 'foodie' town'," Johnson explained. "There are now a significant number of stand-alone restaurants, as well as boutique hotels in tow, that have introduced a series of dynamic food and beverage experiences with their offerings."

Hyatt Regency Savannah, with its location on the riverfront and being adjacent to City Hall, has always attracted both leisure and business travelers, but as the restaurant scene has grown in town, so have guests' expectations of the hotel's own food and beverage outlets. This is where the hotel really got down to work, visualizing a new lobby layout that not only maximizes the existing space, but offers a thoughtful and authentic dining experience that's true to its surrounding area and true to the company's global food philosophy, "Food. Thoughtfully Sourced, Carefully Served."

A top priority for Hyatt Regency Savannah was to capture more dinner guests and create a vibrant bar experience. "With the introduction of all these elevated restaurant concepts and experience in town, it's a perfect time for the hotel to re-tool its offerings to be on par with everything else that's going on," Johnson said. "Savannah is also a very walkable city, thanks to the open container law, which allows folks to take a libation in a to-go cup and walk out of the hotel to a number of local points of interest. We wanted to be able to provide our guests with food and drink to go along with them."

To do this, the hotel decided to combine its existing bar and lounge space with its restaurant, in addition to incorporating a "grab and go" component so guests can decide if they wish to enjoy their food and drink in the hotel, or take it with them while they stroll Savannah's historic streets. Now the single outlet with multiple functions will be available to guests from 6am through 2am daily. Currently, the hotel's breakfast and lunch space located on the riverfront sits dark after 2pm while their lounge space, on the opposite side of the atrium, is dark until 2pm. A coffee stand sits under the escalator but that too, sits dark after 2pm. By combining the coffee stand with the restaurant and lounge space, it will now create a vibrant hotel space that's open throughout the day and into the night.

Colleen Kareti, vice president of operational experiences for the Hyatt Regency brand, is responsible for implementing operational procedures ensuring that the brand's ethos is evident in the customer experience. Kareti helped Hyatt Regency Savannah with its food and beverage revitalization process and said this combined layout will also encourage guests to utilize the space more. "Guests love to be in our public spaces," she said. "They don't want to be cooped up in their rooms. So we wanted to activate our public spaces and make them more inviting for guests to use throughout all of the dayparts."

To take better advantage of the hotel's prime riverfront location, Hyatt Regency Savannah decided to repurpose its existing bar and outdoor patio for this three-in-one restaurant outlet concept. Located near the front entrance of the hotel on the side of the lobby atrium that overlooks the riverfront, the new concept will provide guests a phenomenal, up-close view of the action outside. An added and rare bonus is an elevator connecting the patio to the riverfront promenade.

Other modern design elements for this vibrant new concept will include an open kitchen that includes a wood-burning oven, a visible kitchen workspace, and an island bar that can seat up to 40 guests. One side of this bar will even extend out onto the patio. Kareti said that the patio will also have several small fire pits, rather than one large fire pit, so that all guests can share in the fireside experience. A fun technology perk will also be found in the furniture, which will feature charging stations for personal devices.

As for what's offered in the new space, Johnson said the restaurant will cater to whatever type of dining experience the guest might need, whether it be hand-crafted cocktails, coffee drinks, casual dining fare, or to-go options, such as fresh juices and pre-made salads. In fact, everything will be available "to go" so guests can have a restaurant quality meal experience to enjoy in their room. However, Johnson insisted that everything will be "healthy, seasonal, locally-sourced and organic when possible."

Hyatt Regency Savannah also wanted to ensure that the creation of its new restaurant concept and offerings are connected to the hotel's destination. "Our team has been actively researching both historical and traditional dishes and preparation methods, and have been out experiencing the most exciting restaurant concepts in town to make sure we stay true to our local environment, and to the customer who wants the real low-country experience," Johnson said. "That's why our executive chef will be crafting a menu that will ensure our customer is experiencing the true food culture of Savannah here at our hotel."

The menu will also abide by Hyatt's global food philosophy, "Food. Thoughtfully Sourced. Carefully Served.," which aims to serve healthy food for its guests and associates while supporting local communities and being good to the planet. "Food. Thoughtfully Sourced. Carefully Served, is based on three pillars: healthy people, healthy planet, and healthy communities. The approach to the hotel's fare will be fresh, local and from sustainable sources, but it's also good food being prepared well," Kareti said. While the open kitchen will whip up made-to-order items for guests, Kareti said that guests demand for a traditional breakfast buffet is still strong, and so a daily buffet spread that features hot and cold menu items will be offered in the mornings.

A final component of the hotel's lobby revitalization is to rethink its oversized gift shop and instead, open an apothecary-like space near the front desk where guests can pick up traditional sundries and toiletries. The hotel's apothecary will be available 24 hours a day, ensuring that guests won't have to venture outside the property for essential items. And for the property's previous breakfast and lunch space, that will also be revamped to create new meeting and event spaces for group business.

Hyatt Regency Savannah is expected to unveil its new dining concept early next year. Kareti cites the portable nutrition trend amongst guests. "People want nutritious food fast and they don't want it fat or calorie-laden. Also, not everyone has an hour for lunch, so it's important to be able to get something good on the fly."

Juliana Shallcross was previously the managing editor and founder of HotelChatter, Jaunted, and VegasChatter; a trio of daily Condé Nast websites. She is creating daily website content for LE Miami. With more than 10 years of reporting and writing about hotels and travel, Ms. Shallcross has contributed her insights to several travel publications including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Miami Herald, Inc., CNN, BBC, and National Geographic Traveler. Additionally, Ms. Shallcross has appeared on the Condé Nast Traveler Snapchat channel, which is proving to be a fun and engaging way to show off new hotels and dynamic cities. Ms. Shallcross can be contacted at 310-721-7356 or lovetrips&giggles@gmail.com Please visit http://www.tripsandgiggles.com for more information. Extended Bio...

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OCTOBER: Revenue Management: Technology and Big Data

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