Mr. Acton

Food & Beverage

Eat, Drink and Boost Your Revenues

By Scott Acton, CEO & Founder, Forté Specialty Contractors

Co-authored by Kimberly Trueba, senior leadership team at Forté Specialty Contractors

In recent years, the hotel industry has seen a shift in revenue streams that it is eating up. While gaming revenue was once king in Las Vegas, it has now been overtaken by the food and beverage (F&B) segment. According to Moody's Financial Services, in Las Vegas specifically, non-gaming revenue has now easily surpassed gambling revenue, making up between 55 percent to 65 percent of total revenues with hotel, with F&B spending representing the largest non-gaming income streams. Thanks to millennials, along with growing numbers of more discerning consumers, a shift in consumer desires has affected the way those in the hotel industry think, build and design. Consumers now demand and expect a fully immersive and experiential outing when they eat, drink and "make merry."

Due to this shift, the strategies the hotel and hospitality industry are using to attract said consumers are getting increasingly creative. From an all-senses-engaging dinner in a luxe restaurant, to an interactive evening involving tableside meal prep and cooking, the hotel industry is taking advantage of the F&B revenues to be had. By offering meaningful and engaging F&B options, hotels are cashing in on repeat guests and attracting more new visitors than ever. In Las Vegas, there is a sense of competition between individual F&B venues within the same hotel, providing customers with various experiences that add perceived value to their stay and address diverse guest and visitor expectations.

The best way for hotels to differentiate these F&B venues is through creating immersive, experiential concepts which leave guests coming back for more. All of this appeal starts with the façade and design of the venue itself. As a result, hotels are directing more attention toward the aesthetics, design, materials and scale of the venues, so consumers not only want to be there, but keep coming back. The growing number of unique and well-constructed F&B venues offering tactile, multi-sensory experiences through design is attracting greater numbers of guests and the general public, which translates directly into improved hotel earnings.

The Aria Resort & Casino in Las Vegas is a good example of a larger-scale property that has been highly successful in demonstrating this approach. Aria contains approximately 4,004 hotel rooms; however, through the careful selection of design materials and thoughtful placement of various dining and entertainment options throughout the resort, Aria still manages to feel intimate and personalized. Also, the wide and diverse selection of F&B choices add perceived value to guests' stay, since one could avail themselves of anything from a coffee shop lounge, to a global fusion buffet, on up to a luxurious, tableside service dinner. Because F&B is such a competitive field with different expectations for every target audience, hotels are creating a variety of these options, each with their own custom concepts. Regardless of the F&B options presented - fast food, coffee shops, family-style sit-down restaurants, fine dining, lounges, pubs/bars and nightclubs - the key is to implement a concept that can be perceived by all of guests' senses throughout.

Take Bardot Brasserie for example. Bardot is a French fine-dining establishment with a modern twist, located in Aria. Built by Forté Specialty Contractors, Bardot is an excellent example of an all-senses-engaging, foodie experience. With lighting inspired by early film noir, Bardot's mix of low lighting and dramatic shadows sets the mood for guests. Whether you are simply walking by, or walking into the restaurant, there is no doubt Bardot's striking bar with polished brass shelving and up-lighting is attention-grabbing. With a wall that opens to the hotel's main second floor walkway, the bar creates a sense of social engagement among the guests and visitors walking through Aria, helping to draw additional guests in. Throughout Bardot, the use of textures, tactile materials, visual aesthetics and ambient lighting draws guests and casual visitors alike. All of these sensory tactics, paired with the restaurant's exceptional menu and specialty cocktails, makes Bardot a one-of-a-kind experience.

Across the way from Bardot you can find Carbone, another Forté-built, Italian-American restaurant also located within Aria. Carbone's design pays homage to the New York, Italian-American restaurants of the 1950s, which was an era of glamour, entertainment and service. A play on the idea of a restaurant as a theatre, Carbone's focus is on creating a multi-sensory experience. The waiters - known as "captains" - don burgundy tuxedos, mirroring the fashion during the late 1950s, and provide tableside meal preparations and entertainment for guests.

All elements of the Carbone experience have been carefully curated - everything from the furnishings, to the dishes, to the era-specific music brings Carbone's unique atmosphere to life, transporting guests to a different era. The restaurant was "glitzed-up" for Las Vegas and includes three separate rooms, all crafted to embrace their own personality. Pops of red within the opera-style booths and chairs are complimented by gold booth seating and a one-of-a-kind, vintage Venini chandelier which was imported from a car dealership in Italy and installed in the center of the main dining area. Within the blue-themed room, subway tile flooring reinforces the "New York" theme, and gold leaf-accented mahogany wood lines the room. Additionally, specialty coffers were designed and installed to allow for special lighting features which added to the ambiance. A third dining area was created with black and white patterned walls, balanced by sleek black chairs, chandeliers throughout and gold curtains which can be closed to create a private dining experience. With the period décor, paired with the tableside meal preparations, guests find themselves immersed in a completely different world during their dining experience.

When it comes to the multi-sensory experience, not one sense is more important than another; rather, each of the senses must work together to create an experience. However, sight, touch and sound are key in the design and construction process. In regards to sight, lighting is crucial to creating the venue's ambiance and vibe, and it is relatively simple to adjust the brightness, dimness and color to adapt. Additionally, visual imagery such as artwork and other décor can help set the tone for the guest. Sound - whether it is through music or simply the venue's acoustics - can also help set the mood and draw people in, boosting guest and visitor experience. For example, bright acoustics attract people and create an energetic atmosphere, while soft acoustics create a greater degree of intimacy. When a number of multi-sensory features are coupled with a mouthwatering menu, the results are more than positive. This kind of adventurous dining means more word-of-mouth publicity, amazing reviews on Yelp! and repeat customers. The payoff is, of course, higher profitability for both the restaurant and the hotel in which it resides as the hotel benefits from the boosted numbers of guests walking through its doors to get to their F&B destination of choice.

Today's up-and-coming purchasers aren't only interested in the end destination, but the "journey" getting there. They want to be wowed along the way, which is where a feast for the senses comes into play. Social settings that crop up en route to the target destination offer endless possibilities for guests to stop along the way to partake and explore. Another important portion of the F&B industry includes pubs, lounges, bottle service clubs, taverns and bars. These venues may see their customers return several times per day, while featuring a greater turnover of visitors from the general public. Much like Bardot's bar area, many restaurants are incorporating "lounge" atmospheres at the edge of restaurants to improve the quality of customer experience, helping to foster a social scene outside the restaurant to attract passers-by. This also positions the restaurant as a dual-purpose destination as F&B venues which are recognized as social scene among the public, fare much better in terms of profits and revenues. Once again, all of this leads to better financial results for the hotel itself.

To lure and engage consumers during their vacations, staycations and meals, building construction has taken a theatrical turn. Through materials presented, nearly every stroll has the potential to become a visual and tactile adventure. No material is too strange, rare or off-limits when it comes to the new all-immersive hotel experience. Cocobolo wood, crystals, hemp, Venetian glass, extravagant floral arrangements and living walls beckon guests on their way to their F&B scene of choice. When hotels present these architectural details in their design, one cannot help but be intrigued enough to stop, gaze and wander. Since Aria boasts 16 restaurants, which include three celebrity chefs and 10 bars/clubs, the chance of guests suddenly "realizing" how hungry and thirsty they've become greatly increases.

Aria is just one of many hotels on the Las Vegas Strip which features a prime selection of F&B options. While walking through the heart of the Las Vegas Strip, one can see miles of restaurants in and around the hotels, accompanied by bright, neon lights, color and loud music which create both formal and informal social gatherings, complete with interaction and a shared sense of fun. On the flip side, there are pockets of subdued lighting, neutral colors and ambient music to create a sense of intimacy and mystery, meaning there is a little something for anyone in Las Vegas.

With current positive trends in F&B design and service, profitability for the hotel industry is now relying more on this prominent source of revenue than even occupancy taxes, as in the past. The direction that current hospitality and broader economic trends are headed will continue to ensure that F&B remains an increasing source of revenue for hotels and resorts in the years to come.

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Kimberly Trueba co-authored this article. Kimberly Trueba is a member of the senior leadership team at Forté Specialty Contractors, a Las Vegas-based construction company specializing in creating out-of-the-box, experiential venues within the hospitality, restaurant, retail and entertainment industries. Throughout her career, she has lead project teams, fostered career-long relationships with numerous owners, developers, hotel executives, contractors, architects and designers, and has been responsible for directing the design and management teams for a number of highly acclaimed developments for some of the world's most recognized companies. After graduating with a bachelor's degree in interior architecture from Kansas State University, Kimberly kicked off her career with Disney Development Company and Walt Disney Imagineering in Florida, managing the creative and technical talent for hotel, retail and food and beverage projects for 10 years. Ms. Trueba has also served as a leader in working with international hospitality clients and hoteliers, such as Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts and Wynn Resorts. After deciding to pursue a different challenge and expand her knowledge base in a new field, Ms. Trueba joined Forté. Now she works with a team of more than 120 professionals comprising builders, architects, engineers, project managers and artists to enhance Forté's design-build practice and support the growth of Forté's core practice areas.

Scott Acton is CEO and founder of Forté Specialty Contractors, built on three generations of creative execution of some of the globe’s iconic experiential spaces. Forté Specialty Contractors in Las Vegas, is a construction firm specializing in the hospitality, restaurant, retail, nightlife and entertainment industries, Mr. Acton is known for tackling some of the most difficult and high profile construction challenges in the industry. Mr. Acton attended “Disney University” where he learned the business and leadership skills needed to build a successful career. In 2002, Mr. Acton started his own company, Trevi Manufacturing. He is a 20-year resident of Las Vegas. Mr. Acton can be contacted at 702-697-2000 or scott@fortedesignbuild.com Please visit http://fortedesignbuild.com/ for more information. Extended Bio...

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