Hotels don’t often get credit for establishing quality beer programs. But at this year’s VIBE Conference, the winner of the VIBE Vista Award for Best Beer Program among hotels, casinos and cruise lines was Interstate Hotels and Resorts. They took home the award for a program that streamlines and standardizes product offerings across multiple hotel brands to ensure the highest quality products available at the best prices while also increasing revenue.
The program was designed to increase beverage sales with guests whether at the bar, in a lounge or dining in a property restaurant through upscale custom menus and beverage programming. Currently the beer program offers customization while still adhering to the core program. For example, unlike many hotel chains, Interstate mandates five tap handles at every property, with one tap selected by those in charge at the property to ensure local craft beers are included and regional trends are taken into account.
Also mandated is a mix of bottles and draft, including imports, domestic and craft selections. Trends have been taken note of as well, with Angry Orchard Hard Cider mandated to take advantage of the cider trend. Sam Adams seasonal selections are included in top tier properties.
With portion variation (both 16-oz. and 23-oz. servings are available) guests have the opportunity to upgrade to a larger size, and servers are given the opportunity to upsell.
The chain worked closely with beer suppliers throughout the year to provide promotional support for their products. All draft and bottled beers are listed in customized menus in upscale leather-bound books. Each custom, leather-bound menu features hand-drawn illustrations commissioned from Houston artist Elliot Park.
To support the program, an educational webinar was held for all properties when rolled out. Program materials were distributed to all properties and are always available for review on the company’s site. Materials include the recipe deck (complete with custom photos, recipes and methodology) and detailed program guides that outline products mandated by tier, an annual beverage marketing calendar, and supplier contact information. Further, select beverage partners elected to participate in Interstate’s beverage partner training program, hosting trainings and tastings at properties over the course of one month, educating F&B staff on their company’s products, the beer industry in general, serving techniques, and upselling and marketing strategies.
The results? Overall, year-over-year sales were estimated to have increased 3.67 percent. Depletions for one beer partner were up 10 percent, along with lots of positive guest feedback regarding draft and bottled beer options.