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Food and Beverage Innovation Provides Growth for Wyndham Hotels

May 23, 2011

Like many other hoteliers, Wyndham Resorts & Hotels was affected by the economic recession that shook the industry in 2008. Shanken News Daily recently interviewed Fernando Salazar, vice president of food & beverage for Wyndham Hotels & Resorts. He reports that Wyndham has seen steady increases in food and beverage revenues in the last few years, driven by innovative beverage alcohol programs. The 94-location Wyndham chain has 67 units in the U.S. and 27 in international markets including China (6), Mexico (6), Dominican Republic (4), Bahamas (2), Panama (2), Netherlands, Netherlands Antilles, London, U.S. Virgin Islands, Jamaica and Doha, (Qatar).

SND: How have food and beverage sales performed at Wyndham Hotels during the last few years? What were beverage alcohol sales for 2009, 2010, and what’s your projection for 2011?

SALAZAR: The economic recession hit our industry hard, and Wyndham was no exception, but business is picking up gradually. We don’t report F&B revenues publicly. As for sales comparisons from 2009 to 2010 and projections on 2011, I can say that 2010 saw an increase of 7% over 2009 and that we’re projecting 2011 to finish at 9% over 2010. We’re gradually reaching pre-2008 levels. Wine has seen a healthier increase than spirits and beer—with beer showing the least increase for the previous two years.

SND: What are the most notable F&B trends at Wyndham?

SALAZAR: One of the hottest trends right now is the Gastro Bar concept, where the bar component and the food component have equal billing—where cocktails are designed to match food and vice versa. At one of our brands, TRYP Hotels by Wyndham, we’ve developed a Gastro Bar concept to offer locals and hotel guests a place to unwind, enjoy a handcrafted cocktail paired with a menu of Spanish and international tapas. The Gastro Bar lives right in the lobby of every TRYP Hotel and has sitting options ranging from communal tables to bar stools to lounge furniture for locals and hotel guests to mingle and enjoy the ambiance, cocktails, wines and tapas. GenXers and Millennials love social environments, whether when talking, drinking or eating. To that we’ve added organic wines, cocktails and a menu that addresses sustainability in its products. The Gastro Bar concept is exactly what will attract them. These are the consumers of today and tomorrow, and that’s why we’re betting on this concept.

SND: In wine, what regions or varietals are performing well for you?

SALAZAR: Spanish wines are on fire. Rioja and Ribera del Duero, Bierzo and other regions are great value for the money. Consumers have become savvier and are experimenting with new varietals, from Verdejo and Godello for whites to Tempranillo and Mencía for reds. They’re also socially responsible and look for wines that are either organic or biodynamic. We carry many wines that are either produced with 100% organic grapes like Natura from Emiliana winery in Chile or biodynamic wines from Benziger Vineyards in Sonoma. I also look for new wines coming into the market. On a recent trip to South America, I discovered a new Malbec from the Uco Valley in Mendoza, Argentina called Topografía. It’s not yet in the U.S., but I ordered a few cases for us once they get here. It has a great story—a small family winery that only produces a few hundred cases of high-quality Malbec a year. Our customers will appreciate tasting something different and of high quality at a good price.

SND: What do you offer as a house wine, and how extensive is your by-the-glass program?

SALAZAR: We offer three tiers: Sycamore Lane from Trinchero Vineyards, Esser Wines from Spring Mountain and Natura from Emiliana Winery in Chile, this last wine made with 100% organic grapes. Our by-the-glass menu is also offered in three tiers. It’s a minimum of 16 wines by the glass for our bigger venues down to eight for our smaller hotels. Depending on the location, prices range from $7 to $14 a glass.

SND: Which types of spirits generate the most calls at Wyndham, and what are your most popular cocktails?

SALAZAR: Vodka by far is the spirit of choice and has been for the last few years, but rum and Tequila are close seconds. We’ve developed a beverage program called ECOlogy MIXology, which offers organic cocktails made with top-quality ingredients. That program has paid dividends. Our most popular cocktails are the Strawberry Thyme Lemon Drop made with TRU organic vodka, strawberry puree, CYTRY organic orange liqueur, organic lemon juice and sugar, shaken and garnished with a sprig of fresh thyme. Another popular cocktail is the Spicy Passion, made with Patron Añejo, passion fruit puree and a whiff of cinnamon, served on the rocks. These drinks range from $9 to $14, depending on the region. In New York City, San Francisco or Chicago for instance, the prices will be higher than in San Antonio or Atlanta.

SND: Who is the typical Wyndham customer?

SALAZAR: They’re upscale, frequent business and leisure travelers, with a 50-50 male-female split. Most (55%) are between the ages of 35-54 and 70% have bachelors degrees or higher. Forty percent have a U.S. household income between $50-99,000, and 37% between $100-199,000.

SND: How important is beverage alcohol to your bottom line? What percent of revenues are accounted for by beverage alcohol?

SALAZAR: Very important. Beverage revenues account for approximately 35% of all F&B revenue centers including banquets, restaurants, bars and room service.

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