Hotel Restaurants: A Management Guide for Beginners

hotel service in reception

Running a successful hotel restaurant requires a unique management skill set that goes beyond what’s needed for standalone eateries. With additional responsibilities like overseeing room service, coordinating with hotel operations and catering to discerning hotel guests, there’s a lot to master.

If you’re new to the world of hotel restaurant management, this guide will get you up to speed. It covers all the important aspects—from making the most of your physical layout and training top-notch staff to implementing the right tech stack and driving maximum revenue.

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Why hotel restaurants are mission critical

First, it’s important to understand just how vital hotel restaurants are to the overall property’s success and guest experience. There are several reasons why operating an excellent on-site restaurant is so essential:

Revenue generator

While room bookings provide the core revenue stream, hotel restaurants contribute lucrative additional profits. Between dining covers and banquet business, the restaurant program can be a major money-maker. For instance, a hotel with significant revenue might be expected to bring 80% of its earnings from rooms and 20% from the restaurant.

Brand reputation builder

A hotel’s dining options play a role in shaping a guest’s overall perception of the property’s hospitality standards and commitment to their experience. An acclaimed hotel restaurant elevates the brand’s prestige and cachet.

Guest convenience

With an array of quality, convenient dining options on the premises, hotels make their guests’ stay smoother and more enjoyable from start to finish. There’s often less desire for a guest to venture outside to other restaurants.

Destination dining

Catering first to guests is the priority for many hotels, but successful hotel restaurants also attract a steady crowd of locals and other visitors who come solely for the food. It means properties develop a reputation as an enviable dining destination in their own right.

In other words, hotels simply can’t overlook their restaurant operations. A thoughtfully developed and well-managed hotel restaurant program is mission critical for delivering a first-class guest experience that drives revenue and brand reputation.

Strategically planning the restaurant layout

When designing or renovating a hotel restaurant, the physical layout and configuration requires strategic planning based on the needs and functions it must serve. Here are some key considerations:

Flexible, multi-purpose spaces

Rather than a single dining room, hotels require multiple zones that can adapt for different purposes and volumes. You may need areas dedicated to 

The front-of-house layout should allow these spaces to expand or condense as occasions demand. Moving sleek partitions, zoning off areas and having transitional set-up or breakdown protocols is central for maintaining a versatile and efficient environment.

Efficient back-of-house zoning

Behind the scenes, the kitchen should have a smart operational flow with distinct zones for streamlined execution. In addition to the main hotline, you may need separate stations dedicated to pizza and flatbread, cold food, banquet plating, in-room dining and pastries and desserts.

Zoning the back-of-house based on the different menu offerings and service types the restaurant will handle is necessary for a smooth operation and fewer bottlenecks.

Ample staging areas

With hotel restaurants juggling everything from a la carte dining to large catered events, staging areas for expeditors, food staging and plating are a must-have. Situate these areas between the kitchen zones and service areas to facilitate an efficient flow of work.

Carefully thinking through the many different restaurant configurations and operational flows you’ll need to accommodate will set your hotel restaurant layout up for success.


Attracting quality staff and providing elite training

One of the advantages hotel restaurants have is attracting top talent. The ability to promote hospitality career path opportunities beyond just restaurant work.

When hiring staff, highlight benefits like:

  • Pathways to hotel management and executive roles
  • Ability to transfer to different properties and experience new environments
  • Opportunities for cross-training in hotel operations like front desk and housekeeping
  • Travel opportunities as new properties open
  • Ability to live on-site at certain properties
  • Corporate perks like discounted rates, education reimbursement and more

In addition to these enticing hospitality career path options, hotel restaurants have access to elevated training resources that standalones usually can’t match:

Corporate training programs

As part of a broader hotel portfolio, your restaurant staff likely has access to thorough corporate training initiatives and materials focused on aspects like service standards, safety protocols and brand values.

Informal exchange programs

Look into establishing exchange programs that allow staff to experience different environments within your restaurant portfolio, from casual cafes to upscale fine dining. This cross-training helps expose rising talent to new skills and approaches.

Prioritising excellent guest service

With hotel guests experiencing your brand’s hospitality standards around the clock, the restaurant staff must prioritise delivering consistently excellent service that meets or exceeds those lofty expectations.

Build service standards into training

From the very start during onboarding, staff training should ingrain your hotel’s specific service standards into their DNA. Think: greeting protocols, body language and personal presentation, communication styles, napkin refolding, guiding guests through menus. You name it.

Enable personal touches with guest intelligence

Taking service to the next level requires personal touches. OpenTable’s restaurant management software, for example, provides guest preference dashboards so your team can review details like favourite dishes, drink preferences, dietary needs, special occasions, and more. This is particularly helpful if a guest has booked a room and noted specific dining preferences.

Using that level of intel, servers can customise greetings, meal pacing, menu recommendations, beverages and so much more for an ultra-personal, ultra-hospitable experience.

Empower staff for recovery

Unfortunately, occasional oversights and less-than-ideal experiences are bound to happen occasionally at any restaurant—hotels included. The crucial difference is training and empowering your staff on recovery tactics for when things go awry.

Rather than deferring to restaurant managers, hotel servers should be enabled to apply situational discounts, complimentary desserts or beverages or future dining credit as appropriate amends. Such a proactive recovery is a surefire way to make sure issues are promptly resolved with grace.

Delivering unparalleled personalised service tailored to each guest is the hallmark of successful hotel restaurants.

Choosing the right technology and integrations

To keep hotel restaurant operations running efficiently across all the different moving components requires a powerful, integrated technology platform. From reservations and staffing to reporting and payment processing, hospitality tech shows its worth to hotel restaurants.

Look for an open restaurant management platform that directly integrates with the various other systems your hotel uses:

Property management system (PMS)

For handling room reservations, check-ins, guest folios and more, your restaurant needs direct PMS integration.

Point of sale

Billing, ordering, inventory, and menu maintenance all flow through the POS. Look for one-click integration with your restaurant management system.

Payment processing

For processing room charges, on-premise dining, banquets and more, integrated omnichannel payment solutions tied into your system are vital.

Catering and banquet software

Hotels juggling regular restaurant operations and large catering and banquet events need events software that connects to the master reservations hub.

Marketing and guest data platforms

Management systems that integrate loyalty, guest preference data and marketing automation empower you to personalise hospitality.

Self-ordering Technology

With staffing tight, self-ordering solutions that integrate for quick counter service or tableside can boost efficiency.

Mobile solutions

Fully cloud-based mobile apps help streamline operations by putting management controls and reporting in your pocket.

Restaurant reservation system

Hotels can’t rely solely on their overnight guests booking the restaurant. Your spot needs to stand out in its own right, and one way to do that is by using a restaurant reservation system like OpenTable to increase reach and give outside diners the chance to book a spot at your hotel restaurant.

Having all these platforms work in sync provides a single source of truth across your restaurant, banquets, reservations, staffing, inventory, and more. It’s crucial for hotel restaurant management.

Nailing room service operations

In addition to your regular restaurant operations, hotels also require providing seamless room service, often at higher volumes and later hours than freestanding establishments. Here are some tips for nailing it:

Optimised room service menu

Tailor the room service menu to be concise with easy-to-prepare dishes perfect for the grab-and-go model. Emphasise handhelds, small bites, bowls and shareable items that travel well across all dayparts including late-night. Having a few heartier entrees is fine too.

Dedicated room service stations

Having separate hot food pickup areas and shelving stations dedicated solely to room service can streamline getting those orders prepared, transported, and out the door ASAP.

Summary: hotel restaurants

Overseeing a successful hotel restaurant program requires mastering a unique set of skills, from optimising layouts and training staff to using technology and executing flawless room service. But for hotel restaurants able to offer hospitality combined with smart operational strategies, the rewards are substantial. A prestigious reputation, booming revenues and rave reviews from guests awaits those who can elevate hotel restaurant management to an art form.