Food Frenzy: Hotels Focused on Finer Palates.
By Melanie Nayer ~ Weekly Exclusive Column
Wednesday, 11th April 2012
It's no secret hotels are looking to spread their offerings this year - surveys showing that guests are more interested in amenities and unique experiences have prompted hotels to think outside the box, and offer more to guests than just room upgrades and complimentary WiFi. But what hotels will do to attract and retain new guests has been anything but dull, especially for the traveler.

At Mandarin Oriental, for example, new bar concepts have merged social media with speciality cocktails. InterContinental Hotels & Resorts announced the launch of its new brand EVEN, which is aimed entirely at the healthy traveler; and Marriott International recently announced the new "Future of Work" meetings space, which will take the traditional "boring" out of the boardroom and offer more tech-savvy amenities to meeting planners.

Now comes word that Starwood Hotels & Resorts, focusing on guests with a finer palate, is launching a preferred guest program aimed at its foodie-frenzied guests.

Starwood just released their Restaurants & Bars program for members, and some would argue the rewards are worth every calorie. Instead of accruing and redeeming points for hotel stays and room upgrades, Starwood preferred guest members can trade in points for meals and drinks at more than 500 hotel restaurants, bars, and cafés around the world.

Starwood isn't the first to tackle to the food trend, though. Earlier this year, Hilton Worldwide launched a new strategy to open 500 new restaurants across the globe over the next three years with the launch of a their new website -hiltonrestaurantconcepts.com. The website will help partner restaurateurs with its hotels around the world and identify new restaurant concepts that resonate with guests at Hilton.

But Starwood is taking a slightly different approach, and leaving the restaurant choices in the hands of their guests. The Restaurant & Bars program is a simple point-based accrual. Based on the amount of Starwood points you have, preferred guest members can get up to 20% off their restaurant bill (more sought-after hotel restaurants will go only as high as 10%). Stay more, save more, is the concept here.

Some of the restaurants in the Hong Kong area currently participating include Restaurant + Bar Umami at Le Meridien Cyberport, Oyster & Wine Bar at Sheraton Hong Kong Hotel & Towers, and Living Room at W Hong Kong.

Around the world, Starwood preferred guest members can find deals at Lambs Club Restaurant at New York City's The Chatwall Hotel, The Terrace Bar at Dubai's Al Maha Desert Resort & Spa, The Palm Court in London's Park Lane Hotel, Tres at the SLS Hotel in Los Angeles, Le First at The Westin Paris, and Restaurant Vivendo at the St. Regis in Rome.

Additionally, for the ultra-foodie guests, the Starwood rewards can be redeemed for cooking classes with Starwood chefs and can be used for culinary vacations.

Of the more unique special offers, Starwood loyalty members with enough points can take a sushi class with Master Chef Masaharu Morimoto of Iron Chef fame, enjoy dinner with Gramercy Tavern owner Danny Meyer, or indulge in an exclusive tasting menu for two at New York's Le Bernadin restaurant.

On Starwood's Restaurants & Bars website you can search for participating restaurants and bars by region, cuisine, cost or ambiance. The hardest part for the guest? Deciding where to eat!

Melanie Nayer is a hotel reviewer and expert on luxury travel around the world. She has covered all aspects of hotels including corporate restructures, re-branding initiatives, historical aspects and the best of the best in luxury hotels around the world.

Melanie writes a weekly exclusive column for 4Hoteliers.com
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