The demand for hotel rooftop bars goes up on a nice summer day, but drink prices don’t necessarily follow, according to revenue-management and F&B experts, who said it’s important to be consistent so customers will come back.
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—A hotel’s rooftop bar is a hot spot during the summer for both hotel guests and locals—and hoteliers and food-and-beverage experts want to keep it that way.
High demand means higher prices for some bars, but not at The Outsider, the Kimpton Journeyman Hotel’s rooftop bar in Milwaukee. Joseph Adamczak, GM of The Outsider, said keeping prices about the same gives customers the incentive to come back again and again.
“We generally keep our pricing consistent throughout the year,” he said. “We will fluctuate pricing as produce and other products increase in cost, but we rely heavily on repeat guests and don’t want to shock them with regularly increased pricing.”
At the Hotel Shangri-La’s Onyx rooftop bar in Santa Monica, California, a desirable location allows the food-and-beverage department to charge a bit of a premium while still keeping the prices of other local bars in mind, said Sven Norrenberg, director of food and beverage at the hotel.
“We keep our pricing consistent with the market of Santa Monica. We shop around local hotels and bars to be sure we are in line,” he said. “However, we do add on a little more of a premium due to the rooftop location we have right in the heart of downtown Santa Monica.”
Because of the unique seasonal demand, a rooftop bar is sometimes managed a little differently than a hotel’s ground-floor bar or restaurant, sources said.
The Journeyman’s Adamczak said bartenders and servers have to work at a fast pace to keep up with the number of customers at The Outsider.
“Our concept is craft cocktail-focused, which challenges our team with this volume, but we closely monitor our ticket times and have created additional satellite bars that offer beer and wine only so that all guests are able to be served in a reasonable timeframe,” he said. “We also pay very close attention to the capacity of the space to ensure that all guests are comfortable and have adequate space to enjoy themselves without being overly crowded.”
Norrenberg said Onyx is managed as a high-volume bar since only small food items are served there.
“People mainly come there to have a drink and watch the sunset, so more bartender and cocktail waitress staffing is a focus on the roof to be sure to maximize drink volume,” he said. “The ground-floor restaurant is managed for more of a formal setting, and (has) a more extensive dinner food menu than the rooftop. This is catered to those that would like to have a full meal and have their privacy and still have views of the Pacific Ocean. Drink revenues will be at a minimum, in this case.”
Specials and promotions
To keep rooftop bars in high demand throughout the summer, sources said they’ve found it’s best to offer the same drink specials and promotions to both hotel guests and non-guests visiting the bar.
“All specials are available to guests and non-guests alike,” Tony Quintal—COO and VP of finance at Geis Hospitality Group, the company that manages The Metropolitan at The 9, Autograph Collection in Cleveland, Ohio—said of the hotel’s Azure Rooftop Lounge. “From time to time, we will offer special promotional packages that feature credit to Azure with an overnight stay in addition to our typical specials.”
Quintal added that Azure also offers specials to bring in more business when the bar isn’t as busy.
“Our goal is to deliver great service to drive repeat visitations first and foremost,” he said. “Happy hour and weekly promotions are other marketing drivers for revenue management that we use to target less busy days and dayparts. In addition to our (Tuesday promotion), we target Saturday and Sunday afternoon dayparts to capture day drinkers in the market that want fresh cocktails. … We target this by offering a combination of package and price promotions.”
While hotel guests and outside guests receive the same specials and drink prices, hotel guests are given priority, Norrenberg said.
“As far as priority goes, if our guests show security their room key, they are given priority on the elevator and sent up before outside guests,” he said.