Hotels are Helping Others through F&B Initiatives and Projects
When hotels try to be good local citizens, one of the most natural avenues for them to help others is through food and beverage projects. Whether it's cocktail events that donate proceeds to charities, providing excess food to soup kitchens and other organizations or using recycled ingredients in different dishes, F&B and giving back go hand in hand. And, it's good for business.
"If you look at our industry as a whole, everyone is trying to find ways to bring in more revenue and do some good at the same time," said Tim Smith, general manager of the 307-room Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee.
The hotels' top floor, lounge, Blu, hosts the BluTender program on Monday and Tuesday night. Local companies host gatherings, with the bar's bartenders assisting, Smith said. Some of the companies even have different departments making drinks and competing again one another in friendly, fun competitions to see who can make the best cocktails. Ten percent of the bar revenues and 100 percent of tips are then donated to the organization's or company's charity of choice, Smith added.
Since the program started in 2013, a total of $220,000 has been raised for local charities, Smith said. The program began when hotel owner, Greg Marcus, president and chief executive officer of the Marcus Corp. and past co-chairman of United Way, encouraged other United Way co-chairs to bartend in Blu, with 10 percent of the proceeds from sales going to United Way campaigns.
"At the end of the day, we are helping others and exposing Blu to a whole new group of people in Milwaukee," Smith said.
Sustainability is the buzzword at Boleo, the rooftop South American restaurant at the Kimpton Gray Hotel in Chicago. Bartender Jessica Lambert created the “The Drink Like You Give A… menu as a way to reduce Boleo’s waste and personal environmental impact, according to Boleo's F&B Director Keith Dorrow. One dollar of each sustainable cocktail sold on this special drink menu is donated to Zero Waste Chicago, a local environmental organization that seeks to reduce landfill waste through education and resources. Each cocktail also is instilled with reused and recycled ingredients, Dorrow added.
For another hotel, F&B is a way top help the homeless. Just this month, the 338-room Chase Park Plaza Hotel in St. Louis partnered with Bridge Bread, a non-profit bakery that provides job opportunities for people experiencing homelessness in St. Louis, according to Frederik Houben, director of sales and marketing. Since 2011, Bridge Bread has provided hope to homeless individuals by teaching them to bake bread and earn an income
As part of the partnership, The Chase will purchase over the next yerar roughly 30,000 dinner rolls made by Bridge Bread each year to be used for events and banquets held at the hotel, Houben added. Additionally, the proceeds from the partnership with the hotel will allow Bridge Bread to hire two more bakers. Over half of the bakers that have worked for Bridge Bread have remained housed and employed.
Houben hopes that the partnership will expand, and the intent is to eventually purchase other kinds of bread through Bridge Bread.
"Anything that we can do to help people in the area get back on their feet is really important," Houben said.