VIP Welcome Refreshments

Certain tactics never fail, and here’s one that you should definitely implement at your property if you haven’t already. Offering your guests a little amuse bouche or free beverage upon arrival is an excellent way to get them in a good mood after the stress and exhaustion of travel, helping to set the pace for the rest of their stay.

Most hoteliers are aware of this in a general sense, but it is the execution where we often stumble. The expected welcome refreshment is a bottle of wine, a small cheese tray, a fruit place, crackers, cookies or any combination of the five. Nowadays, though, you must look beyond the perfunctory and truly own this aspect of the guest experience if you are to make a lasting impression.

While I can’t speak for your specific hotel and what might work for your budget, logistics and locale, the best I can do is recount several of the more remarkable instances of this that I’ve encountered over the years wondering the globe. Hopefully one of these can inspire you. In no particular order, they are:

  1. Montage Laguna Beach swapped the traditional cheeseboard for custom-made sweets and delicacies specially prepared by the pastry chef.
  1. Le Royal Monceau, Raffles Paris eschewed the bottle of house red for chilled champagne and macaroons along with Perrier for those who might not fancy a libation at that particular moment.
  1. The Ritz-Carlton, Amelia Island improvised with a similar tactic when, in the midst of 30°C+ heat and high humidity, they popped a bottle of Veuve Clicquot and gave every guest in the long front desk lineup a complimentary glass, making the wait the last thing on their minds.
  1. COMO Metropolitan Bangkok offered fresh tropical fruit with bottled water, but it was the focus on presentation that separated this hotel with all food meticulously arranged on banana leaves.
  1. Ojai Valley Inn & Spa offered a range of welcome gifts where, during my last visit, I settled on a bucket of four Coronas and a plate of nachos.

Although these five are all luxury properties, there are nonetheless learnings for all. What doesn’t work well is offering anything that a customer would expect to find in the minibar. That is, a bona fide VIP welcome must exude a sense of place for the property or the region as well as personalization (gender, age, group dynamic, past preferences).

Outside of F&B, there are examples of handouts that also work, especially with regard to children where there is always a risk of snack disapproval from the parents due to allergies or other dietary restrictions. For instance, I have seen guidebooks to the local area, coloring books with crayons, custom stickers and air spinner toys, all intended to temporarily calm toddlers so the parents can focus on checking in.

The key throughout, whether you are planning to offer a well-tailored refreshment or something else, is to pleasantly surprise your incoming guests and garner a fantastic first impression.

(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, published in Hotels Magazine on Friday, February 10, 2017)