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Glamping Business Americas


The power of Food & Beverage programs

July 23, 2023

In the dynamic travel industry, glamping resorts are emerging as a popular choice for travelers seeking unique and immersive experiences.

To meet these modern adventurers’ demands, glamping operators must now go beyond offering exceptional accommodations and breathtaking views. They must embrace the growing trend of food tourism. This article explores the benefits, potential investment, and profitability of introducing Food and Beverage (F+B) programs.

Hospitality is about so much more than a transaction. Hospitality is about creating a meaningful connection with guests, ensuring a memorable and enriching experience. F+B plays a crucial role in achieving this goal. F+B professionals, trained in hospitality, are adept at caring for guests, creating a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Incorporating F+B programs can increase touchpoints with guests, gather feedback, and engage with them throughout their stay, enhancing satisfaction and loyalty.

F+B offerings should not be seen merely as a convenience for guests; they can significantly influence their choice of glamping resort. With 56% of campers emphasizing the importance of top-tier F+B when glamping, providing exceptional F+B experiences can attract guests willing to pay more for quality and authenticity. Offering a purposeful F+B program tailored to guests’ preferences can help them disconnect from their daily lives and fully immerse themselves in the glamping experience.

The KOA 2023 North American Camping and Outdoor Hospitality Report reveals that over onethird (36%) of campers now prioritize food tourism and culinary experiences. These “food tourists” spend an average of $300 more per trip than other campers and travel over 140 miles farther. This trend indicates that campers are seeking highquality F+B experiences and are willing to go the extra mile, quite literally, to find them.

The American Express Travel Report further underscores this trend, revealing that 81% of travelers worldwide look forward to trying local foods while traveling. Additionally, 36% of travelers are interested in learning about local cultures or giving back to the local community.

By developing even the simplest of retail food programs, like stocking artisan food products, running a local coffee program, or arranging delivery from a bakery, a glamping operator can connect to this consumer, support local businesses, and ensure the quality of the F+B experience while generating low-cost revenues. This growing desire for authenticity and local experiences presents an opportunity for glamping resorts to offer more substantial and unique F+B programs that showcase local flavors and culinary traditions.

Engaging a local chef or caterer to deliver or lead dinners on certain nights of the week during high season can be a great way to do this. This is what we call a third-party origination program. By utilizing the licensed facility of a local caterer or restaurant, the glamping resort only needs to provide a minimally functional “finishing” kitchen or space with which to execute the meal. Profit-sharing models make this shared risk scenario very profitable and less capital intensive than full-service restaurant construction.

To optimize the success of an F+B program, it is essential to align it with guests’ expectations and preferences. Understanding the activities popular in the resort’s vicinity, guests’ activity levels, and their wellness orientation can help shape the F+B offerings accordingly. Whether it’s offering healthy, packaged lunches for active guests or creating menus suitable for wine pairings in winery-rich regions, catering to guests’ specific expectations enhances their overall experience and strengthens the resort’s appeal.

Research by Sage Outdoor Advisory indicates that glamping resorts with substantial food service experience over a 100% increase in Average Daily Rate (ADR) compared to those with minimal or no F+B offerings. This ADR lift, as well as the addition to the potential revenue from meals, is a very enticing opportunity. But it also enables resorts to have greater control over the guest experience, curating it to align with their unique vision. This is an essential part of attracting a higher-end traveler. These travelers want to know their needs will be met. Furthermore, with the right team or partner, resorts can provide offerings above the quality level available locally, further attracting guests to spend on property

While some concerns exist around the costs and profitability of F+B programs, there are ways to mitigate these challenges. Expensive startup costs can be minimized by adopting modular kitchen and restaurant designs that optimize space and reduce building expenses. Leveraging low-cost technology for efficient scheduling, ordering processes, demand oriented operating hours, and menu optimization can help address labor-intensive aspects and increase profitability by minimizing waste and maximizing revenue per square foot.

Diners in experiential hospitality are satisfied with menus that are up to 40% smaller than restaurants they normally dine in. This helps operators keep food costs and inventories down, mitigating the shrinkage that plagues operators that offer “something for everyone”

The upfront investment of F+B facilities is one of the most consequential pieces of the F+B puzzle. Given the wide-ranging costs of construction across North America, it is hard to pinpoint numbers for the sake of this article. However, we can advise on ways to maximize the efficiency with which you work. Be early, analyze your F+B opportunity in pre-development, and the potential impact on your project’s ROI could be significant. Identify and configure the potential sites for F+B, and running services in development will help with later construction.

Creating an F+B plan that grows alongside any phased development will create the intention early on and allow your team or partner-operator to anticipate the evolving needs of your resort and guests. This phased approach helps to mitigate upfront costs and can allow the growing F+B program to help subsidize its own growth.

Glamping resorts can adopt different F+B models based on their size, location, and target audience. Retail or marketplace options can provide essential food items, local products, and curated experiences within communal spaces. Third-party origination programs, such as experiential dining with local chefs, offer immersive and engaging opportunities for guests to connect with the resort, staff, and other guests.

Full-service F+B programs, including restaurants and bars, and cafes, provide the most comprehensive and lucrative options, allowing for multiple daily meals, packaged foods, and a variety of beverage offerings.

The success of F+B programs certainly depends on a few factors. A critical mass of guests is necessary for any F+B operation. We find that resorts with at least 20 accommodations and an Average Daily Rate (ADR) over $150 are best suited for F+B success. Location is the second key to potential success. In our modeling, we have come to understand a “goldilocks zone” for resort location. That zone is ideally, and loosely, within 30 to 100 miles of a major population center or city. This distance makes frequent trips “to town” an inconvenience for guests, but also close enough that you will be able to appropriately staff your venues, and receive commercial deliveries.

In conclusion, F+B programs can have an impact that far outweighs their initial investment and any fears of unprofitable operations. With careful planning, strategic partnerships, and a keen understanding of guests’ preferences, glamping operators can leverage F+B programs to enhance the guest experience, boost revenues, and set their resorts apart in a competitive market. As the glamping industry continues to evolve, those who adapt and innovate will undoubtedly reap the rewards.

About John Griffiths

John and his team helps operators create and run successful F+B programs.

Offering project management for design and construction, they support municipal clearances, and provide a comprehensive operations playbook. They recruit local partners, recommend equipment, conduct menu testing, training, and offer consulting and contract management services for long-term success.

With Outbound Kitchen, operators can rely on their expertise for exceptional F+B programs. Contact John at john@outboundkitchen.com or visit outboundkitchen.com