Motels and Restaurants

The motel industry has changed and evolved in many areas over the past 15 years. Motels and restaurants went hand in hand as recently as the 1990s

and most moteliers preferred to have a restaurant within their motel because it was seen as a business within a business. A commercial operation within its own right, where a strong local dining trade complimented the in-house guests who dined every night of their stay, made it an excellent source of income. Many of the guests that were staying for business purposes dined in the restaurant then stayed on for a few drinks and before they knew it the clocked ticked midnight and the bar stock was due for replenishment the following morning.

There have been many changes within the motel industry as far as motel restaurants are concerned since the late 90s and early 2000s. During and prior to this time many motel restaurants were known as “the place to eat”, not only for motel guests but for local residents looking to dine out. Motel restaurants of the 80s and 90s were not faced with the amount and different types of competition in the food industry that they face nowadays. Fast food franchises and specialised dining outlets (like seafood, Thai, Italian, Chinese, Indian, etc) have quadrupled, providing almost unlimited dining options in any locality for any traveller requiring a meal.

In today’s market a percentage of motel owners and potential motel owners prefer not to operate a restaurant themselves and if they have one prefer to have minimal involvement. A very good client of mine who has bought and sold numerous motels over the years once commented that the restaurant was the most enjoyable part of their motel operation. They enjoyed mingling with the guests and finding out more about them and simply getting to know more by taking an interest in them. Some of the guests they had almost ten years ago are still guests of theirs now, just in different localities, wherever their current motel may be.

Over the years I have found that some operators would not go without a restaurant in their motel, whereas some do not want a restaurant under any circumstances. The balance of motel operators are not concerned either way and will operate a restaurant if the motel complex is what they have been looking for. The latter is the largest of the three groups, as this particular operator is not concerned about whether or not the business includes food and beverage as part of its income. There can be no doubt that restaurants in motels require more time and effort from the operator but can be a very rewarding area of the industry.

There have been many motel operators who have come and gone from the industry over the past 10-15 years or so, who treated their motel restaurant as a burden rather than as a business in its own right. This has contributed in some ways to the restaurants within those motels, not being the profitable businesses that they once were. Many motel operators have seen this as an opportunity and have taken advantage of this opportunity, due to the previous operator not operating the food and beverage side of the business as it could have been operated.

These motel operators have embraced the restaurant side of the business and turned them into very profitable operations. Many of these operators will say that motels are enjoyable businesses to operate however the restaurant side of the business is the more exciting part of the operation.

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