High-end brands offering more healthy dining options
By Danny King
Within the past two years, two hotel brands have been launched with wellness as the core concept of their service offerings, while an upper-upscale mainstay has doubled down on its wellness quotient.
In all cases, the focus on wellness has been reflected in the kitchens.
The simplest approach has been taken by InterContinental Hotels Group's upscale Even Hotels, which debuted in mid-2014 in Norwalk, Conn., and has added properties in New York and Rockville, Md. Even is putting its own spin on the fast-casual concept with its Cork & Kale restaurants, featuring organic, vegetarian choices, paleo dishes (emphasizing meat, fish, vegetables and fruit, while eschewing grain and dairy products) and smoothies. The bar serves cocktails made with organic spirits and fresh herbs.
Taking that idea a step further is Starwood Hotels & Resorts' Westin upper-upscale brand, which increased its wellness emphasis in 2014 by introducing its Well-Being Movement. With that came the Eat Well concept, which augmented Westin's existing SuperFoodsRx program.
Eat Well emphasizes items with low-calorie, high-antioxidant ingredients, plus has components such as the Westin Fresh Juicery juice-and-smoothie offerings and the Eat Well Menu for Kids, which gives children the opportunity to build their own salmon nicoise salad or fruit crepe. Those items complement dishes such as smoked jalapeno-rubbed salmon tacos, Alaskan king crab and sweet potato cakes.
The most interesting approach, however, might have been taken by 1 Hotels & Resorts, the green-minded luxury concept headed by former Starwood Hotels chief Barry Sternlicht. Debuting with the 1 Hotel South Beach in Miami last March and continuing with New York's 6-month-old 1 Hotel Central Park, the brand brought in high-profile chefs known for environmentally sustainable approaches to helm restaurants designed to walk the line between indulgent and healthy by serving dishes made with fresh, local ingredients.
In Miami, celebrity chef Tom Colicchio's Beachcraft has a seafood-heavy menu with items such as yellowfin tuna crudo with fennel and peppers and black grouper with zucchini. The hotel will soon feature the pop-up restaurant Prey, where chef Bun Lai pairs local seafood dishes with beverages such as berry and plant sake.
In New York, chef Jonathan Waxman shoehorned a juicing operation into his Jams restaurant, mixing seasonal dishes with less-healthy fare, such as a bacon cheeseburger.
Given hotels' traditional food and beverage choices and that traveling is often perceived as a reason to indulge, an effort to spotlight healthier options could prove risky.
"I don't think people into health and wellness want to be segregated in any way, shape or form," Commune Hotels & Resorts CEO and ex-Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants President Niki Leondakis, said on a panel last month at the Americas Lodging Investment Symposium. "With all due respect to those brands, a hotel based on health and wellness is like having a hotel based on women."
Still, Kane Sarhan, the vice president of marketing for 1 Hotels parent, the SH Group, said he doesn't think it's an either/or approach, and he argued that health, wellness and environmental sustainability can be integrated seamlessly into a hotel's service and culinary offerings without being preachy or sacrificing quality.
"You can live green and you can live well and still have luxury in your life," said Sarhan. "We've spent the time and the money so the guest doesn't have to think about it."