VANCOUVER — With 19 restaurants open in hotels and five more in the pipe for 2018, Stacey Hansson, senior vice president of Ricky's Family Style Restaurants, says the company knows the ins and outs of brand standards, hotel/restaurant economics and other issues familiar to hoteliers. Hansson will be part of a panel titled “Profits outside the Bedroom” at the Hotel Association of Canada conference at the Delta Hotels by Marriott Toronto Airport & Conference Centre on Feb. 8.
The five hotels slated to have Ricky's Restaurants in 2018 include an independent hotel in Parksville, B.C., a Best Western in Hinton, Alta., a hotel in Lac La Biche, Alta., a Days Inn in Sylvan Lake, Alta., and an independent in Athabasca, Alta.
One of the reasons Ricky's works well with hotels is that the restaurant is open for all three day-parts. Ricky's works well in midscale branded hotels such as Best Western, not with higher-end hotels. “Higher end hotels have specialized restaurants,” Hansson notes.
Flexibility is one big advantage: Ricky's Group of Family-Style Restaurants — Ricky's All Day Grill, Ricky's Café and Ricky's Country Restaurant — can all work in hotels. For example, the hotel in Athabasca has a smaller physical space that would work well as a Ricky's Café. In some parts of the country, particularly small-town Alberta, the Ricky's Country Restaurant (formerly ABC) brand works — people understand it. RG's Lounge — a bar concept located next to a Ricky's All Day Grill, offers flexibility as well, with one location offering a Mexican theme and another a Caribbean flavour.
RIcky's also understand the ins and outs of working with hotel brands. “We understand that hotels have franchise agreements with the brands, and there are concessions we have to make. There are things we will and won't do. Sometimes brands want hotels to offer a special breakfast. We know that and can work with it,” Hansson said.
For example, in a hotel that has a free, hot breakfast, Ricky's can offer menu items specifically for the hotel breakfast. At Holiday Inns, where kids eat free, it's not fair to ask the restaurant to subsidize kids' meals, so Ricky's works out a deal where they do charge the hotel, but they don't charge them the full menu prices.
Ricky's works with several independent hotels. They bring in a team to deal with design, construction and operations — creating a custom plan on how to convert the space to a Ricky's. Sometime the existing spaces are not attractive. “It's a Ricky's, not a paint job,” Hansson says.
“Hotels know how to run hotel operations; their expertise is not food and beverage, but they need food, and it's good to have a brand that is familiar with the landscape. We are going to train a manager for them, and help to manage all aspects of the restaurant. Hotel operators don't know when the eggs are right, etc.”
Both hotels and restaurants are subject to inspections, and if the restaurant does poorly, there can be deficiencies. Some branded hotels have a third-party restaurant that brings down the score, Hansson says. “Our restaurants are inspected more often than hotel properties. Our goal is to make the hotel better and offer a lot more support.
“Having a Ricky's onsite helps keep more guests on the premises,” Hansson says. “And as the costs of real estate continues to go up, hotels can control the rent.”