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Hotel Room Service Goes Mobile

Nancy Trejos, USA Today
Friday, 30 Mar 2012 | 10:52 AM ET
Thomas Barwick | Taxi | Getty Images

Forget room service. Hotels' latest food entree is putting it in trucks and delivering it on the street.

Food trucks and temporary pop-up restaurants have become ubiquitous on American streets. And many hotels are getting in on the craze:

•The Setai Hotel in Miami's South Beach last year opened the Beach Kiosk, what it's dubbed a "high-end hotel food truck" on the beach. Menu items designed by the hotel restaurant's Michelin-starred executive chef David Werly include ceviche, Wagyu hot dog and salmon burgers.

•The SLS Hotel South Beach, scheduled to open in May, will have a stationary food truck by celebrity chef Jose Andres at its pool in Miami.

•The Auberge Saint-Antoine in Quebec City will open a second food truck by its restaurant's chef in June. The first Panache Mobile operates at the nearby Vignoble de Sainte-Pétronille vineyard. The second will be on the riverfront at the St. Lawrence River. The food, which includes lobster rolls, tartare and focaccia sandwiches, is made from ingredients from a garden the hotel operates at a nearby island.

•The Ritz-Carlton, Washington, D.C., will open a pop-up barbecue restaurant from April 27 to June 29 outside its Westend Bistro by celebrity chef Eric Ripert.

Many high-end hotels in recent years have enlisted award-winning chefs to turn their restaurants into destinations. So it's only natural that they'd try to capitalize on one of the fastest-growing segments of the restaurant industry, analysts say.

In a National Restaurant Association survey last summer, 59 percent of diners said they'd likely visit a food truck if their favorite restaurant offered one. That's a 47 percent increase from the previous year. Food trucks attract a variety of clientele, from the leisure traveler looking for a cheaper food option to the business traveler on the run.

"Convenience has been and will continue to be a very important driver of restaurant industry growth," says Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of research for the association. "Hotels are expanding on food service, in general. A logical step would be mobility of the restaurant platform."

Riehle also points out that many hotels are marketing their restaurants to the local community. "Food trucks have proved to be a very good way to extend the brand," he says. "It's a good test vehicle."

Melody Wendt, marketing and public relations manager for Setai, says the hotel wanted to make dining as hassle-free as possible for guests while letting the public sample its gourmet fare. "We found a way to make it a more refined presentation than the traditional food truck on the street," she says.

Stephen Soloway, a New Jersey resident who stays at Setai once or twice a year, sampled the restaurant's burgers at the truck recently. "I think the food service is a wonderful, convenient way to access great food without missing beach time," he says.

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