Cambria Suites, a seven-year-old hotel chain in the “lower-upscale” segment that also includes Courtyard by Marriot and Hilton Garden Inn, is rolling out a completely new food and beverage program in an attempt to bring food costs under control and improve its popularity among guests.
The program was introduced to the 18-unit, all-franchised chain on May 16 in Las Vegas at the national convention of Choice Hotels International, Cambria Suites’ parent company. The new fare moves away from Cambria’s original focus on upscale, better-for-you items and instead embraces American comfort food, with a focus on hamburgers, sandwiches and shareable starters.
Consulting chef Michael DeMaria of M Culinary Concepts in Scottsdale, Ariz., has also developed regional specialties for the program.
“We’ve changed our F&B program to reflect the consumer trends we’re seeing and what people desire to eat while they are on the road. And, we’ll be able to provide this amenity to consumers while also generating profits for the hotel owners,” said Cambria Suites senior vice president Michael Murphy.
Previously, some Cambria suites operators reported food costs at untenable rates of 60 percent or more. At a meeting to develop the new program earlier this year, franchisees complained of unnecessary costs in the existing system, such as express-delivered breakfast sausages and a ban on fountain guns (all soda at the hotels was previously sold in cans or bottles).
Fountain guns will be installed under the new program and are already in place at the two test locations in Columbus, Ohio, and Noblesville, Ind. A ban on deep fryers has also been lifted, and fryers will be installed in existing Cambria Suites where possible, as well as in future locations.
At existing locations, a full retrofit will cost $15,000-$50,000, Murphy said.
The product of a yearlong research and development effort, the new program, which includes new kitchen, bar and storage equipment as well as new china, silverware and uniforms, is scheduled to be installed in the system’s remaining properties by fall of this year.
New menu items introduced throughout the system include:
• Cambria American Angus Burger: A half-pound Angus burger, two pieces of American cheese, iceberg lettuce, tomato, red onion, dill pickle slices and Thousand Island dressing on a brioche bun, for $9.
• Green Chile & Egg Angus Burger: A half-pound Angus burger, diced green chile, two pieces of pepper Jack cheese, an over-hard fried egg, cilantro and avocado mayonnaise on a brioche bun, for $9
• Chicken Cutlet on Ciabatta Bun: A 6-ounce chicken breast, two pieces of provolone cheese, tomato, balsamic vinaigrette, romaine lettuce, red onion, roasted red peppers, roasted onions and garlic mayonnaise on a square ciabatta bun, for $8.
• Chicken Lollipops with Buffalo Bleu Cheese Dipping Sauce: Eight fried chicken nuggets served on lollipop sticks, for $10.
• Pretzel Lollipops with Beer & Cheddar Fondue: Eight warm pretzel bites with beer-cheddar dipping sauce, served on lollipop sticks, for $6.
• Seared Skirt Steak with Sautéed Mushrooms and Spinach, Morel Sauce, and Basil Pesto: An 8-ounce skirt steak with sautéed mushrooms, blanched spinach, morel sauce, sliced scallions and pesto, for $17.
• Orecchiette Pasta with Classic Meat Bolognese and Parmesan Cheese: A 6-ounce portion, topped with chopped parsley, for $13.
Regional specialties are also available as options for any Cambria Suites property. Among the regional specialties are Carolina BBQ Glazed Pork Ribs served with two of the following three sides: coleslaw, mashed potatoes and sautéed corn. The dish, which was developed for the Raleigh, N.C., property, costs $21. The Travers City, Mich., location features Lake Erie Yellow Perch Fish and Chips with French fries or tater tots, tartar sauce, coleslaw and lemon wedges, for $16.
Cambria Suites also has introduced a program to offer local beer as appropriate.
A new dessert line, called Cambria Sweets, features cheesecake lollipops served with strawberry sauce and chocolate brownie lollipops with caramel sauce for $8. Ice cream is also available for $3 per scoop.
Murphy said that the hamburgers are the best-selling items at the test sites in Columbus and Noblesville, which implemented the new F&B program March 11-19. Although concrete figures aren’t in yet, he said sales were “way up” over the prior six weeks and over the same time last year.
The new program requires cooks with a higher skill set than the previous menu, he added. That menu’s most popular item was a spinach artichoke dip that was delivered to the hotels frozen and heated in the microwave. Guests at the Noblesville location stopped ordering it once the new menu was in place, according to Murphy.
Editor's Note: A previous version of this story incorrectly stated the cost of location retrofits as $70,000-$80,000.