Leaving money on the table
Food and Beverage

Are you ignoring a profitable market segment?

Over 70% of the UK’s population, over 60 years of age, own their property (source:

General Household Survey 2007
), If the data is to be believed the baby boomer generation has amassed more of the national wealth than any other previous generation.

For leisure hotels older people may fill the gap in the “deadlock season” because they have a higher propensity to travel plus they have the time and means to do so.

Older people are more flexible in the timing of their travel, and rather advantageously many older people, have met the major obligations of life.

However on the down side older customers can be challenging to please. Nevertheless given the economic environment can hotels afford to ignore this group.

Older people more difficult satisfy, Why?  

Older people are experienced consumers. Plus they tend to have product service expectations not anticipate by hotel managers.

Gap analysis can explain why customers view service quality differently to management.

Parasuraman et al (1985)  pioneered a conceptual model of “gap analysis” Gourdin and Kloppenborg ,1991; Parasuraman et aL, 1992 fine-tuned the gap model to develop a perceptual gap model to bridge the gap between consumer expectations and management perceptions of consumer expectations.

Research has shown that in service settings, such as hospitality, the quality of the interpersonal interaction between the customer and the contact employee greatly influences customer satisfaction (Bitner et al , 1994; Lovelock, 1996).

If you wish to entice customers to return owner/managers must consider both tangible and the intangible factors of service. For example components of client satisfaction are clean well maintained spacious rooms, comfortable beds,convenient locations, a safe environment, a good value food and beverage offering as well as prompt and courteous service.

To summarise older customers, require additional tangible components such as safety-related physical design features in the hotel room and public areas (Murray and Sproats, 1990; Ananth et al, 1992). Room facilities such as better lighting, safety features in the bathroom, easy to handle door knobs, comfortable supporting mattresses and chairs are concerns (Ruys and Wei, 1998).

Price or value for money is another factor strongly associated with high customer loyalty and hotel revenue (Shifflet et al, mi). Older people are often price sensitive and very responsive to price inducements (Metz, 1990; Wheatcroft and Seekings, 1992).


Key elements of relationship building are

(1) price;

(2) location;

(3) facilities;

(4) food in the hotel restaurant;

(5) room furnishings;

(6) front-desk efficiency; and

(7) staff attitude.

Older people are not an homogeneous group, some attributes may be more or less important depending on the demographics and psychographics of an individual older person. To determine the relevance of hotel attributes for different types of older people, further segmentation of older people would be required.

Nonetheless, older people preferences are hotel location, an appealing room atmosphere with facilities. These factors tend be more important than price. If know prospective customers negatively compare your hotels location to competitor’s location an option to redress this would be to provide free or low-cost transport between the hotel and major transit stops or tourist destinations.

Interestingly old people seek and value ‘experiences’. To enhance customer experiences and your restaurants atmosphere and profitability consider offering theme menus, steak, seafood, Italian. Ideally menus should offer local supplier produce. Educate customers about local suppliers, encourage local suppliers to offer discounted sales to your hotel guests.

Often guests use hotel restaurants when time is a constraint or their fatigued, offer  value for money fast track menu (guaranteed service timings). An important note; while older people today may be tolerant of average service level such forbearance is not likely to be endured in the future.

Footnote: The article is relevant to the management of three- to five-Star hotels who consciously wish to attract older travellers as a target segment and want to increase repeat patronage among this group. Hotel management needs to balance the needs and wants of the older customers against those of other segments.

Market analyses should be undertaken with other segments in order to aid a hotel property to fine-tune its bundle of products and services.

Success REQUIRES strategy

Christopher Bird Author