How good is hotel food?

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I like to read Joe Sharkey's weekly columns on business travel in the New York Times . I've met the guy, and he's the same in person as he seems in print—just a regular Joe who both enjoys and gets frustrated by the travel experience. However, I must take issue with his piece in yesterday's Times (pg. C10 in the national edition) in which he proposed the idea that hotel food has improved considerably in recent years.

It's true that in many full-service urban and resort properties you can find some of the most imaginative, satisfying and tasty cuisine anywhere. In the past year alone, I've had fabulous meals at hotels as varied as the Renaissance Cleveland, The Breakers, the Westin Rio Mar and The Homestead. My wife Carolyn and I still rave about each of those experiences.

The problem is that these meals were all in the kind of hotels no one is building anymore. The template for new hotel development today isn't the big-box downtown convention hotel with three restaurants and four bars or the old-fashioned high-style resort with its grand dining room. Today, the construction action is in limited-service properties (no food, except for the ubiquitous free continental breakfast) or in the new class of lifestyle hotels (aloft, Hyatt Place, Indigo), where the f&b experience is centered more on design, vibe and technology than it is on cuisine. Food in these places tends to be a grab-and-go selection that's meant to be gobbled while the eater taps away on his or her computer screen. This f&b style isn't inherently bad, since itâ€â„¢s geared to the presumed needs of a new class of travelers (i.e., Gen Xers.)

Sadly, however, except for a few hotel companies like Kimpton, the art of high cuisine in hotels may one day be a relic of the past. And in their hurry to multi-task, Iâ€â„¢m afraid these Gen Xers will miss one of the highlights of visiting a great hotel.

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