Beverage promotions can be tricky, especially when supplier partners are involved who may not have the same expectations as an operator. But the Omni Hotels & Resorts teamwork with the National Honey Board was built on a long-term commitment to more than just sales. The results won Omni the 2016 VIBE Vista Award for Best Special Event Program among hotels, cruise lines and casinos.
Five Omni properties with a collective 300,000 bees have been harvesting honey from their own beehives for years, using it in everything from culinary dishes to spa treatments. Starting in 2015, a collaboration was developed with the National Honey Board (NHB) to create custom-curated menu specialties that reflect the flavor of summer. Omni Hotels teamed with the NHB to create a special pool menu and promotion highlighting honey as the 2015 “Flavor of the Year,” launching in May 2015 and in place for three months at 56 Omni properties nationwide.
Inspiration for the special menu began during a two-day honey education, tasting and immersion experience at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation Resort in Amelia Island, Florida. During the trip, Omni chefs, NHB chef David Guas (author of Grill Nation and host of Travel Channel’s American Grilled), and Omni mixologist Kim Haasarud combined their collective expertise and creativity to create an array of honey-infused cocktails and dishes that were featured in the “Art of Water” poolside menu.
The cocktail portion of the menu is divided into five regions (Southeast, Northeast, Midwest, Texas and West), each featuring local and honey-infused cocktails. For Texas, the drinks included the Gold Blossom, Honey Grapefruit Lemonade and Honey Punch; in Western states: the Bee Sting and the Orange Blossom Margarita; in the Southeast, Wildflower Lemonade and Honey Grapefruit Crush; and in the Northeast, the Honey Melon Mojito and Tropical Honey Lemonade.
Omni worked closely with the NHB to ensure the honey was used correctly in both food and beverage. Rather than just adding honey as an ingredient, the two worked to trial and research using honey correctly. In at least one cocktail per region, custom honey water was included as an ingredient, adding an additional layer of customization. The Wildflower Honey Punch in the Midwest, for example, used housemade wildflower honey water. The Gold Blossom Margarita in Texas used housemade orange blossom honey water.
Each year, Omni creates a custom poolside menu incorporating water- and weather-resistant materials: acrylic covers, synthetic paper, rustproof metal. An introduction page highlighted the Omni-National Honey Board partnership that inspired last year’s pool menu. Each food and beverage item made with honey was denoted with an image of a golden drop of honey, allowing the guest to quickly identify each of the special items. In addition to the honey-infused cocktails, each participating property featured two honey-inspired entrees on its pool menu.
Omni dedicated a section of its national website to the Honey Program. The special section features each of the specially-designed honey cocktail recipes and photography, as well as the in-room video highlighting Omni’s ongoing love affair with bees and honey, and the people and inspiration behind the new honey menu items.
Results? A 20% increase in pool cocktail sales, 42 media placements, and 8.1 million website impressions. A honey of a program, indeed.