Got a cool idea for a restaurant concept but don’t have the bucks to get started? Lodging giant Marriott International wants to hear from you. The company has launched a search for up-to-the-minute food and beverage operations that will go into some of its 4,100 properties worldwide. Act fast if you’re interested—the application deadline is Jan. 16, 2015.
Marriott positions its new program, dubbed CANVAS, as a concept lab for incubating entrepreneurial food and drink ideas. It seems designed to channel the inner dreams of half the people who currently work in the restaurant industry. A dedicated website describes the deal this way:
“Are you ready to run your own spot? Have you spent late-nights recipe testing, researching, and eagerly planning for the day when someday you’d have your own place? Do you start sentences with ‘As soon as I find the right space …’ or ‘If only I had a little more money saved ….’?
“If so, and if you have the entrepreneurial chops to get things done, then CANVAS, our hotel-based concept lab, is just for you. Pitch your food or drink concept, and you could be selected to incubate your idea in one of our hotels, receive startup money, and get professional advice from Marriott to realize your ambitions.
“The space is ready-to-build, and our expert team of designers will work with your ideas to help realize a space that supports your vision. Let us help you test your restaurant chops and get your idea off the ground.”
Marriott doesn’t intend to micromanage its chosen restaurant entrepreneurs, either. The company notes that while it will provide all the resources the new concepts need to flourish, it will also “maintain the autonomy of each winner to fully realize their vision. Upon six months of operations, each concept will be evaluated for success based on popularity and return on investment.”
Sounds perfect. So what does Marriott want in return? Its corporate goals revolve around putting underutilized space to work while boosting food and beverage revenues, becoming more attractive to Millennial-aged guests and creating a “buzz-worthy” marketing opportunity for the hotels.
"We believe the key ingredient of CANVAS is to marry the best ideas of local entrepreneurs with Marriott's resources, space and capital that will transform ambition into action right inside our hotels," says Wolfgang Lindlbauer, global leader, food & beverage. "Just like travel, food and drink experiences today are about indulgence and discovery for modern travelers and local clientele alike, to savor, enjoy and share."
Marriott is putting CANVAS to work at a number of hotels around the world including a handful in Europe, Dubai and Shenzhen in China. Three are located in the U.S. One is a former Starbucks space in the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel. A second option is a 500-sq.-ft. spot in the Irvine, CA, Marriott that was previously a private dining room. The Denver Marriott City Center offers 1,000 square feet adjacent to the hotel’s lobby.
In short, Marriott is offering just about everything an aspiring-but-underfunded restaurateur could wish for. So what do you have to do to get a shot?
Interested parties need to fill out the online submission form; submit a short video about themselves and their idea; and upload a concept brief, and business plan and/or a pro forma financial statement. Submissions will be judged by a panel of restaurant-savvy pros from each hotel’s local market area, not all of them Marriott employees.
Move quickly if you’re interested. The panel will review applications in mid-January and the final round of interviews will take place on Jan. 28 and Jan. 29. Those chosen will have just two months to get their concept up and running. It won’t be easy, but with Marriott doing so much of the heavy lifting, it’s doable.
Which concept ideas will win out? All we know for sure is that Marriott has extensive food and beverage expertise in-house, but it’s looking for fresh thinking with CANVAS.
The grand idea is to “position Marriott as the premier platform for launching locally relevant, distinctive food and beverage experiences. As the program expands, Marriott will be able to attract, motivate and retain more talent, therefore creating a robust food and beverage idea pipeline. The goal of CANVAS is to deliver new and exciting restaurant concepts more quickly than the current hotel industry model.”
More than that, the company also knows is has to up its appeal to younger customers—i.e., Millennials—who are forecast to account for half of business travel spending within the next five years.
Marriott seems to be indicating that it wants edgy concepts, now. If you think you have an idea for one, why not give the CANVAS program a shot?