Secret Menus – Would they work in all hospitality?


Growing up in Southern California I became addicted to In-N-Out burger. Though I never worked there, several of my friends in high school and college did. It was through their conversations I first learned of the “Secret Menu” items and become addicted to animal style Double Double burgers. To this day, They are still my favorite, still not published on the menu board but no longer really a secret.

I read a couple of articles lately on food chain secret menus including my daughter’s favorite Pistachio “flavored” Frappuccino at Starbucks which has its own secret menu though officially Starbucks has no secret menu. And that Pistachio taste, for those that are interested, is a green tea Frapp with hazelnut. I’ve read that both companies foster the secret menu for building passion and brand loyalty with their customers.

So what if hotels, casinos or even technology companies had secret menus?

In some ways they do. Tipping the front desk clerk at some establishments has garnered upgrades and additional benefits. When you know a particular room has a better view or larger square footage because of its location, you might call this a secret by asking for a specific room. SeatGuru has disclosed some secrets of which seat on an airplane are better. To stretch it, you might even call belonging to a loyalty club, having access to a secret menu when you receive water or free WiFi.

But you can see a real contrast. Food establishments sell products where the same product can be customized to individual tastes if the person knows to ask. Rooms and casinos floors are fixed assets that are more difficult to customize to individual tastes. But it doesn’t mean we can’t be creative in some of this. After all, continuously delighting each customer on an individual basis is ultimately our best asset for future growth.

It would certainly be easy to have a “special menu” item that is served chain wide at all hotel restaurants. Maybe something that changed monthly and was only known by signing in to the member web site. It could be discounted, free or just a special item but something that made the guest feel like an insider. Much like me knowing to order the Animal style because my friends worked there.

Room amenities like a “Secret Channel” or a hotel specific WiFi that allowed guest to access specific hotel cameras to see live around the property. Items need to be fairly inexpensive to offer, have no downside to abuse, and be of value to guests. The idea of being secret and having insider status may be enough with all things considered.

Secret menus are growing even more popular today than ever and is something that should be considered when looking at guest loyalty and building a passionate base of customers. There are always technical, operational and marketing considerations to consider but first we first need the ideas before we deal with the obstacles. How would you use this concept in your company to achieve results?

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