Web Exclusive: C3 and Graduate Hotels team for delivery-focused digital kitchen dining concept

Graduate Hotels has teamed with C(Creating Culinary Communities), a food and beverage platform founded by Sam Nazarian, to launch Graduate Food Hall.

A new delivery-focused, hybrid digital kitchen concept, Graduate Food Hall powered by C debuted within Graduate properties in the first quarter of 2021, with plans to roll out to a majority of Graduate locations across the country by end of year.

“Compared to traditional hotel dining, which is typically limited to sit-down and room service options from a singular on-site restaurant, C3’s approach provides guests with multiple F&B brands in one place while maximizing hotel kitchen efficiency and reducing cap ex spend,” said Nazarian, founder/CEO, C3. “Pre-pandemic, we discovered how incredibly underutilized most hotel kitchens are, operating at around 15-20% efficiency. Our business model injects C3’s popular culinary brands into existing hotel kitchens with minimal additions required to bring efficiency up to 80-100%.”

Cwill assume daily operations of all on-premise food service across Graduate properties. An industry first, this digital food hall concept effectively injects C3’s restaurant brands and shared kitchen model into the hotel space. Graduate’s hotel kitchens will be converted into multi-brand digital kitchens in which up to six of C3’s brands, including concepts such as Umami Burger, Krispy Rice and Sam’s Crispy Chicken can operate at once. Graduate Food Hall will feature dine-in options within Graduate Hotels’ lobbies and gathering areas, as well as delivery and take-out, all catered to the unique needs of students, guests and the surrounding community. Graduate Hotels will continue to operate its own bar outlets.

“We can turn a sit-down hotel restaurant kitchen that only served dinner into a digital kitchen that offers a breakfast/café concept in the mornings,” he said. “Our digital kitchens further enhance the hotel F&B experience for guests because we provide them with more choice: both in what they can order (original chicken sandwich from Sam’s Crispy Chicken, premium sushi from Krispy Rice, or Impossible Burger from Umami Burger, and how/where they can consume it (elevated room service, catering and grab-and-go options). Beyond reaching hotel guests, our digital kitchens are designed to cater to the surrounding community through a robust delivery-only/pickup program, enabling hotels to tap into the power of locals like never before.”

David Rochefort, president, Graduate Hotels, said that the brand had been interested in delivery for some time. “C3 was the perfect partner to help us optimize this offering in an innovative way that was both exciting for consumers, but also operationally feasible for our teams,” he said. Graduate Food Hall enables us to provide a handful of culinary experiences all within one Graduate Hotels property. Not only are we creating a memorable experience for guests, but a unique new way for the local community to interact with the hotel.”

Nazarian said the relationship with Graduate adds more than just the immediate gains. “Graduate Hotels are located in vibrant destinations and are already well-known for bringing together guests, students and the local community,” he said. “They offer direct-to-consumer relationships with more than 3.5 million students from around the world—an ideal target audience for us, as college students are already deeply connected to meal delivery and app culture. Through Graduate Food Hall, we’re introducing our concepts to students at a critical point in their lives, further becoming a part of their university experiences and building an emotional connection with C3 brands that will last beyond graduation.”

While the concept will roll out to most Graduate Hotels, it will not be part of all of them. “Beyond Graduate Food Hall, our food and beverage offerings across the portfolio remain diverse and echo our overall commitment to tailoring each property to the needs of its corresponding community,” said Rochefort. “While the flexibility and diversity of options with Graduate Food Hall is perfect for some destinations, we’re happy to continue to operate our coffee shops, full-service restaurants and destination rooftops in markets across the country.”

Nazarian believes that his concept is built to last. “While many of these new virtual-only concepts might not survive in a ‘post-pandemic’ world, C3’s omni-channel approach (ensuring that all virtual brands have a brick-and-mortar component) sets it apart from its competitors,” he said. “By bringing our brands to hotels like Graduate, food halls, co-working spaces, airports and shopping malls, customers are able to see, feel and ‘touch’ every aspect of the brand to establish a connection—an experience travelers will crave in the post-pandemic world, when delivery eventually stabilizes.”