Award sponsored by Diageo.
When the Hilton wanted to rollout a new poolside bar program, it decided to focus on classic tiki drinks and execute them with elegant, eye-catching, old-fashioned glassware. “This was a first for Hilton,” says Shirley Whelan, director of food and beverage product development for the 3,400-location hotel chain that is present in 79 countries. The tiki program was intially launched in the chain’s trio of Hawaiian resorts: Village Oahu in Hawaii, the Grand Wailea Resort in Maui and Hilton Waikoloa Village in Kona. It has been such a success, it is slated for rollout in other warm-weather locales and has garnered the 2010 Cheers Beverage Excellence Award for Best Chain Beverage Merchandising, sponsored by Diageo.
Merchandising for the program revolved around a series of high-end glasses and their unique presentation to guests, elevating the tiki experience at both the bar and the pool. According Patrick Henry Creative Promotions, which worked with Whelan and Hilton on the promotion, the point of distinction was the use of classic, oversized glasses even at the pool. Polycarbonate glasses were used in the outdoor areas because they don’t break, and because they provide for a more authentic experience than the Hawaii norm of being served in a plastic cup.
Another important aspect of the program is that all the drinks were made from natural ingredients that the hotel developed in conjunction with the Metairie, Louisiana-based Fat Tuesday. The brand created a line of natural mixers especially for Hilton that uses minimal preservatives and real sugar instead of high fructose corn syrup.
“They fit the FDA guidelines for natural, but they are shelf stable so they don’t take up freezer space,” explains Whelan. Hilton developed its tiki program drinks around those products in order focus on healthier ingredients, as “frozen drink mixes are made mostly of high fructose corn syrup, which will be the next trans fat,” explains Whelan. “We [are] a little ahead of the curve.”
The program includes a broad selection of tiki drinks from which properties can customize their choices. It includes rocks, frozen and alcohol-free quaffs. Retro drinks such as their Volcano Punches are meant for sharing, and they often come out smoking from dried ice. Many are served in oversized glasses rarely seen at other properties. Guests can even purchase the glasses to recreate their tiki experience at home.
Select Tiki drinks include the Rum Runner, priced at $12, made with Bacardi Superior Rum, Chambord, Myers’s Dark Rum, Crème de Banana, fresh lime juice, pineapple juice and grenadine; Zombie, $12, made with Bacardi Select Rum, Bacardi Superior Rum, Grand Marnier, pineapple juice, Fat Tuesday Natural Mango Purée, fresh lemon and lime juice, grenadine and water; and Fire & Ice Shooters, $8, which are made with one jalapeño pepper, Malibu Rum and Fat Tuesday Natural Piña Colada Mix.
The tiki theme speaks for itself, as customers see others drinking the nicely designed beverages, literally smoking from the dry ice with which they are served. “People really jump on the tiki bandwagon when they see the dry ice and stuff,” says Whelan. And the Volcano Punch, $12, made with Myers’s Platinum Rum, Bacardi Limón Rum, orange juice, Fat Tuesday Natural Mango Purée, guava and papaya nectars and water, is a crowd pleaser.
The promotion was a hit with most locations, helping to create a 20 percent increase in sales. The next step is to incorporate the drinks into banquet and catering, says Whelan. “We want to be able to offer something unique to those clients.”
The Hilton plans to continue to update the drinks in the current bars. “We will have a spring and summer that includes more poolside drinks and mocktail bars,” says Whelan. “We want to utilize the drinks since they are pretty easy to make.”
In addition, Hilton is developing a top-shelf tiki and pool program for the Waldorf=Astoria Collection with noted mixologist Julie Reiner, beverage director and co-owner of Flatiron Lounge in Manhattan and Clover Club in Brooklyn. The focus on this new luxury tiki program will be on high-end spirits, taking Hilton, yet again, into new territory for raising the bar on the tiki concept.
Ökole maluna (“bottoms up” in Hawaiian) to that.