Growing a garden, growing your profits

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Latest trends in rooftop gardens, fountains, and farm-to-table

by Taylor Davis

The guest expectations are in: rooftop gardens are a must and they have to do more than look pretty.

Your guests expect a stay at your hotel to dazzle them, from the bed they sleep in to the food they eat. It’s a social media world and your hotel will thrive based on what your guests deem Instagram-worthy, which is why innovative hoteliers are catching wind of the endless possibilities a rooftop space.

Space is a commodity, especially in dense areas like New York City. The restaurant and bar trend seemed to fill the need most hotels wanted, but the public’s desires have shifted. Now, it’s not just the city views that make guests book with you. It’s where the food they eat comes from, the special opportunity you provide, and the way your hotel is making an impact on the environment.

That’s where creating a hotel rooftop garden comes in.

PROFITS IN BLOOM

Growing a garden not only provides an opportunity to give your guests a unique experience, but it also gives you a chance to use your space to every advantage it can, including creating a sustainable source of produce and herbs, eco-friendly surroundings, and opportunities for the community to benefit – all while cutting costs and increasing profits.

You have the space, but are you using it to your hotel’s best advantage? A few of these rooftop garden trends will let you know.

“GROW YOUR OWN” GARDEN

Farm-to-table is a constantly evolving trendsetter. If you have rooftop space available, this investment is a must for any hotel looking to give its guests a dining experience unlike any other.

Overall prices and shipment costs can be high for various foods and herbs your chefs use in their dishes, but this trend allows you to take the middleman out of the equation, save big, and make your hospitality style more eco-friendly. Farm-to-table dining ensures food is local and fresh, allowing guests to know where their food is coming from, while cutting costs for the hotel, too.

Many hotels are shifting dramatically in this area, like Nita Lake Lodge in Whistler, Canada, which emphasizes its rooftop garden efforts ensure the best quality of food for guests by “using locally sourced ingredients in our dining outlets whenever possible.”

A better dining experience is not the only perk, though.

Culinary teams have easy access to these ingredients, while other parts of your garden can offer a unique dining experience or even an escape for your guests. The serene environment of a rooftop garden gives your hotel plenty of creative opportunity to offer your guests a new experience.

BEE APIARY

“Save the bees!” is now a common theme in most industries today, but knowing that bees pollinate most of the food we eat isn’t necessarily enough to make you want to start a beehive on your hotel roof.

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You might be thinking, “Wouldn’t bees be a turn-off for guests?” Not according to some trendsetters in the industry who are seeing multiple returns from creating bee apiaries in their rooftop garden.

Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver, Canada, has turned its bee apiary into a thriving part of its business. Their 2,100-square-foot rooftop garden is home to the “Bee and Bee,” a pollinator hotel – a collection of beehives – which gives them easy access to local honey that’s a delicious addition to their culinary creations.

“Our chefs find creative new ways to infuse honey into our dishes, including chocolate, pastries, salad dressings, and signature cocktails,” said Kristyna Vogel, manager of marketing and public relations for the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel.

The bees produce approximately 200 pounds of honey on-site, and 2,000 pounds including off-site hives annually, while also providing a unique experience for guests to view the bees in action. The bee apiary opened up new avenues for partnerships to not only create signature honey-infused cocktails and beers, but also host beekeeping workshops, sell jars of honey, host bee-inspired art installations and events, offer special guest packages, and build an experience for the community unlike any other.

ECO-FRIENDLY MATERIALS

Not all materials are made the same, and with the “support local” trend that’s blossoming, your rooftop garden is the perfect opportunity to make a statement that you’re invested in your community’s health in more ways than one.

Eco-friendly materials can be easily sourced from local areas, giving your clients a local experience. The Fairmont Waterfront in Vancouver has made strides in the bee apiary department, but they also went eco-friendly with their materials, creating their “Bee and Bee” from purely local venues. The wood for the structure, fire bricks, logs, burlap, branches, and plants were all donated, collected, or sourced from locations around the city, while the bumblebee nests were woven using scavenged ivy, wool, and leaves.

Other ways to kick it up a notch in the going green arena may be small shifts into things like composting and avoiding pesticides in your rooftop garden. Investing in plants that are bee-friendly and those that purify the air or absorb pollution can also go a long way in establishing your hotel’s green reputation, attracting more guests who are interested in leaving less of a footprint during their stay.

WATER RECYCLING FOUNTAINS

Water waste is a habit most of us don’t know we have, and it’s costing us more than we realize. Water crises have been identified as the third-most-impactful global risk by the 2016 World Economic Forum Global Risk Report.

What if you could reuse the water you already have access to for more? It would not only cut down on water usage but also make the water you do use go the extra mile. Reusing water can be easy once a filtration system is in place, and it allows you to use both natural rainfall and previously used hotel water for other purposes, such as watering your rooftop garden.

Greywater recycling is a system that treats and reuses the water from machines like dishwashers and showers to ­irrigate the hotel’s plant life. Thanks to the wonders of the sky, rainwater can also be collected, filtered, and fed back into the property, cutting water costs. These treatment options have systems that ensure the water is clean and usable for non-drinking purposes, such as laundry, garden, and toilets.

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Low-risk cost-saving initiatives like this increase efficiency, giving you more bang for your buck, while creating a big impact on your profits and the world. Plus, with the desire for eco-friendly additions, this also gives your guests more reasons to stay with you.

VERTICAL GARDENING

While growing a rooftop garden of any kind may seem like a good idea, space can be a huge problem to overcome. Hotels are now using vertical gardening, taking advantage of sunny wall space to grow fruits, vegetables, herbs, or flowers.

While most are crafted with easy shelving on the wall or hanging plants, some trendsetters utilize “living walls” to hang plants, cool the building, and purify percolating water (such as greywater) to water the plants and recycle for other uses.

A living wall in your garden can be developed with a hydroponic growing system that does everything mentioned above and gives the wall an aesthetically pleasing landscape. Vertical gardening may be exactly what you need to spruce up a small space, while still benefiting from the herbs and vegetables you grow there.

ROBOGARDENING

Technology is everywhere, so it’s no wonder that innovators have discovered new ways to bring gardening into the 21st century by using those high-tech tools to make gardening much easier.

Devices are being constructed right now to not only help with the small stuff, like watering and weeding, but also to take all the heavy lifting out of gardening. Planting, maintaining, warding off pesky critters – they’re all taken care of thanks to robogardening devices that require Wi-Fi or an app on your phone. Apps can even tell you what to plant in a given area and reorder seeds for you throughout the year.

Some setups take only an hour. So, if you’re ready to make that “grow your own” garden a reality, there are plenty of tech gadgets to take the stress out of it.

Robogardening is on the rise and you can easily add it to your rooftop expansion project to limit overall investment while getting maximum results.

ZONES

Despite a rooftop usually being a smaller space, the concept of specific zones for different needs is quite ingenious. Your guests have the space near the corner to engage in a serene, relaxation space for quiet activities like meditation, while another area is a designated kids’ play area and a lush garden seating area for adults.

Think about how this zoning trend opens up new benefits to designing the perfect space. Your relaxation zone inside the rooftop garden can be the perfect refuge for employees to de-stress, step away from the hustle, and enjoy nature. The Journal of Positive Psychology proved that just five minutes in nature can increase positive emotions, which maximizes customer experiences and employee satisfaction.

This zoned areas can also open up new possibilities for events, such as hosting a yoga class, like The Ritz-Carlton Georgetown in Washington, D.C. Their outdoor garden known as “The Yard,” is actually a ground-floor installation and a perfect example of how to transform a concrete jungle into a shaded oasis for the community, while offering new opportunities for clients who are looking to rent out a space.

“We saw great potential in transforming the space known today as The Yard,” General Manager Marcus A. Loevenforst said. “The tiered gardens and large patios shaded by lush foliage provide a blank canvas for clients with unlimited possibilities – a rare option for those looking for venues in Washington, D.C.”

EXPANDING INTO PROFIT

Rooftop gardens may not have been a thing in the past, but there’s no mistaking the appeal to older and younger generations alike. The craving for better-tasting food, memorable events, eco-friendly environments, and easier access to lush greenery in the face of an overwhelmingly stressful world, while straddling the dwindling space epidemic, is certainly a challenge.

Fortunately, hotels that rise to the occasion are the ones that prosper, and your rooftop garden can be the beginning of a whole new world of profitable possibilities.

You have the space, but are you using it to your hotel’s best advantage?

Options for a stellar rooftop garden

  • Fresh fruits, vegetables, and herbs
  • Bee apiary
  • Guest relaxation zones
  • Kids’ play areas
  • Health and wellness spots
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