by Tom Isler | October 01, 2008

During second-quarter earnings calls with analysts, top executives at Marriott International and Star­wood Hotels & Resorts said they would implement menu modifications at hotel restaurants to save money. While both companies declined to elaborate, hotel eateries are likely to adapt techniques "regular" restaurants use to improve the bottom line through menu design, sources suggest. (Planners are free to emulate.)

Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic, a Chicago-based food-service consulting firm, says one trend is a movement toward tapas-style menu items. "People are willing to pay more for small portions if they can get more variety," he says. In other words, diners will order two plates for $6 each, instead of one for $10, even if they're getting less total food.

Reducing portion sizes is another option, or carrying less inventory despite the risk of running out of daily specials. Most restaurants will avoid raising prices, and Tristano doesn't advise skimping on food quality, either. "That's not a great way to maintain your brand," he says.