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Innovation: F&B, window to the world

How can F&B evolve? While the quest for excellence is not negotiable for Luxury hotels, some are seeking more flexibility and showing originality in the services they offer. It is necessary to look at the lifestyle segment to find new concepts that may be built around improved technological tools as well as sustainable development. The midscale hotel range, meanwhile, is trying to turn its catering supply to profit. Hotel guests are no longer the only target for restaurants that now also address customers from outside the hotel.

Eat-in or Take-away?

The idea of no-frills, high quality fast food, has made its way into the hotel industry. Like it or not, Sunday dinner regulars and appetizer, main course, desert fans will have to accept that eating habits are changing. Brunch, Wine & Cheese, tapas nights are all concepts that can be exported internationally. Since eating habits are no longer relevant, some hotel groups have decided to rethink the F&B concept in order to offer guests fresh and prepared meals at any time of day. Hyatt Hotels launched the Gallery Market concept at certain Hyatt Place properties. This mini supermarket, open 24/7, offers an array of cold or hot sandwiches, salads, pasta boxes, beverages and pastries. Ideally located in the center of town it offers an alternative for those who want a quick bite. Without stretching all the way to 24/7, other properties are following the same trend. Thus, the Meliá White House Hotel launched The Place, which combines delicatessen, buffet and salad bar. It offers produces that are fresh as well as organic and in season presented in an outdoor market style. Guests may thus choose their own combination from among 35 side products at the salad bar or choose from among hot dishes prepared by the cooking brigade before their eyes. In a more minimalist approach, Hotel Indigo launched the Soup & Juice concept, reinforcing the idea of offering products that are first and foremost healthy.

The eco-responsible trend

In addition to eating well, customers are increasingly striving to eat real food. They want to benefit from the authentic flavors and virtues of foods. So why not bring the suppliers straight into the property? This is the bold challenge taken up by 5-star Rosewood London Hotel that decided to open its markets every Sunday starting March 1, 2015. Set up in the inner courtyard of the hotel, thirty local producers present their products to their clientele and neighbors from 10:30 to 15:00. This effort has been approved and sponsored by the Slow Food UK movement, a not-for-profit organization that is striving for eco-gastronomy and alter-consumption. Brunch menus are born out of products from the market and served in different dining areas in the hotel (The Holborn Dining Room, The Scarfes Bar, Mirror Room). The Slow Food movement, also known for its crusade against food waste, has influenced some hotel restaurants to recuperate uneaten food for composting. Among the most exemplary initiatives: Fairmont Hotels & Resorts is committed to a rigorous sustainable growth program. In terms of F&B, the restaurant ORU located at the Fairmont Pacific Rim in Vancouver claims to be locavore. All the foods prepared are ‘theoretically’ produced within a 160 kilometer radius of the hotel (100 miles from home) except for wine and spirits. Products that are not consumed by clientele are given to associations. Another example is at the Fairmont Royal York in Toronto where dishes are prepared using aromatic herbs cultivated on the hotel’s rooftop. In Paris, the brasserie at the Pullman called in the startup Topager to create a 650m² vegetable garden-orchard on its roof. At the Hilton Stockholm Slussen, organic waste becomes biogas for operating the property’s automobiles. As for the Westin Abu Dhabi Golf Resort & Spa, the ‘Waste Food Eater’ machine can “eat” up to 600kg of food waste at a time, transforming it into natural fertilizer.

For a more social F&B

Boundaries between the lobby and F&B area are disappearing at lifestyle properties. Centric, the new Hyatt Hotels brand, presented its space called The Corner. Around low tables where one can eat a bite or enjoy a glass, there are sofas, computers and even a library. Mark Hoplamazian, CEO Hyatt stated in January that these hotels targeted modern explorers. It is a place “to work, or pretend to work”. At the Hotel Football in Manchester [read our report on Manchester on page…], the restaurant bar come together. The culinary experience at the Cafe Football begins with reading the menu. The dishes’ names (and sometimes even the recipe) refers to the world of football. Whence the cocktail called The King, in reference to Eric Cantona, is made only using French liqueurs and wines (Chambord, Veuve Cliquot, etc.) while the Ginola is, of course, made with gin. The team’s Football matches are broadcast on several flat screens. “We don’t take ourselves seriously, but we do take the customer’s experience seriously,” it states on its website. The luxury segment is also adapting and offers equally amusing entertainment. The Ten Room, a restaurant at the five-star London hotel The Cafe Royal, invites guests to bring their own ingredients (up to four) to be prepared by the hotel’s kitchen brigade. In the midscale range, Phillippe Avice, CEO at TIA Imagineering, presented his new F&B concept Live & Life at the beginning of the year. Realizing that restaurants were not working full speed at franchise properties he created a music centered concept. This offer relies on the implementation of an exclusive 3D audio system, a radio created for restaurants and a streaming channel broadcast on the property’s screens. The originality of the concept may also be found in food as F&B Live & Life imposes only two categories of dishes: burgers and club sandwiches, other are being chosen by franchises. The group’s goal is to roll out this service to 150 properties in France and abroad by the end of 2017. We’ll see if it takes.

New technologies in the interest of clients and personnel

For some properties, F&B is a carefully orchestrated show. Winner at the 2014 Hospitality Awards in the category of Best F&B Innovation, Sublimotion by Hard Rock Hotel Ibiza is a concept that blends technology and culinary arts. This original three-hour experience allows clients to dine in an ever-changing ambiance. Large screens show images throughout the meal that are connected to the dishes served. Another example is the restaurant Xperience at Sofitel So Singapore, that has the sophisticated, relaxed and interactive Gastro-Bar. In the open kitchen, the chef Anne-Cécile Degenne creates dishes to be shared at the table and realized in line with a specific flavor that will direct the meal. During this time, a DJ warms the room’s ambience. The Marina Mandarin Singapore became the first hotel to use ‘One Guest’ technology. From a tablet, clients may explore  the menu, read descriptions and see photos of the dishes, and place their orders. There is a direct connection to the restaurant’s cash register, relieving the restaurant of extra personnel costs, improving the efficiency of operations and the customer experience. The kitchen receives customers’ orders immediately, as well as the level of inventory, statistics on the most ordered dishes and even guests’ comments (a questionnaire is included in the software). An estimated 96% more responses have been received since One Guest was implemented. The software makes it possible to speed up the ordering process time by 33% at the restaurant Atrium Lounge, to improve revenues by 10% and customer satisfaction by 5% according to One Guest. As for the bill, users may pay with Paypal. Other tools also exist. For example Zelty is a free software application that allows customers to be able to take, follow and pay their order from their Smartphone.

When technology places itself at the service of a property’s personnel, management becomes more transparent. Restaurants offer better quality services and improve their range. Midscale hotels may now offer sommelier services at a lower cost, or no cost, thanks to software such as iWine Resto. Hotel F&B is not finished its infusion with new technology that has proved to be both economical and ecological. 
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