Emerging Trends: F&B

Jonathan Segal, CEO and Founder of The One Group reviews the F&B trends transforming the industry.

NOTE: This article was originally published in the Q4 2014 edition of Hotel Industry Magazine.

The quality of a hotel’s F&B offering is often a key driver of profitability; long gone are the days when running a hotel was purely about beds!

Yet while many hoteliers rightly obsess over bookings and beds, this valuable additional income can sometimes be overlooked.

The size of the opportunity ranges from an additional cup of coffee or aperitif, to hoteliers adding more than 50% to their revenues per guest through a high quality and varied F&B operation.

In order to do this it is vital that we stay on top of our game. We have to create environments, and food and beverage offerings, that people want, and which play well against the many and varied rival options available to guests in the hotels local markets.

Therefore, we have to know what’s going on, and to this end, here are five key trends that we see emerging in the hotel sector:

1. Do You Need Partners?

We are seeing a lot of hoteliers partnering with F&B specialists.

These arrangements vary from consultants offering ad hoc advice to full joint ventures, with entire food and beverage programmes outsourced to a specialist operator.
The attraction is that it brings absolute focus, with partners concentrating on their expert area: hoteliers on beds, F&B experts on food and beverage.

Consequently it is not uncommon for a hotel to see a material uplift in average room rate and nightly occupancy when working with these external specialists.

Such partnerships tend to drive footfall to the hotel, meaning that you get a greater variety of guests, many of whom are not just in the building because they have a room reservation.

2. Casual Dining and Informality

The high-end dining experience used to mean white table cloths and silver service … but nowadays.

The growth of chef-driven restaurants is slowing down and the impact of casual or informal dining is being felt everywhere; both in hotels and across the food and beverage sector.

People crave informality, whether it’s the food itself or the style in which it’s served. People still want high quality but without so much of the pomp.

People’s food repertoire is expansive, which is reflected in the abundance of choice available today, and the growth of (most notably) noodle, pasta and salad bars.
This is also reflected in hotels, where the key is having offers that speak to this broad spectrum of demand.

Flexibility is key, as is warm, unfussy service that engenders a relaxed but fun environment, where people feel they can let their hair down.

3. Eat in a Bar, Drink in the Kitchen

Linked to informality, food and drink environments are completely merging.

If we go to a restaurant, we will have a cocktail. If we go to a bar, we are just as likely to order food – be it something light and quick, or something more substantial. The small plate (or tapas-style plate), long the preserve of the bar, is much more common in a restaurant environment, and the reverse is true in bars, which are majoring on extensive food menus.

This blurring of the lines is reflected in design – restaurants are making a bigger play of their bar and more bar operators are introducing big, centre-piece open kitchens.

In America they speak of this trend reflecting consumers’ desire to “eat at the bar, and drink in the kitchen”. It’s placing greater demands on front-of-house staff, who at the premium end of the market, are expected to have extensive knowledge of both the food and drinks menus.

4. Vibe Dining

We’re big believers in vibe dining, which combines food, drink, atmosphere and music, and often sees guests arriving long before their table is ready, and staying with us well beyond the meal. They can enjoy all the elements of a night out, under one roof.

Our upscale STK steakhouse brand is built on vibe dining – we place special emphasis on the bar area (where the party starts), we play music slightly louder than would be the norm and employ a DJ to “read the room” and ensure we play the right music to the right crowd.

We know that if the DJ finds the right music, our guests stay with us for longer, they spend more on food and extra drinks, and they transition seamlessly from dinner mode to party mode. The power of music is often over-looked, particularly in hotel F&B environments.

5. By the Bottle, at the Table

Two big trends combined are impacting the way people order drinks.

Sharing a bottle used to be the preserve of the wine and champagne category but now it is happening across the drinks market, notably in cocktails and spirits. This is driven by a greater desire to share and also by the on-going move to premium brands.

Hotel bars and cocktail bars are leading the way in creating ‘drinking experiences’ which are bespoke to their venues and offering VIP table service, which creates a unique experience for the guest.
This trend emphasises the need for us to focus on luxury and we need to be ahead of our game in making our customers feel like unique.

By bringing in some of these services to your outlets, you cab develop a vital USP!

The trends outlined above are all linked to informality and fun. Food, drink and entertainment are merging. This presents an opportunity to broaden our hospitality offerings and widen our profit potential.

Don’t be scared to try something a little out of the norm, review your competitors and, most of all, make sure your customers are really having a good time.

NOTE: This article was originally published in the Q4 2014 edition of Hotel Industry Magazine.

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