As hotels are looking to gain more profitability from hotel F&B operations, they need to stick with, or be in front of the trends. And I’m not just talking about food. Of course the food is a critical element to a successful restaurant and bar operation, but it’s not the only thing. Design is an equally important part for capturing customers not just once, but time and time again.
Fast casual concepts have taken over the restaurant industry as they have been proven popular for customer and easier to operate for owners. Customers are seeking tasty, fresh food that’s visually inviting but can also be enjoyed in a comfortable environment that prompts sociability.
In our new economy food does equal sociability so creating social places where people want to eat, drink and hand out equals big profits. It’s a powerful trend bursting through the mainstream so it was naturally a big topic discussed during this week’s BITAC Food & Beverage West.
BITAC is of course the industry leading one-on-one meetings and relationship building event. Taking place on the Las Vegas Strip at The Mirage this week, BITAC attendees are the ultimate group of insiders and decision makers representing leading and forward thinking companies. And they’re all here to come together at BITAC to problem solve, network, sign deals and exchange ideas to move forward the quality of experiences for hotel guests, while adding profits to the bottom line. There’s even time to cut loose, be social and network in a luxurious and relaxed environment.
However, the educational discussions also empower attendees to be more successful in their business. Yesterday we focused on the integration of dining and design and how that is being reflected in consumer acceptance.
“When people travel, many of the best stories they bring back with them are based on where they ate and drank. You need to be a part of the story,” said Cynthia Penner, Principal of Box Interior Design.
She is right on. As we say here enough in Hotel Interactive, people are experience driven these days. They’ve had enough of the material and want to spend money doing things. Plus, The National Restaurant Association Social says 79 percent of people going out with family or friends in restaurants believe it gives them an opportunity to socialize and is a more effective way for them to make use of leisure time rather than cooking and cleaning up.
That makes for ripe opportunity for restaurants to create a story that connects emotionally with guests through food and design that will get people returning over and over.
It’s something what Hash House a Go Go COO Jim Rees does. Hash House uses the premise of what he dubs ‘twisted farm food’ as a jumping off point to meld farm fresh foods with casual inviting décor.
“People want value and a combination of quantity, quality, and experience. You have to deliver on all aspects and make an experience so consumers won’t want to eat at home. Service and décor are very important,” said Rees.
Additionally he said the strong visual presentation of the food causes people to interact. Customers chat with neighboring tables asking them questions about the bounty that’s arrived at their table.
“Environment is key,” said Sheila Turner, VP Restaurant Operations with Puccini Group, who travels globally and is up with the latest food and design trends. She is a big proponent of open kitchens as well as community tables or spaces.
“Design can be taken to the next step to create experience. For example, people are more comfortable being able to see the ingredients going into their meals in an open kitchen,” said Turner.
She also called for using a local mixologist to aid in designing the bar; and have plenty of craft beer availability in the bar with more beer on draft.
Tony Reiss, Senior Manager, F&B Strategic Sourcing, Hilton Worldwide said that consumers are becoming savvier about what is in their food too. They’re looking at labels, fussing over ingredients.
“People want good, not expensive food. If you focus on comfort foods add some zing. You also have to have Allergan options on the menu available. They also want it to look great too. Call it art you can eat,” said Reiss.
Other helpful tips:
Reiss says a talented and engaged chef is also critical. They’ll make a strong impact greeting guests, help promote through public relations efforts and through social media channels.
Penner says people want locally sourced and relevant food. But they also are looking to try new things. So don’t be afraid to try new things and see if they stick.
Rees says to be mindful that people are taking pictures of food more than ever. And it’s a fast growing trend. He says one photo can reach an influence thousands of people, so he and his team focus on great visual presentation.