While the food and beverage (F&B) offer might not be at the forefront of a visitor’s mind when booking a hotel, its contribution toward the overall experience should never be underestimated. Daniel During, principal and management director of Thomas Klein International, takes us through the dos and don’ts
F&B is an integral part of a hotel as it introduces countless touchpoints in the complete hotel guest experience. These could be grabbing a coffee to-go in the lobby lounge while checking emails, indulging in fresh croissants during the breakfast rush before heading out to explore the city or treating yourself to a burger and fries from room service when you feel like staying in and cozying up under the covers.
All-day dining don’ts
When contemplating the dos and don’ts of F&B in hotels, our first thoughts are drawn toward the main ‘all-day-dining’ restaurant, the epicenter of a hotel’s F&B strategy. It’s fair to say that not all hoteliers have embraced a fresh interpretation of the all-day-dining concept and are adamant about sticking to the traditional buffet format for breakfast, lunch and dinner meal periods that we see today in many hotels.
Naturally, a buffet format is the most operationally efficient option for the kitchen when it comes to accommodating 200+ hotel guests during the breakfast morning rush, but at what expense? As a consumer who enjoys dining out for late breakfasts during the weekends, I’d much prefer to have my eggs prepared à-la-minute instead of rummaging through chafing dishes of scrambled and fried eggs that have been sitting on display for hours. Why would a hotel guest not expect the same quality of food in the hotel they chose, as opposed to the café down the road?
Baked goods, pastries and juices can be readily available buffet style for guests to choose at their convenience but in the effort of preserving the maximum freshness, offering hot items in an à-la-carte format is the way forward. At the end of the day, guests know and appreciate quality and it is our job to captivate their food attention inside the hotel rather than outside.
If we consider a hotel guest that eats breakfast and dinner in the main restaurant of the hotel, they are receiving the exact same dining experience at dinner that they had that morning at breakfast. The only difference is that the coffee cups and condiments have been removed from the tables and extra forks have been provided.
Dining distinctions do
We cannot apply the same principles across the whole day in one restaurant, as one size does not fit all. Hence, finding ways to create distinctions between the different meal periods is crucial, essentially creating two restaurants under one roof. Quality should always be at the forefront, adopting the strategy of being a strong restaurant that serves good breakfast rather than a restaurant that serves mediocre breakfast, lunch and dinner. In the case that your hotel has multiple F&B outlets, you have the opportunity to provide specialized concepts for target markets. While all the outlets are operating under one roof, treat each outlet as its own separate entity with its own personality, DNA and concept, targeted to either in-house or walk-in guests.
It is important to emphasize that the focus is never solely on the food and how it is served but rather the overall dining experience. As restaurateurs, we don’t just create restaurants based on the type of food it serves, but as a collective of attributes that unite together to create a memorable dining experience. In our terms, it’s a recipe. What goes in to this recipe?
Here are just four of the many essential ingredients:
• 1 tablespoon food
• 1 tablespoon service
• 1 tablespoon design
• 1 tablespoon consistency
Great food just isn’t enough to complete the recipe on its own, nor to sustain the life of a restaurant in today’s market. Having seen many of our favorite restaurants close begs the question: what did they do wrong and what can we learn from their mistakes?
After all, if we don’t understand our customers’ needs and wants (across any industry) we will never be able to satisfy them. Right now, the concept of value is in everyone’s mind. Value is a core purchasing driver, with consumers aiming to get the best value (both monetary and experiential) for their money. This need for value is defined as a global lifestyle consumer trend, which ultimately narrates consumers’ lifestyles, behavioral and spending patterns, as well as kick-starting trends. Let’s look at the concept of hyper-convenience, a global lifestyle trend that yielded self-check-out desks in retail and delivery-based food concepts. Restaurateurs understood that the customer of today values convenience, therefore evolved and adjusted their business models to offer inexpensive food, delivered directly to their office desk at lunchtime in under 45 minutes. No matter how widespread a trend might seem to be, one shouldn’t just jump on the bandwagon as trends generally come with short lifespans. The novelty eventually wears off and we transition to the next best thing. The best course of action is to outsource the right consultants and marketers to investigate and understand these types of lifestyle trends that can help determine the triggers of food trends and provide foresight into what’s happening next.
Moving forward along the recipe, without a strong dose of service, the whole recipe falls apart. The human element within any business is that defining factor that can make or break a customer’s experience. Bad service leaves an awful aftertaste in the customer’s mouth and isn’t easy to recover from.
We want our employees to showcase a level of service that meets and exceeds customers’ expectations, convincing them to return for seconds. Positively recognizing repeat customers, catering to special menu requests, understanding and anticipating customers’ needs before they do; these are the attributes that contribute to a memorable dining experience. It must be said also that these attributes inherently require the management’s time, effort and resources, without shortcuts. Train the staff at every restaurant alike, whether it’s a casual coffee shop or a Michelin-star restaurant. Knowing the menu, food concept and its origin is indispensable. Even if certain items aren’t on the menu of a pizzeria for example, should a customer ask for a staple or well-known Italian dish, the waiter ought to know what it is.
Think of a restaurant as a puzzle. The design is just one of the many pieces that fits together to create the final image. If the design doesn’t match the final product, the image is incomplete. Too many times we come across restaurants which have these extravagant designs that do not flow with the concepts. For example, if your menu is based on a sharing concept where customers order several small dishes, designing the interiors with small tables with the capacity to only hold no more than two plates at a time is counterintuitive. This boils down to a disconnection between the designers and food curators during the conceptual stages of the restaurant creation process. Ensuring continuous engagement between all F&B consultants, interior designers and kitchen designers is the key to being able to create an end product that is visually appealing and operationally efficient, with maximum customer comfort.
Consistency is the binding agent, where, ‘you are only as good as your last meal’. Any business’s goal is to ‘loyalize’ their customers by proving a product or service that is so good that they have no choice but to come back for more. Customers will know that their expectations will be met and exceeded on every visit, with no bad surprises.