Over the past few months, we have noticed a remarkable dynamism when it comes to Accor’s F&B operations and business. HN spoke with Maarten van den Nieuwenhuijsen, vice president, openings and guest quality, Middle East & Africa, to get the lowdown on their upcoming developments.
How much emphasis is Accor putting on its F&B portfolio in 2021?
As the world slowly bounces back, so too does the restaurant scene. F&B is gaining more importance, recognition and attention in the industry than ever before, as it’s a center of socialization – something that people missed during the past year. Moreover, many restaurants used the time efficiently, adapting, innovating and updating their operations to be relevant in the new era and offer an elevated experience.
Hotel-related dining also proved to be popular, even with non-hotel guests. In fact, that was always the case in Dubai, as most dining venues are located within hotels. Due to this, they are experiencing the same demand and positive impact on the total footfall as the standalone restaurants. Accor operates a large number of hotel brands alongside a wide variety of food and beverage concepts that are designed to cater to different markets. The extension of these restaurants’ portfolios, with unique lifestyle brands and a series of successful collaborations for the past few years, indicates the importance and impact of this side of the hospitality industry to the overall performance of hotels in the market.
Do you think in-hotel restaurants have been more impacted than standalone outlets during the pandemic?
In-hotel dining venues partly rely on hotel guests and therefore have been more impacted during the past year due to the effect of travel regulations and limitations. Nevertheless, our properties have made efforts to satisfy customers through home-delivery services wherever possible. This has mitigated the consequences of declining business levels.
How much investment are you dedicating to your F&B outlets this year?
As a hotel management operator, Accor does not directly invest in F&B outlets. It creates the strategy that is aligned with the overall development vision and advises on the balanced F&B mix and offering within each property, based on its location, brand, and global and local industry trends. In the Middle East, however, Accor has partnered with the Bulldozer Group to launch a food technology platform that will offer delivery to users at home as well as in-room dining to hotel guests. The platform was recently launched as Kitch-In, and it will use Accor’s hotel network and expertise to prepare the food in “ghost kitchens,” and delivery aggregators to offer customers food from a range of established restaurants as well as new virtual brands.
Do you work with partners to present your F&B brands in new markets, or do you franchise them?
Accor uses various business models from restaurant concepts developed in-house to franchise and license of well-established brands in order to make sure that the F&B offer is relevant and adaptable to the hotel and the brand. The overall aim is to make sure that our hotels are attractive places to visit; the dining offering is an integral part to achieve this.
How interesting is the MENA region to you from an F&B standpoint?
The MENA is a constantly changing and developing part of the world. Every country in the region has its own specifics in terms of the level of market saturation, consumer expectations and preferences as well as the industry trends. All this certainly makes it very interesting and exciting when it comes to F&B development. Indeed, this region is a melting pot of visitors from all parts of the world, with their tastes, food culture and heritage; so yes, this is a perfect region to test and deploy new concepts.
Who are your customers in the region and what are the new F&B trends you are trying to address?
The customer profile in the region is very cosmopolitan and diversified, from the local population to the expat community and all types of travelers. The latest trends that Accor tries to address embrace a holistic sustainability approach to operations, the use of modern technology and relatively new business models, such as ghost kitchens.
Customers seek for new experiences and new concepts, alongside being recognized and rewarded for their loyalty to brands.
At Accor, we reward the members through our lifestyle loyalty program ALL – Accor Live Limitless when they live, work and play at any of our properties, dining concepts or events which take place globally.
As an added benefit, we have recently introduced even further rewards for our members to be able to earn and redeem loyalty points when visiting our restaurants and bars in the region, outside of staying at one of our properties
Where do you see the business in the next five years?
The experience of dining out and socializing is an essential part of people’s lifestyle in this region, and they missed everything about it during the pandemic. Despite how devastating the past year has been for the restaurant industry, Accor predicts growth and prosperity in the future.