F&B trends aren’t all about food
 
F&B trends aren’t all about food
08 JULY 2015 6:21 AM
Food trends dominate hotel F&B (think gluten-free foods and artisanal whiskey), but yield-management and distribution-channel management trends are on hoteliers’ radars as well. 
Editor’s note: This is the second in a two-part series examining food-and-beverage trends. Read the first part, “F&B: What’s making money now?” 
 
REPORT FROM THE U.S.—A big part of maximizing food-and-beverage revenue at your hotel comes down to identifying and investing in trends that have staying power. Staying ahead of the curve when it comes to dining and drinking trends gives your restaurant relevance as a neighborhood destination, not just a choice for guests.
 
“Relevance changes as tastes change, and your restaurant has to be relevant,” advised Bill Kohl, principal at Greenwood Hospitality Group. “Just in the last five years we’ve seen a more knowledgeable diner, someone who wants to know the story of their food—where it’s grown and by whom. As the operators, we have to provide these things and train our staff.” 
 
Kohl added that it’s necessary now at all levels of hotel and restaurant segments to equip staff with the training they need to share the stories behind a local cut of meat or a regional wine. “The customer base changing has forced us to step up the game, from just offering a product to telling the story of the food,” he said. 
 
The best way to address this new slew of individual needs? Give your F&B outlet individual personality. 
 
“We believe the best thing that we can do is to maintain individuality (in our restaurants) through local influences and great guest experiences,” said Susan Terry, VP of culinary operations in the Americas for Hyatt Hotels Corporation. “We need to take the ‘hotel’ out of our restaurants and bars and compete locally.” 
 
At Hyatt that means managing restaurants and bars as separate businesses, Terry said. “We hire talented people, give them the tools that they need to do their jobs and then get out of the way,” she said.
 
Revising menus to reflect trends and seasons is another way to stay on top of what’s new and next. Tom Martini, GM of the Westin Convention Center, Pittsburgh, said that’s a key component behind the success of the convention hotel’s roomservice business.
 
“We constantly change up the roomservice menus, and it’s been a consistent performer for us,” he said. “Year over year we see a 2-to-3% increase.” 
Here are two F&B trends and two delivery trends influencing restaurateurs and hoteliers: 
 
Healthy and ‘free-from’
Food and restaurant consultants Baum + Whiteman in its mid-year survey of restaurant trends said food manufacturers and restaurant companies are responding to consumer worry and eliminating chemicals and genetically modified ingredients from their menus, such as additives, artificial colors and preservatives.
 
This translates to other “free-from” menu items as well, Kohl said. “There’s a huge emphasis on gluten-free and allergen-free menus, and it’s a must-have on your menu now,” he said. “Even if patrons don’t need to be gluten-free they’re choosing to do it, and you need to be ready.” 
 
Top-shelf beverage programs
Kohl said diners at all hotel segment levels are embracing customized beverage trends, whether they’re in the form of small-batch whiskey tastings or more accessible craft beer or local wine flights.
 
It’s not necessarily about price, he said, but more about experience and a story. That makes custom beverage programs like this workable in all markets.  
 
“This is what the public is looking for, and if you have it you’ll be their top choice,” he said. “The fastest growing liquid category right now is American whiskey, and it’s important for us to have the product and know its story—how did it originate, what makes it different and special?” 
 
Distribution channels … for F&B
Think your hotel restaurant is immune to the “Uber-ization” of food delivery trends, particularly in urban locations? It’s not the case, according to the Baum + Whiteman survey, which cites the rising trend of food delivery services to homes, offices and hotels. Players such as Google, Amazon and Uber are entering the fray, according to the survey results, by partnering with restaurant chains on food delivery services. 
 
The overall trend at play is speedy delivery, what Kohl referred to as “food on demand,” and what the hotel industry is countering with more grab-and-go options. 
 
But as third-party companies enter the space, likelihood grows that your hotel doesn’t own the data those companies gather on your guests. According to the survey analysis, “that information is worth billions of bucks … and allows Google or Amazon or Uber to communicate directly with a restaurant’s customers.”
 
Revenue management
You know how to manage your average daily rate across your distribution channels, but what about revenue management in your restaurant? 
Kohl said it’s a trend that’s creeping into the hotel space, even though it’s something he hasn’t done yet at any of Greenwood’s hotel restaurants.
 
“Just as we yield-manage hotel rates, some people are yield-managing restaurant reservation times,” he said. Diners who want to come at peak times might pay an upcharge for their reservation, he explained. Or, restaurants could change specific menu-item pricing during those hours as well, similar to how some change pricing from lunch to dinner. 
 
“I’m a little nervous about that, but I think people will begin to see some elements of this in hotels,” he said.
 
HNN’s Alicia Hoisington contributed to this report.
 

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