Archive for October, 2011

Food For Thought – Or Thought For Food

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

Here is a piece that will help you get inside the minds of your dining customers. And better yet, provide some great advice to improve your hotel’s F&B performance.

According to the experts, the Recession has been over since June of 2009, but if you speak to most operators it seems they are still living through higher prices for commodities, less sales and a shortage of guests.  The so called recovery has not been the wave of success that has hit too many locations, according to our clients in the hospitality industry.  For sure there are some up ticks in various markets in the United States and certainly in several major marketplaces around the world, but by and large most operators are looking for the dining out habits of years past.

There seems to be somewhat of a disconnect with the more cautious consumers who say they are frequenting restaurants less and looking for deals and coupons to stimulate them into dining out and are trading down to less expensive offerings versus what they had visited in the past.

The optimistic part of society and the some in the business world and maybe those who have the ability to spend more are still looking for the next new concept in dining, hotels and entertainment venues (as was recently noted in the Wall Street Journal).  On the contrary, well respected market and consumer research groups are predicting the restaurant industry’s growth to be flat for the foreseeable future and less than 1% a year for the next several years.
Dining habits have changed dramatically and will continue to evolve as our society and the world in general redefines its place and space on what guests might be looking for in dining/eating/food occurrence.

In researching several potential new conceptual directions for some hotel and restaurant operations, we recently conducted a brainstorming session with several non-hospitality participants that had some simple parameters:

  • What do you want to eat and drink?
  • How much do you want to spend?
  • What would make you satisfied and happy to return?

As one can imagine the opinions were various, based on the different demographics and economic stature of the group, but in the end they came down to some very succinct points:

  • Majority of participants wanted to have more focus on the type and quality of food that was available
  • How their food is being prepared
  • The thought process behind the offering
  • Consistency in the menu and products served

Most weren’t looking for:

  • Revolutionary new fads or ingredients
  • The latest and great new hybrid fruit or vegetable

Although there was conversation about healthy and nutritious dining options, along with an accent on vegetarian options, there wasn’t a major emphasis put on the definitive need for a complete offering of those categories, just an awareness of those items.

The beverage component whether it be alcoholic or non-alcoholic was definitely skewed by economic differences, with those who preferred the typical beverages and brands, to those who were requesting premium offerings and willing to pay for the product.  The beverage discussion reminded me of the demands of specific guests, who choose restaurants and hotels that seem to mimic their own personal likes and dislikes, and are chosen by habit and taste levels.

The last element of the discussion focused on what this type of restaurant or dining concept or program were they interested in frequenting and what would  it look and feel like?  We didn’t allow the group to use existing restaurants as examples or guidelines; they had to verbalize their individual thoughts and ideas on what they would go to and become a dining habit on a regular basis.  Initially the typical words and adjectives were thrown around; simple, good food, comfortable, affordable, friendly service staff, etc.

There was a commonality in their feelings about what they really wanted in dining options and the age and demographic differences seemed to wash away and became more definitive and cohesive the more we spoke about the thought of being happy, content and satisfied with the potential food and beverage concept for the future.  It was an interesting shift in the typical paradigm of age, income and demographics that are usually the conceptual drivers operators use to determine the restaurant or dining offering for their hotel or foodservice operation.

At the end of our discussions, the endorsement by the majority was about food products, their preparation, i.e. the thought process in the menu  and items on it, pricing fairly, hospitality and a simple and compelling rational that they would be treated nicely so they would return over and over.

Consumer behavior is definitely realigning, some might say it is shifting, but to what and where it will end up, you will need a crystal ball to determine.  We have heard constantly about “the new normal” but I am not sure that really applies, since the ups and downs of the restaurant and hotel business are daily and weekly, versus the “old norm” of quarter to quarter or year to year.  The dramatic economic aspects of the last few years with unemployment and under employment, lower hotel rates, higher prices on food and services and the shift in consumer dining habits and eating out frequency have given us a strong dose of taking a pause and look at where we are and where we might be going tomorrow.

We shared our findings with one of our clients who summed it up best when he told us we had given him “FOOD FOR THOUGHT – OR THOUGHT FOR FOOD, as how he and his organization needed to address their future.

 

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Tomorrow’s Future Is Today, You Can Bet On It!

Friday, October 7th, 2011

To have a truly successful business you need to start grooming potential future hospitality industry employees. Here’s the inspiration and knowhow on getting this done!

In listening to politicians lately, I am astounded about how they talk about the disarray of today and their dire predictions for our country’s future.  As I am sure, many people feel the anxiety today of our business or lack of and why this is all happening and what will happen next, or is the glass and the future half full or half empty. We are typically a group of optimists, candid, blunt, but necessarily concerned with what happens next, but hopefully thinking about it.

I remembered the time I got one of those phone calls from a parent who was concerned about their son’s ideas for the future; code name, going to college and what would be the best major area to attain a degree in for their future.  They had heard from mutual friends that I had experience talking to and mentoring young adults about careers and attending college and would it be possible to meet with me to discuss their thoughts.  It got me thinking about who should I really be speaking to, the parents or their child?  My experience with speaking to the parents is most of the time they have their own ideas about what they think their child should do, not necessarily in concert with the child’s thoughts or ideas.

Before I talk about the meeting or the outcome, maybe we should focus on the overall situation that we have today; code word – next steps, the future of our industry and what are you personally doing about it?  Oh sure when someone asks about the hospitality industry you tell them all the good things, wonderful experiences, etc.  but when was the last time you spoke to a young person who might want to be part of our industry or better yet, spent the time to talk to them about the pro’s and con’s of the type of experience they might need or get, whether to go to a vocational school, Community College or University and what they might expect when they graduate and the type of industry position they should pursue?  I did a brief unscientific survey and called several business people to ask them the last upcoming high school graduate they spoke to about their future, might have given advice to or even to an employee or staff member they encouraged to go take management classes at the University or Community College in their area, to better themselves, increase their skill level and knowledge and also to learn.  All had the same response more or less, “no one had approached them for advice.”  I am not sure we are prepared as an industry to “give back” or many just don’t understand that the future of our business is in question to many young people on what we are about, what type of experience and education do they need to be successful along with how and where should they be looking to learn more about the hospitality business?

Once we get out of this current economic situation and the malaise of business today, over the next few years we will need more educated and trained professionals to move the overall industry and development process forward.  As an industry person, you have a choice, think about only today or focus on tomorrow, an assist in the process of developing the talent of the future who will propel our fate moving forward.  It is too late at this time to talk to this year’s graduating high school seniors, but not too late to see about speaking to your local high school or contacting your alma mater about how you can assist with their recruitment in your area or volunteer your time to talk to your own child’s or your friends children’s class about the opportunities that can exist for them in the future.  You can also take a look at the people that you’re currently working with and take an independent poll on talking to them about their dreams and the potential of more education to better their personal chances of professional advancement too.

Now you might be saying why do this for others, what’s in it for me or I might have hit a cord in your mind about giving back or a warm feeling that it’s just the right thing to do.  But depending on where you are in your career and how you got there, I am sure you either got some great advice, lucky breaks or worked damn hard to achieve some type of success. Now is the time to pass on the opportunity to others.  Maybe it’s not as easy as it seems, but believe me it is.  Talk to some parents who don’t have the overall view of the world or interesting experiences like some of you do in this exciting business; they will be very grateful and so will the person you are advising, and maybe someday they will come back and thank you too.

Oh that young student that I mentioned before, he went on to a great career working for several well known hotels, restaurants and chefs and now is another consultant dispensing advice to his clients.  I plan to give him a call someday soon to remind him of his commitment to our industry and his promise to “give back” and work towards the future of our industry – you can bet on it!

 

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Hospitality Design

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

It’s all relative – The joys and challenges of working with a loved one.

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Vegas Rated

Saturday, October 1st, 2011

Labor Wines – An exclusive sneak peek at Corey Nyman’s new wine project.

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