James Glover, vice-president of food and beverage in Europe for Hilton Worldwide, tells Janet Harmer how he is revamping the group's restaurant and bar offer to make dining the shop window of a hotel.
For James Glover, the food and beverage (F&B) operation at the 190 hotels within his remit has been a sleeping giant that is beginning to wake up.
"F&B was an untapped resource, which needed to be exploited more," says Glover, who in June 2009 was appointed as vice-president of F&B in Europe for Hilton Worldwide to revamp the group's restaurant and bar offer.
"We need to think more as restaurateurs and consider what we can do to attract a wider market, beyond our hotel guests, to eat and drink with us."
Glover's broad experience was a key factor in his appointment. During an earlier 14-year stint with Hilton, he worked in every F&B department in hotels in Amsterdam, Paris, Luxor and Trinidad. He also worked at the InterContinental, Athens for three-and-a-half years, and at Disneyland Paris for six years, where he gained wide experience juggling huge numbers of covers (3,500 for breakfast at one hotel). He has also set up the Pizza Hut operation in Poland - "very challenging, but it was all about processes and I'm more about people" - and most recently was senior vice-president of F&B for Sofitel.
"It's not rocket science, but it's a simple fact that a restaurant can be the shop window of a hotel, which can provide the opportunity for great interaction with people that you often don't get in the rest of the hotel. If it's successful and busy, it can really enhance the hotel brand," says Glover.
Central to the delivery of a revitalised F&B offering through Hilton's European hotels, Glover has introduced six basic values to ensure the delivery of a consistent service across six brands (see below) throughout all existing and new properties. They include quality, simplicity, authenticity, connectivity, profit and pleasure (see page 22). To ensure the delivery of each value at every level, whether it is for a specific dish or for a complete restaurant concept, getting the training right is essential.
To this end, the six values are communicated throughout all classroom and on-the-job training programmes, via the company intranet and, importantly, by being clearly visible in the hotel's operational areas, for all employees to see. There is a joint responsibility between the chefs and F&B front-of-house teams to ensure the six values are achieved, with the main focus on quality, authenticity and profitability. It is regarded as a collective responsibility to ensure that the final product exceeds the guests' expectations, as well as achieving business performance.
In considering new F&B concepts, Glover says it is important to consider who the customer is, where they are and what they want. "Talking to our guests and customers is the best way of finding out their exact needs," he says.
The introduction of a salad bar at the 245-bedroom Hilton London Tower Bridge came about directly as a result of identifying that there was a demand from customers for a high-quality lunch option that could be prepared and served quickly in front of the customer.
The hotel is situated in the heart of the City of London's financial district, with the likes of Ernst & Young and PricewaterhouseCoopers on the doorstep, and office workers regularly walk past the hotel at lunchtime, having picked up sandwiches and salads from the nearby Marks & Spencer, Pret A Manger or Caffè Nero.
"We had a space in front of our restaurant that was previously occupied by lounge seating, which we decided to turn into a take-away salad bar," says Jonathan Bowmaker, F&B service manager, Hilton London Tower Bridge.
"The focus was on a wide range of fresh ingredients, which the customer could select to provide a custom-made salad. We knew we were plugging a very clear gap in the market as our neighbouring competitors offer only pre-packed salads, with very limited choice."
For £5, customers get to choose from a selection of six different salad leaves as a base, as well as six toppings from around 40 ingredients, including duck, chicken, pastrami, roasted vegetables, tomatoes, cucumbers, potatoes, chickpeas and croutons. The result is an extremely generous salad presented in a clear take-away box.
After an initial slow build-up, there are now queues for the salad bar at lunchtime, with an average of 130 to 150 covers being served a day, and up to 200 during the summer. The menu is now being extended to offer two or three hot dishes (for example, seafood lasagne and chicken and sweetcorn cannelloni) daily, as well as add-on items such as crisps, fresh fruit, and chocolate and pistachio bars.
With the salad bar and other new initiatives being introduced into the hotels, the aim is to establish the F&B department as a profit centre, brand enhancer and image creator, run by creative and passionate professionals.
"Our intention is to position food and beverage as a fully integrated player in the future strategy of Hilton Worldwide in Europe," says Glover.
HILTON WORLDWIDE BRANDS IN EUROPE
Hilton Worldwide has more than 3,600 hotels and 599,000 rooms in 81 countries. In Europe, the company has 190 hotels in 30 countries and employs more than 20,000 people. The six brands in Europe are:
LUXURY • Waldorf Astoria Hotels and Resorts - 3
• Conrad Hotels and Resorts - 3
FULL SERVICE • Hilton Hotels - 157
• Doubletree by Hilton - 11
FOCUSED SERVICE • Hilton Garden Inn - 10
• Hampton by Hilton - 6
HILTON WORLDWIDE'S NEW EUROPEAN F&B INITIATIVES
1. THE KAILYARD BY NICK NAIRN
DOUBLETREE BY HILTON DUNBLANE HYDRO
Launched in January 2010, the 215-seat restaurant is intended to showcase the style and essence of one of Scotland's most renowned chefs. It has been incorporated within the 200-bedroom hotel, which has recently undergone a £12m refurbishment.
As well as overseeing the menus at the Kailyard, Nairn is also working as a consultant on its entire food and beverage offering including in-room menus, Scottish breakfasts, weddings, conferences and banqueting, with the intention of providing residents and non-residents with the highest-quality food.
This is the latest example of Hilton Worldwide working with high-profile chefs across Europe. The company also works with André Garrett at Galvin at Windows (one Michelin star) at the London Hilton on Park Lane, Heinz Beck at La Pergola (three Michelin stars) at the Rome Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria Collection, Gordon Ramsay at Gordon Ramsay au Trianon (two Michelin stars) at the Trianon Palace Versailles Waldorf Astoria Collection, and Marco Pierre White at Marco Pierre White's Steakhouse Bar and Grill, Doubletree by Hilton Chester.
2. THE SPACE
HILTON NEWBURY NORTH
Intended to redefine the traditional restaurant, lounge and bar area, the Space offers the comfort and feel of an airport executive lounge across the entire ground floor of the hotel. It is designed with technology and productivity at its heart by providing a work space with laptop plug-in and high-speed wireless, Bluetooth and mobile charging stations; flexible meeting space; and superfoods, which are geared towards providing natural energy boosts, as well as traditional options, available throughout the day. Launched this spring, the hotel's location close to the M3 and M4 was the catalyst behind the concept.
3. ECO MOJITO BAR
DOUBLETREE BY HILTON CAMBRIDGE
New this summer, the oldest punt on the River Cam has been transformed using the highest green credentials - from sourcing materials to construction - into the Eco Mojito Bar.
Reclaimed punt poles have been used for the bar legs and solar-powered lights shine on a living mint installation. Original and summer fruit-flavoured Mojitos are available at £6.95 each, while a Mojito masterclass at £20 per person provides a mixologist, as well as cocktails and nibbles.
THE TRAFALGAR HOTEL, LONDON
Located on the rooftop of this contemporary hotel, Vista has been refurbished by designers Blacksheep to maximise the views over Trafalgar Square, Big Ben and the London Eye. The bar, which opened last month, aims to create a chic, relaxed Mediterranean atmosphere and offers an outdoor menu and a partnership with Pommery, which sees several Champagnes on offer with seasonal vintages to be introduced.
INTRODUCING THE WALDORF SALAD AND SIX F&B VALUES
Quality - to ensure success, a consistency of delivery and spirit of operational excellence must be instilled.
â- Simplicity - make products and services guest-friendly and don't overcomplicate. Fusion means confusion.
â- Authenticity - tell a story, stay seasonal and be traceable. Increased knowledge of guests means they want to know more and experience more.
â- Connectivity - the guest should trust more than just what is on the plate. Listen to what they say and provide what they want. Ask "What else can I do for you?", not "Is everything all right?"
â- Profit - most gains come from being cost-aware and revenue-focused. If all the other values are in place, the profit will follow.
â- Pleasure - it is why we do it and what we owe to guests. They should come to us to live to eat, not eat to live.
In introducing a Waldorf salad to the summer menu at the Waldorf Hilton, London, executive chef Johan Rox wanted to serve a lighter version of the dish, appropriate to the season. The Waldorf salad is an important dish for the hotel because of its connection to the original Waldorf-Astoria hotel in New York, where it was invented by the maÁtre d', Oscar Tschirky, in 1893.
Before introducing the salad to the menu, Rox made sure that its content met all six of Hilton's F&B values. Quality is ensured by purchasing fresh ingredients from a reputed supplier. Using the key ingredients of apple, celery, walnut and mayonnaise from the original recipe, the dish remains simple, although Rox uses his creativity to caramelise the apples, combine crème fraÁ®che with the mayonnaise to lighten the dish, and sprinkle crushed walnuts over the finished dish, rather than serve them whole.
The dish is obviously authentic, because its history can be traced back to the original one served in New York, and it uses low-cost ingredients to produce a healthy profit. Carefully produced, the salad should always be a pleasure for guests to eat.
The final value of connectivity is achieved by the dish being synonymous with the name of the hotel, as well as the fact that it makes use of different varieties of English apples, which will be highlighted by the waiting staff throughout the season.