Viewpoint: Robbie Bargh says it's time to reimagine the hospitality experience

11 June 2020

The innovation found during lockdown shouldn't dry up once operators can reopen. Now is the time to rethink and create, says Robbie Bargh

Today we are seeing a new beginning, an exciting metamorphosis, a potentially golden era for our industry. We are reimagining social experiences and hospitality and asking what the purpose is of our restaurants, bars and hotels, our third spaces, our places of community and human storytelling.

One thing is for certain: visiting a restaurant or hotel is not just about going somewhere to eat and drink. The thing we miss most is the experience – the buzz, the noise, the smells, the sounds, the chatter, the butterflies in the tummy moment when you walk into that fabulous restaurant, that sexy bar or that chic hotel lobby. That experience is what defines how successful we are as owners, operators and brands.

Visiting a restaurant or hotel is not just going somewhere to eat and drink. The thing we miss most is the experience

We will embrace all that is thrown at us when it comes to legislation and guidance from governing bodies, but now is the time to reimagine the experiences that set us apart and makes us way better than the competition.

It is a life beyond the buffet. Let us create the bespoke ‘table banquet' – a personal buffet selection on your very own table. We can bring a sense of place, provenance and comfort to a fabulous, curated à la carte menu. Breakfast will be a glorious experience beyond the buffet.

Consider how we bring the restaurant experience to the hotel bedroom – this is much more than room service. It's a huge opportunity for all hotels. The menu, the ordering, the arrival, the attention to detail when it comes to the presentation. There might be a table on wheels, complete with linen; dishes paired with wines, craft beers, spirits or cocktails; a pudding designed to be shared; there might even be a playlist to help set the mood; clearing that happens at the press of a button.

How do we celebrate the Chelsea Flower Show, that special calendar event we missed this year? Bring on the Chelsea Flower Show-inspired afternoon tea. Imagine the floral arrangements, table decorations, stunning tea stands with blossom-themed cakes, strawberries and cream, Champagne spritzes, jugs of Pimm's – even a flower-themed tea menu. The opportunities are huge: this isn't just doing afternoon tea, this is about creating an experience around something we have missed and setting ourselves above the rest.

Bars that do bottled classic or signature cocktails – could they be ordered in-room, or bought to take away or even delivered? Click and collect feasting boxes, the chef dinner experience for that special meal with family or close friends. Film nights matched with themed supper and drink experiences. Remember that city break you couldn't take during lockdown? Well, join us for a themed dinner menu that takes us to Barcelona, Istanbul or Venice: the food, the drinks, a soundtrack that transports you across the globe.

Now is the time to reimagine our F&B, to create personal, social experiences. Now is the time for those great ideas, great operators, great marketing, great individuals to step up to the challenge and to remember it is not just about getting our guests to come back into our establishments, but it is to get them to talk about their experiences to their friends and families, for them to book again and again.

These dark times shall pass. We are indeed social animals, so now is the time to repurpose. More than ever before guests and customers want more than something to eat and drink; we crave emotional human experiences and that's only the start. We are looking forward to these challenging but exciting times ahead.

Robbie Bargh is founder of the Gorgeous Group

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