Viewpoint: the business of F&B – innovate or die

17 August 2018 by
Viewpoint: the business of F&B – innovate or die

The casual dining and bar sector has taken great leaps in innovation, but hotel restaurants tend to lean towards the traditional. In order to capture the younger market, something has got to change, says Peter Fulton

Millennials. It's all anyone ever talks about, right? Haven't we heard enough about them already? Apparently not. Millennials are the phenomena no consumer-facing business can ignore, but the luxury hotel industry has done its best to keep its head in the sand.

The demand for authentic, local and sustainable food experiences among this generation has reached fever pitch. High street restaurants and bars capitalised on this trend from the outset, and they have thrived. Hotel restaurants, in general, have not.

When guests asked at a hotel reception where the best places to dine are, we were falling over ourselves to point them out the front door, map in hand, towards the newest restaurant down the road. And while the high street modernised, our restaurants kept their long, bloated menus, bright lights and elevator music. The result? Empty seats. The challenge? Turning hotel restaurants into a destination by giving our guests an experience.

It's asking ourselves realistically how many millennials would consider dining in our hotels. Does the answer include the words "formal", "stuffy" and "expensive"? If so, can we blame them? We are still serving the same breakfast we did 20 years ago, while around us the craving for healthy, natural products has exploded.

We are reinventing our breakfast offering across the network, to ensure our menus are in touch with what is happening on the high street. Buffets are being renewed. Gluten-free, bio, free range and lactose-free are all included and prominent.

Another challenge for hotels is the demand for local experiences, such as the craft beer craze in London. Everywhere you turn there is another trendy bar offering authentic and local craft beers you won't get anywhere else. With 64% more breweries in 2017 than there was five years ago, the demand is fierce. Our response to this? Brewing our own beer for the Andaz Liverpool Street hotel, the Lady A IPA. No more empty seats and a lot more empty glasses. Our very own AI barmaid, Lady Abercorn, can give you the low-down on the best beer to have with your food along with a history of the hotel and secret offers on food and drink.

These innovations keep us in the ring, but one thing is clear. There will always be more we can do - more that the industry needs to do to level the playing field. Millennials are here to stay. Their brothers and sisters close behind, pushing the boundaries even more. Authentic, local and sustainable food experiences are the topic of their conversation. It also needs to be the topic of ours. If we do not absolutely nail our strategy for impressing them, we fail. If we are willing to be bold, creative and up for challenging the status quo, then the fight is far from over.

Ultimately, there has never been a more fascinating time to be in the hotel industry. The disruption is energising. The challenge? Innovate or die.

Peter Fulton is group president of Europe, Africa, Middle East and South-West Asia, Hyatt Hotels

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