Recently I was invited to participate in the CIA/Food Arts Magazine “2013 Flavor Summit.” The summit was developed and designed to address and collaborate on the challenges and opportunities that are relevant and universal to all high volume/high quality hospitality organizations.
The list of attendees included F&B leaders from Wyndham, Marriott, Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons, and Waldorf Astoria, full service restaurant groups, casinos, and cruise lines.
Well-known chef and restaurateur Charlie Palmer was the opening presenter. Chef Palmer spoke about his journey and transition into hotels and the operating philosophies that helped him succeed. Chef Palmer’s first hotel 12 years ago was the Healdsburg Hotel in northern Sonoma. At the Healdsburg he learned through trial and error about the hotel business and eventually added properties and planned future expansion. Chef Palmer spoke a lot about doing what you can to make the most of a property’s inherent limitations.
Chef Palmer does not try to be something to everyone and focuses on boutique properties. He is currently working on a property in Las Vegas that will be a non-gaming boutique hotel. One of the things I found the most interesting happened at his Mystic Hotel in San Francisco; due to less than favorable elevator service, traditional room service was eliminated and a restaurant to-go delivery system implemented. I am told the menu is not big; it has a burger, wings, a great sandwich, and a few signature items. Many other attendees spoke of the same scenario at their hotels.
Something that was consistent throughout the summit and part of everyone’s presentations (including Charlie Palmer, Susan Feininger of Border Grill fame, Chef John Fose and countless other presenters) is you can’t do it alone. They stress that it is the ability to recognize talents in staff who are both strong technically as well as energetic and positive and possess natural hospitality skills as a crucial component to their success. Taking care of your people by providing opportunities for professional development, some level of job security through positive organizational growth and eye towards the future was also at the top of the list.
Here is a summation of concepts, operating philosophies and strategies that were discussed and examined throughout the summit.
•You can’t be everything to everyone; you have to have a product that is consistent, of high quality, different, a value in its peer group and then work it.
•The age of the core customer is shifting; an evolution must take place to address this.
No organization wants to be thought of as their father’s favorite hotel or restaurant.
•No Jackets or Ties Required
Many 4 and 5 star hotel white table cloth restaurants are being reinvented as more casual dining venues.
•Millennials have Brand Loyalty, But Have No Tolerance for a Negative Experience
They will switch brands and move to where the next hot spot is very quickly. There are over 70 million of them, preparing for their lifestyle should be one of your priorities.
•Living Room Bars, Few Tables, Lots of Conversation Areas
Gastro Pubs, Chef-Tenders that bring an element of culinary excitement to the bar. Not a Chef working behind a bar, but a high bird who has additional culinary knowledge and passion for food, mixology and service.
•Food Trucks in the Hotel Lobbies are Gaining Popularity
•No Rules Menus, My Food Cooked My Way, When I Want It
•Global Street Food Cuisine Is Endless and Exciting
•Nutritionally Dense and Pure Foods are Not an Option
•Butter and Fat are OK. We Were Served Pork Butter at One Meal
As long as it antibiotic additive free, high quality and there are lighter alternatives.