Hotel F&B Observer Blog

Hotel food and beverage professionals share experience, skills and commentary. These hotelier blogs reflect a variety of unique career perspectives and real-life workplace stories, observations and opinions.

Once We Have An Image, Is It Ever Possible to Shake It?

Last week I came across an article in the Associated Press titled McDonald’s Campaigns Against Its Junk Food Image. In this article the author talks about an event that McDonald’s held in the Tribeca district of New York City where they took every day McDonald’s menu items to create more upscale meals. The goal of this was for the company to prove that food that is served quickly can also be good food. The article mentions that the company wanted to shake its image of just serving cheap, unhealthy food. Of course this blog can go into so many different directions with this but, I’d prefer to stick to the idea of shaking your image.

Over the years McDonald’s has made efforts to offer healthier options. In their defense, consumers by far still prefer the Big Mac over healthier options offered on the (Mc) menu. In general, what drives consumers to quick service operations are fast, cheap and filling meals. Heathier options don’t typically offer these attributes. In most quick service operations a meal-sized salad by itself will be the same price as a hamburger, fries and drink.

The Associated Press article mentioned a Kung Pao Chicken dish using Chicken McNuggets. When you consider that most chicken nuggets are a combination of a chicken/soy slurry, Dimethylpolysiloxane (silicone anti-foaming agent used in producing cosmetics and Silly Putty) and TBHQ (a form of butane/lighter fluid used to prevent the fats & oils from becoming rancid and to extend shelf life), I don’t really think McDonald’s is doing much in the way of proving that their products can be made into good wholesome food. A number of quick serve items are the result of science lab testing versus test kitchen creations.

I don’t want this blog to be about bashing McDonald’s. Chef Dan Coudreaut and I are both 1995 CIA grads. He has done some great things since being hired aboard at McDonald’s. The issue at hand is this idea of trying to shake your image.

McDonald’s found it success by creating basic food that tastes good at an approachable price point. What makes this company so successful is its consistency. A Big Mac in St. Petersburg, Russia will taste the same as that same menu item in St. Petersburg, Florida. Another sad but true fact is that McDonald’s has found success on the backs of millions of people who make a trip to the local chain a weekly dining event due to their cheap prices. Why do you think Taco Bell has found so much success? Rest assured that it’s not due to the authenticity of their menu selections.

An organization like McDonald’s would never be able to shake its image unless they majorly revamped their product offerings. While this entire quick service segment has seen stagnant growth recently, a complete revamp of the menu would probably be the end of this American institution. I can’t even remember the last time I had a soda or Big Mac. However, my advice for McDonald’s would be to stop being concerned about the junk food image. Continue to offer healthier alternatives to those who want them and don’t forget about the formula that made you a household name.

Until Next Time…


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The Wonderful World of The U.S. Supply Chain

Paul Greenberg posted an article recently in the New York Times title “Why Are We Importing Our Own Fish?” The article is a global look at how native species of seafood are being exported while the United States is importing most of its seafood. One of the points of this article discusses the export of Wild Alaskan Salmon to Asia. Because labor in a number of Asian countries is so cheap, we see this Salmon being harvested in the states, fabricated in Asian countries and then sold back to U.S. wholesale companies. In Florida there are a number of Asian vegetable growers who produce a wide variety of products. Those products are harvested and shipped to major hubs like New York and Boston. Those produce items are then sold back to Florida wholesalers and retailers. In some cases these products end up being sent back to the same city they were harvested from. Read more of this >>


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2014 CIA-Food Art Flavor Summit

The Summit is an amazing event sponsored through a partnership between Food Arts magazine and The Culinary Institute of America-Greystone. The Summit brings together chefs, hospitality leaders and other related experts from across all segments of the industry. It is designed as a fast paced series of demonstrations, discussions, tastings, and collaborative team exercises that provoke and spark dialogue on innovative approaches and in some cases solutions to many of the challenges we face as an industry. This year’s conference was so relevant and thought provoking that I couldn’t help but to leave questioning my current business model and operating standards.

The core of the Summit and some of my takeaways were that as an industry we are constantly shifting our operating standards to meet ever-changing guest expectations and preferences. We shift priorities to keep pace with the rising cost of goods, heated sustainability issues, labor costs and benefits, and countless other challenges. We have become to some degree an industry with a one-size-fits-all mentality; we are so determined to meet every expectation of every guest at every price point that we have often lost our identity as a brand. Read more of this >>


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What Happened To Customer Service?

Through a company I’m involved with, we submitted a proposal for a significant statewide bid. This 25 page submission included hours of legwork. To ensure the proposal would arrive in the state capital on time for the bid openings we sent the package priority overnight with a guaranteed delivery time. The United States Postal Service got the time right but missed the guaranteed day by 24 hours. The result of which will be, at minimum, thousands of dollars in lost sales. For that mistake the U.S.P.S. offered us our postage back and a meager apology.

I’m sure we’ve all had similar experiences. From the view of a procurement agent examples such as these really make you wonder what happened to Customer Service.

Remember a time when you could speak to a human being? How about being able to work with someone that truly knew what they were talking about? Have you visited a hardware store lately? Today’s business is about automating, streamlining, downsizing and doing more with less. What service is someone providing when it takes the customer 15 minutes to speak to a living, breathing human being? Somewhere along the way the idea of truly servicing the customer seemed to fall through the cracks. Where resolving product concerns/questions would once take a few minutes, the amount of time doubles when you have to work with automated systems, minimally-skilled employees and/or off-shore phone support.

Some organizations still realize what sets them apart from others is true customer service. This doesn’t mean having a cute slogan or colorful banner promoting customer service. This is about getting back to the basics. I would gladly spend a few dollars more to work with organizations that support their products, understand their products, put themselves in the shoes of the customers they support and just take the time to care for the success of their customers. In the long run you will actually see that there is a return on investment to your organization for supporting organizations such as these.

The idea of customer service is how I approach my job as a procurement agent. I have worked alongside of buyers who have cut corners, had questionable ethics or have been yellers and screamers with the organizations they purchased from. In some cases they would achieve short term success. My point of view is the idea of customer service. I understand that success of my organization depends on long term relationships with our suppliers. Positive relationships ensure long term success for all parties in the supply chain.

In the example above maybe the U.S.P.S. could have just offered to contact the state to advise the bid department that they made the mistake. It wouldn’t have required much effort on their part and it would have produced goodwill with our company.

Until Next Time…..


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Is In-Room Dining Next On The Chopping Block?

I’ve been working in hotels since the 1980’s so I have seen a number of changes. Prior to that and, into the last few years, In-Room Dining has served a great need. For a price you could dine in the confines of your own room (a real perk for the single business traveler or the family who just wants to unwind for the night). As times have changed, so have the needs of the hotel guests our operations serve.

Do you remember a time when every hotel had a fine dining restaurant? That fine dining restaurant was like our appendix at one time; it did have a purpose. However, as we moved into the more price conscious, instant gratification society we see today, our hotel guest no longer desired the 3 hour gourmet meal experience. Eventually those culinary anchors started to disappear. They were replaced with more casual and approachable dining options. Read more of this >>


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Food Trends for 2014

One of the great things about this time of year, besides sleigh bells, presents and gluttony are the multitude of people that come out of the woodworks to make predications on what trends we should expect for the coming year. It is always fun to look at these predictions once we get established in the new year. Here are a couple I’ve seen so far. Read more of this >>


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A Twist On Jam

During one of our recent Localecopia Meet & Greets (www.localecopia.org ) I struck up a great conversation with one of our members. After tasting some of their products it really hit me how much more is out there than “grape jelly.” Michael Castania is co-owner, along with his wife Pascale, of Pascale’s, LLC – The Delray Beach Jam Company (http://www.mangohouse.net/home.html ), a company who specializes in unique small batch, hand-crafted jams, jellies and sauces. Sometimes I hesitate posting blogs like this because they may tend to come off as product promotions. This is not the case. In my capacity I truly like to understand the people and products they produce. Read more of this >>


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Industry Experts

While it does have its place, I am not a fan of Facebook. Personally, I think Facebook has more negative attributes than positive ones. However, I do see the value of professional networking websites such as LinkedIn and others. They provide a solid means of networking with your peers.

On a consistent basis I will seek out new connections. Along the way I will encounter some interesting finds. Never before did I realize just how many people listed at least part of their occupation as a consultant or expert. Sometimes when you look at their body of work it just leaves you scratching your head. You come across people with a year or two of actual work experience under their belt being paid to guide others. Pretty scary proposition if you ask me. This holds true in the area of procurement. Read more of this >>


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