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.

Adaptable Alfredo

Alfredo sauce might have a reputation as the culinary equivalent of a single-note symphony, but its dimensions are only as limited as a chef’s imagination. Here are some versatile menu ideas for accenting your alfredo in the new Stouffer’s eBook: One Alfredo Sauce 15 Ways

stouffers-one-alfredo-sauce-15-ways-zfs-8218 (dragged)


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My Challenge To Chefs – Move Past “Local Washing”

The chefs surveyed by the NRA ranked “locally grown produce,” as the third hottest trend for 2016, and Freeman & Co. agrees, declared vegetables “the hero of the year.” The hospitality industry wants to continue on this path of focusing on local food production. While this sounds great the difference between the marketing and the reality of local foods being offered by foodservice operations is quite significant.

For operations that are true to form they understand that, yes, offering products from local producers does require a little more work. Local producers do not always have the same economies of scale that large scale producers have. It is not just picking up the phone to your broadline distributor and ordering. Most distributors do not work with smaller farms due to logistics, volumes, pricing and insurances. Broadline distributors are focused on order completion or fill rates. They are focused on filling the truck versus supporting the local producers (not saying there is anything wrong with this…just a different focus). A number of distributors will tell you that they have been buying locally for years. However, what they won’t tell you is that they buy locally this week then buy from another state or country when the pricing is more advantageous to go elsewhere.

A number of foodservice operations love to market their focus on local menus. When you begin to investigate these menus you soon realize that some of these operations are offering a few items that their broadline distributor just happens to be bringing in that week. I tend to term this as “Local Washing.” As we see with Green Washing, it’s more about the marketing effort versus the reality. Believe me, there are plenty of operations guilty of this.

Foodservice operations that are true to form will make the extra effort to source out products, meet their local producers, and understand what goes into producing that local product. These operations will learn about their limitations with the menu. Along the way menu planners / chefs will become very educated about the ingredients they utilize in the creation of their menus. In my mind it is also an attribute that helps separate the real chefs from those with just the title of chef.

As I say to the home consumer, understand that food does not just come from the grocery store. I now say to chefs, understand that food does not just come from the back of a delivery truck. If are going to make the claim then back it up with the effort. Move past “Local Washing”


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Food Safety – Look At The Entire Picture

Unless you have been living in a cave (….and if you do then I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with that..) you have probably seen all of the recent press related to foodborne illnesses. Food safety is what’s trending in most industry circles now.

Organizations like Chipotle, Costco and others are now increasing the scrutiny on the food products (i.e. produce) they are buying. Some of this includes microbial testing, additional food handling checkpoints and other “stop-gap” measures. While the intent of this additional scrutiny would be welcomed news to most, one must consider the entire picture.

We can add all of the protective measures we want to food to minimize the occurrence of foodborne illnesses. The additional due diligence will certainly decrease the prevalence of this. While we can mitigate it, nothing can truly prevent every occurrence of foodborne diseases. With that, there is always a cost to intense scrutiny of food.

As organizations require additional testing / auditing of the foods they procure we will begin to see a few changes. First, additional handling equals additional costs. Who do you think eventually picks up the tab for that? Second, the availability of suppliers will greatly decrease. Smaller to mid-sized operations typically don’t have the ability nor budget to provide all of the documentation / testing sought in this evolving distribution change. This Darwinist approach will eventually lead to a weeding out process of suppliers. Small companies producing incredible products will become even farther removed from the supply chain. Finally, legislation will continue to evolve to keep pace with all of the changes.

To further add to this, imported products do not always have the same rigid requirements that products produced in the United States have (just look at USDA or QCS Organics versus overseas product). U.S. producers are typically held to a much higher standard than their imported counterparts. Now they are being asked to take on an even greater burden.

In closing, the thought of taking additional steps to prevent the prevalence of foodborne disease is in the best interest of the consumer. Nobody can deny that. However, when looking at this new era of food safety, understand the impact of what this will have on you and I. Until next time…


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Seasoned Hospitality Instructors: A Dying Breed

Seasoned Hospitality Instructors: A Dying Breed
Hospitality U. would like to introduce a recent addition to the university staff – Professor John Smith, EdD.

- Professor Smith comes to us with 30 years of teaching experience. His education credentials include a Bachelor of Science in Food Management and a Master of Science in Hospitality Systems Management. His Educational Doctorate Dissertation analyzed technology systems in the foodservice industry. Dr. Smith has co-authored five hospitality articles, has been published 4 times in The Hospitality Chronicles and chaired numerous University Boards.

Pretty impressive educational background for Dr. Smith. However, did you notice what was missing from his impressive resume? Did you notice the one major thing you would expect someone instructing the future generations of hospitality managers to have? How about Real World Experience?

A couple of times I have contemplated going back to school to complete my Doctorate degree. Every school I researched had numerous faculty with very impressive educational curriculum vitae. However, trying to find institutions with professors /instructors with years of industry experience proved to be very difficult.
Universities today are focused primarily on educational background. The new wave of instructors are career students who transition over to career instructors.

While the educational component is important, wouldn’t you think it was important to learn from others who have managed employees, climbed the ranks, and have been immersed in hospitality cultures? This question is coming from someone who has 4 college degrees & 1 university certificate.

Maybe it’s me? While I realize the focus on the doctorate degree is to position yourself in some type of teaching capacity, I still find the idea of being taught by someone who has a fraction of the real world experience a lot of us do, a strange concept.

Hopefully major hospitality universities will not forget the importance of educating students from those who have been there themselves. While I understand the educational requirements placed on the hospitality schools by their overall universities, I would hope that both the universities and hospitality schools within those universities do not minimize the value of true industry experience….regardless of area of study. Hopefully for future students the idea of seasoned hospitality instructors will not be a dying breed. Until next time….


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The Power Of Purchasing Power

The Wall Street Journal had an interesting article about the fast food giant, Wendy’s. They decided to launch a new menu that included Blackberries. While it sounds simple enough, that sourcing endeavor took 3 years and involved more than 30 growers. When implemented, this will have a ripple effect on the Blackberry Market.

While operations like Wendy’s, McDonald’s, Burger King and others may not seem like operations that would have any association to a hotel food and beverage operation, in some cases the decisions they make can and do affect your bottom line.

When you consider that McDonald’s alone feeds over 1% of the world’s population on any given day (roughly 70 million people per day) you are quick to understand how decisions they make impact the economy.

Let us take an example of the Avocado. As a chef you decide to make a new menu featuring the wonderful Avocado. The following month the Avocado becomes trendy so a few fast food / fast casual operations decide to create features as well. From the time your menu rolled out you could realistically see prices for your featured product jump from $5-$20 per case over a relatively short period of time. Depending on your price point, this could break your profitability for that menu.

Some brief points to take from this discussion on The Power Of Purchasing Power are:

• Understand the basics of supply & demand
• Understand how large buyers affect the market
• Understand that the food market includes hotel, restaurants, country clubs, B & I accounts, grocery, C-stores, fast food, fast causal……starting to get the point?
• Realize that purchasing power/volumes, not the prestige or quality level of your operation, dictate pricing. The More You Buy, The More Purchasing Power You Have.
• Most importantly, do the research on the items you place on your menus

Until Next Time…


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2015 Boutique Lifestyle Leadership Symposium

The Boutique Lifestyle Lodging Association (BLLA) is hosting its 2015 Leadership Symposium at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel in Santa Monica, California, from October 21-23. The theme this year is “Boutique Inspiration… Independent Spirit… Lifestyle Leadership.”

Hotel F&B’s President and Publisher, Jeanne Bischoff, will moderate a panel discussion called “Where Does it Come From? The Demand for Local Ingredients” with Geoffrey Sagrans, President of Localecopeia–an organization that connects regional farmers with nearby foodservice operations. Sagrans is also Assistant Director of Materials Management at The Breakers Palm Beach. Additional chef panelists will be announced shortly.

Other panel discussions during the three-day symposium include: Boutique Lifestyle Executives; The Blurring of Brands; Hospitality Tech; Evolving Retail Strategies; Online Travel Agencies and Boutique Hotels; Digital Marketing, Customer-Facing Luxury Product Lines; Boutique Hotel Finance & Development Update; plus much more.

The 2015 BLLA Hospitality Awards gala will also take place during the symposium on October 22. For more information and registration details, visit: http://bit.ly/1LeSQkZ

2015 Boutique Lifestyle Leadership Symposium - Home Page | Online Registration by Cvent (dragged)


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Menu Trends: Your Own Personal Farm

47b7ce23b3127cce98548a374a0800000027108AasmTRs4ZObBuying ingredients here and there from local and regional purveyors, to work into menus, is now common practice, but have you considered arranging with a local farm to more or less be your hotel’s own farm? This type of relationship allows a hotel to blow up the old backyard garden concept to a very beneficial extreme.

Shortly before Executive Chef Adam Mali left the Mandarin Oriental in San Francisco earlier this year to become regional executive chef, Twitter, at Bon Appétit Management Company, we spoke with him about F&B at the hotel—which since has been brought under the Loews umbrella and rebranded as the Loews Regency San Francisco. Regardless the moves made by Mali and the hotel, in its ownership change, since, a key F&B partnership the Mandarin held is a good case study for looking at a bigger picture in local sourcing.

Brasserie S & P at the Mandarin had been known for using fresh local foods on menus. But sometimes a relationship with a supplier can grow beyond mere purchasing. The hotel established a partnership with a farm an hour north called Canvas Ranch, which would grow what the Mandarin wanted.

“We get to suggest things and plan crops together,” Mali told us in February. “The vegetables are some of the best I’ve ever encountered. It goes along with what we’ve been doing in terms of sourcing locally. They’re excited to do this for us. It’s a beautiful farm. It’s coming onto our restaurant and banquet menus. One of the things we do that’s a little more innovative than some is that we’re incorporating this into our banquet menus. Even if it’s a corporate function, people are excited about where the food comes from.”

This type of extreme partnership—essentially turning a local farm into a major, semi-exclusive supplier—is similar to the arrangement at the Omni Homestead in Hot Springs, Virginia, which partners with a local farm to basically be their own personal supplier, rather than just selling them a few things. The relationsihp allowed Mali at the Mandarin to do more local product in banquets, because he could get more quantity, he said.

Think of it as adding a new department to your hotel F&B: the supplier department.


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Where Are We Heading With The Egg Market?

Whether reading about it in the New York Times or discussing it with colleagues at work in passing, you have probably heard about shortages in the Egg Market.

As a quick background on this, a number of chickens have been stricken with the Avian Flu. This highly contagious influenza can kill entire flocks of chickens. Prior to this, one of the last major Avian Flu outbreaks was in China. Many of their farms had poor sanitary conditions causing the quick spread of the disease. Various strains of the influenza virus exist in birds. However, the mutated strains are the ones accounting for the bird kills. Another factor leading to the spread of the disease is the proximity of the flocks to one another. With our wonderful factory farms chickens are basically on top of one another. This allows for the efficient spread of the disease. A New York Times articled cited the killing of some 38 million infected birds.

The primary effect of this decline in supply is with liquid and processed eggs. When you consider that most manufacturers and hospitality operations use some type of liquid or powdered egg product, the impact is far reaching. Buyers are trying to source alternative product overseas. However, supplies from these supply markets take time to arrive into the states.

It is simple economics. Supplies have decreased while demand increases. Eggs are used in countless culinary applications. Add to the mix that egg product consumers are scrambling for alternatives, buyers are trying to stay ahead of the market and a little panic thrown in, we will have to see how the next few months present themselves. Since April, the wholesale liquid egg market has spiked some 300%. Market experts predict much of the same until the supplies are somewhat stabilized. Some reports I have read estimate market stabilization in upwards of 18 months.

The real irony with the story is that shell, or whole, eggs have not seen the same market spikes. Of course this will change with the supply shortages. However, shell eggs provide an alternative. Maybe now is the time to start buying those Free Range Eggs you looked at before? Consideration just needs to be given to the additional labor needs in switching to this specification.

Until Next Time…


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