Systemic Success

Menu management may benefit from putting your head in a cloud.

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Rick Beran

John Q. Hammons Hotels & Resorts (JQH) has a particularly broad-ranging portfolio that includes 35 hotels in 16 states, with a number of different top hotel brands represented. Recently, VP of F&B Rick Beran began a portfolio-wide overhaul of JQH’s menus, which he hopes to roll out completely by the middle of this year. We chatted with Beran to learn how an online corporate resource system can improve consistency of menus, sourcing, and cost control across properties, while still allowing for local customization—as well as keep properties accountable for updating menus.

Hotel F&B: What was the impetus to start this program, and when was the last time JQH updated its banquet menus for the entire portfolio?

Beran: Currently the menus are updated at the hotel level for the JQH portfolio, which spans 35 hotels and more than one million square feet of event space. We’re moving to a web-based program so all the banquet menus have a similar look and feel. Now we can email the menus. We will be able to better manage when hotels complete the menu-updating task. Additionally, as we spec certain sustainable menu items, the hotels will be able to go to a web-based cloud platform and make changes in a timely and efficient manner.

Hotel F&B: Why is it important to streamline banquet menus across the portfolio, from a financial/purchasing standpoint?

Beran: When you consolidate the quantity of various items to purchase, you are able to drive consistency and volume for select items, and thus manage a better purchasing program.

Hotel F&B: This seems to be the opposite of accommodating the growing demand for customized event menus. What cost controls are in place to allow each property free reign to customize and create unique menus, yet stay within their target food cost?

Beran: Each property has an option to select 25 or 30% indigenous products. We use a general purchasing organization we have set up with ourselves and our mass distributors.

Hotel F&B: Explain the function of the JQH F&B council with chefs and F&B directors. How many are on it, and how are they chosen? What does the council contribute to the new banquet menu program?

Beran: I have four chefs who serve with various brands: Renaissance, Embassy Suites, Marriott, and a handful of others. I selected chefs others would look up to. Any new products are tested by these chefs first. Then we have two F&B directors, “AGMs” we call them. They serve on the board and do a number of projects. We vet any test models or new products with those hotels. It’s nice to get their feedback and the team’s feedback and some thoughts from guests. It’s a real live test before we throw something out and see if it sticks.

Hotel F&B: How long did it take to get all JQH properties onboard with the new banquet program?

Beran: We’re in the process of moving everyone to this program. I hope by mid-2016 we’ll be fully functioning.

JQH’s online banquet menu program is under development, to be rolled out soon.

Hotel F&B: How much money can a property lose by not having smart menu engineering in B&C?

Beran: There are so many variables. It starts with the product—he best value at the price point—how the culinary team prepares it, and how much waste is involved. Ultimately, it’s not so much about saving money as it is about offering the guests something more and different than what our competition does.

Hotel F&B: What has been the biggest surprise or change to JQH’s B&C menus since the new program was put into place?

Beran: We have not had any surprises that say we’re moving in the wrong direction.

Hotel F&B: What are the biggest challenges to implementing a new B&C menu program like this across the entire portfolio?

Beran: We work with a number of different flags, so it has a lot of moving parts. While I would like it to go more quickly, it’s about making sure we don’t lose any of the hotels in the process. I’ll be getting together with all of the hotels to make sure we’re on the same page.

Jenny Miller is a New York-based F&B and travel writer.