F&B: Newer experiences, newer trends

At BW HOTELIER’s latest webBlast series, The GM Show, F&B Play Has Been Big: Emerging Opportunities, Challenges and Trends, hospitality industry experts discussed what future has in store for the Food & Beverage segment

There is no getting away from the fact that food is a universal truth, a necessity. Hunger is now a 24x7 phenomenon, especially given Gen Z, the millennials and their methods. They binge eat and not that the earlier generations are any different, just that they have taken to the trends like fish to water. If dining out was restricted over the last two years, home deliveries from cloud kitchens, restaurants and hotels were the order of the times with the food experience and variety up to it. And now this food delivered at home and experience is par for the course and is not going away, lockdown or no lockdown. The challenge in our view is to have a balance and get them back to our fine dining restaurants. That pleasure has hardly any parallels.

In another episode of BW HOTELIER’s webBLAST series titled F&B Play Has Been Big: Emerging Opportunities, Challenges and Trends, a group of distinguished panellists from the hospitality industry united to discuss the subject. Industry stalwarts who voiced their opinions in the discussion included Jaideep Anand, VP & GM, The Leela Gandhinagar & Mahatma Mandir CC & Exhibition Centre; Kunal Chauhan, GM, JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar; Suraj Kumar Jha, GM, Crowne Plaza Ahmedabad City Centre; Rajesh Chakraborty, Cluster GM, Vivanta by Taj Aurangabad; Gorav Arora, GM, Novotel Mumbai Juhu Beach; Anshul Sethi, General Manager & Brand Master Chef (JLHL), Fortune Park Lake City, Thane and Ranju Alex, Market Vice President – West India, Marriott International who was also the moderator of the show. 

The show began with the host Bhuvanesh Khanna putting up the first question to the moderator, Ranju Alex on the challenges the industry which has F&B as perhaps the strongest business and experienced pillar face. To this, Alex replied, “The one challenge, always there though not visible to us now with the emerging world, is the coming up of several and more standalone establishments and restaurants. These are doing a great job in elevating the F&B experience in different cities. These are the biggest challenge for five star hotels or hotels which house restaurants. Their ambience, their quality and delivery can match any five star hotel today and lot give us a run for our money.” 

On being asked if cloud kitchens are a challenge or an opportunity as they seem to have mastered their business model to an art form, be it delivery efficiency, timings, portions, variety, quality or rates, Anshul Sethi said, “Two years back, no hotel would even consider cloud kitchen but the pandemic has changed loads including business trends. Earlier, people would go out for a celebration but with the pandemic and related safety norms, they prefer ordering online. Else go out if they do in smaller groups. We need to look into this market segment closely.”

Veteran hotelier Jaideep Anand when questioned that should five star hotels and their restaurants take fine dining experience to its customer said, “I have huge worries about food not moving from the counter to the table. Three things happen. One, aesthetically no matter how you transport, it loses appeal. Two, the moment it gets out of the safety net of a hotel, there are gaps which can always happen in transportation, human touch and delivery. Third, food deteriorates naturally so while some carry well but some lose crispiness or freshness when served from the counter. We need to choose as to which food will stay well, carry well and presented well. So, I champion for restaurants and eating in the restaurants.” 

Countering Anand’s take was Kunal Chauhan who felt that the five stars needed to up their game. “For some time more, people will be looking at hosting guests at their homes so there is an untapped segment out there and we need to seriously look at it. I feel there is a market like for a Louis Philippe and a Louis Vuitton and we need to get to people’s houses to deliver the quality that we are known for.”

When questioned that unless corporate travel begins, the entitled employee-customer is not going to binge so who will then fill in for them, how and when, Suraj Kumar Jha felt that they needed to learn to steal the business. “I think F&B has become essential for a hotel’s positioning in every city. In today’s time, it is a way to connect. However, I don’t think corporate travel has dried up and it has been there. There are a few projects closer to my hotel so we keep getting corporate guests. And if these corporates stay at the hotel, the F&B gets its fair share of either in-room dining or restaurants. Corporate meetings are returning to the hotels too,” he shared.

Sharing his views on if referral programmes work or they can be dovetailed with loyalty programmes, Rajesh Chakraborty said, “Referral processes and networks have always engaged guests and ambassadors and all associates at workplace. This referral network is likely to be higher than any individual or chain hotel with limited captive database. Each one of our satisfied guests or engaged associates are in a better position to activate referral network due to the multiple touchpoints at the hotel and get firsthand access to the network resources in the referral system. So it is an active way to develop business at any hotel.”

Talking about whether food be delivered direct or via food delivery majors without losing out on the experience, Gorav Arora said, “I think direct delivery is the key for the premium space we are working in. You can’t portray a brand to the extent how you can personally do it. Your person going to a guest’s home vis-à-vis a food aggregator’s person. Delivering 30 boxes of brunch through a food aggregator is not possible. They can deliver a box but then the emotional connect is missing.”

The show culminated with Bhuvanesh Khanna, CEO, BW Communities, thanking the esteemed panellists for sharing their thoughts and views on the subject and informing about the next GM Show at 5 pm on February 10 on How do we Maximise Revenues in Times of Lower Occupancies?


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