Is there F&B life for Australian hotels beyond the breakfast buffet?

As a new breed of Australian hotels emerge, the spotlight is increasingly turning on what food and beverage (F&B) outlets work in the hotel environment.

Does a hotel need a celebrity chef to make an outlet work? Does service and product attitude require a radical re-think? Is there more to F&B operations than the ubiquitous breakfast buffet, or should hotels move away from F&B to concentrate on rooms? These are some of the questions Hook Communications principal Peter Hook put to JLL Hotels and Hospitality’s Ross Beardsell, who concluded that yes, F&B can still make a very positive contribution to the hotel experience and bottom line.

“Food and beverage is here to stay,” Mr Beardsell confidently stated. “It comes back to design. It comes back to presenting food and beverage as an alternative dining arrangement that looks as though it’s not part of a hotel.”

While F&B in Australian hotels has traditionally consisted of a “three meal restaurant experience” including a buffet breakfast and sit-down lunch and dinner menus, Mr Beardsell said that F&B in the 21st century is all about setting the scene and creating an image.

“It’s looking at creating a food and beverage environment that sits apart from the hotel and allows the hotel to offer a unique food and beverage experience,” he said.

Hotels should not only consider guest dining, but also F&B options for conferences and events. According to Mr Beardsell, there has been a long-held feeling that food for conferences and events is simply “bulk consumer food”, whereas guests now expect menus to be bespoke. In his opinion, achieving a bespoke menu can be as simple as looking local.

“It’s about working within regions, looking for produce and wines from those areas and balancing those menus to show a customer that there’s some original flare. That gives a great connection with international conferencing or even local conferencing, but more importantly, it allows chefs in the food and beverage team to put their stamp on the products,” he said.

Hiring celebrity chefs appears to be a current trend in hotel F&B; however, this is not essential to the success of a hotel’s dining and catering. Mr Beardsell said there are a number of creative ways to draw attention to your hotel’s menu.

“Outsourcing is one way to look at business, and there’s also celebrity chefs, but it’s looking at what style of hotel it is. If it’s a CBD hotel, or if it’s a luxury resort, there might be an opportunity for a celebrity chef. However, it’s balancing the needs of the particular hotel to deliver the ultimate guest experience. It might be more of a case of having chefs with a name designing the menus so that customers or consumers can see that there’s a well known chef who’s been involved in the design, but not necessarily in delivering the menu,” Mr Beardsell suggested.

While it’s important for new hotels to consider their F&B options, it is equally important for existing hotels to rethink their approach to dining. Mr Beardsell said that this is a process of engaging with the operator and owner to work out the best fit for the business.

“It’s reviewing what pedestrian flows are, reviewing what the traffic is. There’s a whole series of moving pieces to ultimately arrive at what is the best fit. There’s also return on investment which is about understanding what the competitor analysis is of that restaurant and what the guest profile is within the hotel to ensure that you’re offering that guest the best experience and, more importantly, the experience that is going to increase the profitability of that hotel,” he said.

Click here to watch the full interview with Ross Beardsell.

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