This year I’m not forecasting trends in ingredients, but instead talking about some disruptors to be aware of when it comes to F&B delivery, sustainability and more.
Usually around this time every year, I write a blog about my take on food and beverage trends for the coming year, but I’m taking a break from that this year because it makes me too hungry.
Plus, I’m not entirely sure I’m qualified: Last year I predicted shakshuka would be the big menu item, and I managed to eat it exactly once. Some foodie I am!
Instead I’m going to riff off the F&B theme and talk about some bigger trends in hotel F&B service and delivery—not the food itself—that I’ve been hearing about lately, and I welcome your input to the conversation, too.
For years we’ve talked about the lean, mean margins machine of select-service, but slowly and surely, I see hoteliers turning F&B into sneaky profit centers. Big-name management companies are creating F&B-focused divisions and making F&B pay off. On the groups and events side, group business is trending back, and with that comes banquet and catering. Sales and marketing executives talk a lot about how they’re making F&B matter—and pay off—in a group sale by boosting menu profitability, focusing on expense management and flow-through and spending a lot of time on innovation around F&B.
On the leisure side, I think it’s especially exciting to see how hotels are making F&B exciting for vacationers, families and transient business travelers. Here are a couple ideas I’ve had my eye on in the leisure and transient F&B space that I anticipate we’ll hear more about this year.
1. Sustainability first
Say bye-bye to the plastic straw, if you haven’t already. 2018 represented a huge effort by global hotel companies to cut down on single-use plastics (think straws and water bottles). So here’s the thing: Sustainability is a place where F&B outlets can really show off a brand’s efforts, so expect more and more of this. What’ll be interesting to see is how hotels reconcile growing sustainability efforts with the simultaneous growth of grab-and-go food, which often relies heavily on disposable cutlery and settings.
On the ingredients side, we’ll hear more about zero-waste dining, which is the idea that everything on the plate or in the glass is edible. Instead of a plastic toothpick holding your martini olive, it’ll be a (handily compostable) rosemary stick.
2. Nobody wants to talk to you
If you want to capture ancillary F&B revenue from leisure travelers, automation will be key. A lot of people hate talking on the phone, and frankly, hate talking to most people (don’t ask me; it’s a millennial thing).
Whatever the reason, a lot of people don’t like to call roomservice, and they also don’t like chatting with breakfast room attendants, associates hosting a hotel wine reception, or even a cashier at a grab-and-go outlet. Enter automation, bots and self-service technology. The hotel industry is adopting food and beverage ordering via app and delivery via bots, and we can expect to see more of that (check out this fun take on the concept). The next wave of this trend will be self-service cocktails and coffee—think a high-end coffee bar sans barista, or a manager’s wine and cheese reception without a manager. All cashless, too, of course.
3. Prepare to compete with (or even join) food delivery services
Restaurant consultants have been talking for the last few years about the disruption of Uber Eats, Grubhub and the like. Hotels see this disruption, and some are taking steps to partner with delivery services and acknowledge the holes they fill for guests.
We’ll see how hotels manage around these services more and more. Consider it a challenge to keep your guests spending on-property by mirroring what food delivery services do best—cut out the talking-to-people part! (see No. 2 above)
A future trend to watch: I’d like to see hotel restaurants participate in meal delivery. Nothing says “we’re a real neighborhood restaurant that locals love” like seeing your restaurant pop up in Uber Eats.
4. Space matters
As I researched 2018’s hotel brand launches, I read a lot about the whole “experience” thing, and many of these new brands plan to deliver experience through activated F&B spaces. Midscale brands all want lobby coffee bars that turn into cocktail lounges, and that concept is evident along all chain scales. Making public space profitable has F&B written all over it, and it’s exciting to see how this will be executed.
Along those same lines, we’re seeing hotels with activated spaces doing things like adding seats, extending bars and launching restaurant and experience-driven bar pop-up concepts—something especially popular around the December holidays.
F&B is a lot of fun to talk about, though I know staying on top of it requires a lot of effort and resources. Let me know what trends you’re seeing. Comment below, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or find me on Twitter @HNN_Steph.
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