Experts share insights into what’s trending in hotel F&B this year, from Instagrammable moments to popular cuisine to restaurant tech.
GLOBAL REPORT—Newer concepts in hotel food and beverage such as grab-and-go options and Instagrammable moments are expected to get attention in 2019, but there’s still room for a traditional sit-down dining experience, sources said.
The way in which guests want to receive meals is a bit different for each guest, and hotels look to cater to as many of those options as possible.
Greg Griffie, SVP of food and beverage at Davidson Hotels & Resorts, said via email that “authentic, well-concepted restaurants that create Instagrammable experiences are more relevant than ever.”
Meanwhile, he said, “generic grab-and-go markets without identities and a specific story or point of view will see diminished sales.”
Teddy Bouroncle, director of F&B at the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, said his hotel sees a lot of demand for grab-and-go meal options.
“Our guests want food selections that are quick so they can enjoy more time outside at the beach and around the pool,” he said via email. “Based on this trend, we have recently introduced grab-and-go healthy breakfast bowls, such as the overnight chia bowl and the acai bowl at our Gelato & Co. outlet.”
Creating an experience through F&B will continue to be important in 2019, and how it’s done depends on the hotel, the location and the target audience.
Griffie said guests are looking for local and non-local experiences that are authentic, and they’re willing to spend more for that experience.
“Coffee and morning restaurants and cafes need to become more craft in not only their design but in their coffee and food options,” he said.
Bouroncle said guests at the Aruba Marriott want high-quality meals made with fresh, local ingredients.
“It is important to create a guest experience where they leave the restaurant with a unique story to tell their friends and family, and take with them fond memories of their visit,” he said. “Although our restaurants are located within our hotel, we want to be able to create the same wonderful experience for our guests that they would find in any successful freestanding restaurant environment.”
Scott Gingerich, SVP of restaurants and bars at Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants, said guests want background and storytelling when dining in a hotel restaurant. They want to learn the origin of the ingredients in their meal, know about the farm where it came from and about the farmer, he said.
The hotel industry is trying to innovate every part of the hotel experience, which includes restaurants. As such, technology is becoming increasingly important in hotel F&B.
Mario Spirto, director of F&B at The Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, said via email that his hotel is “continuously evolving and innovating our restaurant experience.”
“Technology gives us the opportunity to be more visual when showcasing menu items and services, and it’s something we are implementing into our guest experience by using more digital screens to display menus and including more imagery for guests to select from our offerings,” he said.
Restaurants at the Ritz-Carlton, Grand Cayman, also benefit from online reservation platforms that make it easier for guests to book their dining experience from a mobile device, he said.
Bouroncle said his hotel looks to be “front-runners on the island when it comes to implementing the latest innovations.”
“At the moment, we are working on introducing a service button for guests around the beach and pool area, which they can use anytime they need immediate server assistance,” he said. “This will give our staff the opportunity to enhance the guest experience and work more efficiently.”
There’s also been a rise in off-premise delivery, through services such as Grub Hub or Uber Eats, Gingerich said. More hotels are preparing meals and having them delivered this way, catering to people who want to enjoy restaurant-quality food while sitting in front of Netflix, he said.
Hotel restaurant layouts
Some hotel restaurants are integrated with the lobby while others have more of a standalone restaurant feel. Griffie said the emerging trend is for hotel restaurants that are a mix of both.
“Guests will begin noticing more unique hotel restaurant offerings, more food hall-esque style options and fast, casual experiences built into the public areas,” he said. “Some will replace the grab-and-goes; some will allow guests to experience a variety of foods and flavors at approachable price points and without the classic server experiences.”
Rick Ekkebus, culinary director at The Landmark Mandarin Oriental in Hong Kong, said “the typical hotel lobby and hotel restaurant that ticks all the boxes will fade over time.”
“I think that smaller intimate concepts with specific offers and relatively lower investments will reign, concepts that can be adapted and changed quickly when needed,” he said via email.
Bouroncle had a differing viewpoint, saying that he thinks “lobby-integrated restaurants make the difference for hotels.”
“Here at the Aruba Marriott Resort & Stellaris Casino, we have a very inviting and interactive lobby with nightly live entertainment, where different generations can come together and find something for everyone to enjoy,” he said.
Cuisine is trending toward meals that cater to dietary restrictions, sources said.
Ekkebus said restaurants will start creating “fully-integrated menus” that accommodate people with common allergies such as gluten, peanut and lactose, to avoid giving customers with allergies “the impression they are missing out.”
Gingerich said he’s seeing a “vegetable movement,” in which a larger portion of the menu is dedicated to vegetarian options, with a focus on unique cauliflower dishes.
He added that dishes with African, Israeli and Middle-Eastern influences are also becoming popular in restaurant cuisine.
Bouroncle said he thinks Asian street food will take over the scene in 2019, “introduced through culinary pop-up events or by shifting the restaurant concept to Asian inspired street food.”
“I believe hotel restaurants will start moving away from traditional Mexican cuisine considering the increase in popularity for single dish tacos and moles to be added to new restaurant menus.”
According to Griffie, “regional Mexican cuisines, like Oaxaca, will continue to rise.”
“All of our menus feature authentic dishes from the restaurant’s cuisines that always delight our guests, which I think is key for any type of cuisine,” Spirto said. “Partnering it with fresh ingredients, innovation and creativity makes the perfect recipe for success.”