Sam-Erik Ruttmann – Hospitality Tomorrow: How can hotels embrace the current dining trends in the hospitality indystry?

 

For years, I’ve been fortunate to work for some of the most respected names in the industry, leading everything from food & beverage to rooms operations, hotel management, hotel development brand management and more. With this blog series Hospitality  Tomorrow, I‘ll write about various topics about the way people travel, make their decision on staying in hotels or choose restaurants when they travel for business, or on their well-earned holiday. I will also address the growing trends and challenges in the industry and how operators and developers can stand out to make future-proof hospitality solutions.

 

Whether you’re interested in hospitality, or so passionate about hotels that you made a decision that maybe changed your life and sent you into this crazy world of hospitality, I hope you’ll learn something new.

 

 

We all want to eat well, travel well and live well. The big challenge for the hospitality industry now is to find the right balance that will satisfy a customers’ preferences, provide them with different experiences, but still allow us to harmonize all these activities.

 

Living well can mean many things, and it can also mean our personal wellbeing supporting causes larger than us. Over the years, there has been a paradigm shift in how hospitality adapts to the changes around us. I believe hospitality is the change agent of the world and addresses the burning issues effecting our planet, such as caring for the environment, being sensitive to our climate, and promoting a circular economy to save our mother earth.

 

In the total travel experience food and beverage offerings are where some of the most memorable experiences are created.

Eating offers us a hedonistic pleasure. It is an intensely sensory experience and most importantly is one of the most multisensory activities we engage in multiple time a day.

It is also where the hotels and restaurants have the potential to show case what they stand for.

 

Food and Beverage: Yesterday

There was a time not long ago when customers staying in resort hotels expected nightly themed buffets. In all-inclusive hotels, it was common (and still is in some destinations) that you could indulge one evening with an Italian buffet, the next evening with a Chinese buffet, and finally a Caribbean buffet the next.

 

I remember vividly my first holiday trip as teenager flying on a charter trip to the Grand Canary Islands. One of the ¨highlights¨ was to join a possujuhlat, or a pork feast event staged in a medival castle. The menu consisted of all you can eat charcoal grilled porkchops paired with a free flow of sangria. Needless to say, I did not feel very well after that dinner. Over the years, my taste for meals has changed considerably.

 

On the downside, these buffets are considered by many to be wasteful because of all the leftover food. In order to not run out of food, the kitchen needs to cook for a bit more than anticipated diners so there is enough for everyone. Of course, smart operators will cook certain dishes to order, but it is still nonetheless a challenge to avoid waste.

 

Food and Beverage: Today

I believe these grand buffets are possibly a thing of the past, driven by consumers’ increased focus on their wellbeing. People are trying to eat healthier and are demanding transparency in the food they are eating. As a result, they are in search for hotels that offer diverse restaurants with authentic, healthy food options. This trend has led to the emergence of wellness hotels, places that focus on individual wellbeing and healing. The Global Wellness Institute reported that the wellness industry is now worth $4.2 trillion with a projected growth of 4.10% during 2021-2026 Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) as reported by imarc group.

 

Meanwhile at home during the pandemic and lockdown period, food deliveries of various cuisines became increasingly popular. Instagram became the world largest takeaway menu with restaurants posting digital images of their popular dishes to entice people to order their meals.  People now had more time to enjoy daily meals with their family as they worked from home instead of having a coffee on the run or a quick dinner late at the office. When people ventured to hotels for their staycations, nothing changed as food was ordered online for delivery to the hotel – a pleasant change from overpriced room service.

Even wellness-oriented travelers don’t necessarily expect to sign up for intensive fitness programs or go on a green juice diet to radically transform their bodies while traveling. Hotels have adapted to this to serve healthier menus, aka Spa Cuisine. Main course offerings range from poached fish to steamed turkey breast and accompanied with light sauces. Some hotels offer their regional cuisine such as delicious Thai food with a healthy twist.

 

In addition, there is a global trend towards plant-based lifestyles. Chefs are responding to the consumer demands for elegant and delicious plant-based fare with an emphasis on local ingredients and seasonal flavors.

 

This is at odds with what conventionally happens in the hospitality industry. In traditional culinary schools, you are taught that the more oil, butter, cream, and salt that is added means greater flavors. However, there are several chefs committed to plant-based fare, such as Matthew Kenney who is based in Venice, California. He is a chef who was classically trained and had to re-learn preparation and cooking techniques with a new commitment to plant-based fare. Check out this interview with Celine Vadam (link), one of the co-founders Hospitality Think Tank with Studio Puisto. Let me know what you think.

 

Food and Beverage: Tomorrow

With all of this in context, how can hotels embrace and take advantage of these trends to drive demand?

 

  • Support a sustainable cause that you believe in and create project which engages your guest and the entire team of the hotel.
  • Take a fresh look at your restaurant offerings and offer an interesting variety that is sustainable.
  • Check contiously what the diners comment on your food offerings, and more importantly check was there something left on the plate when the guest finished their meal.
  • Connect with the local community of farmers to supply the hotel with organic products.
  • Use producers that share and respect your values, and sustainability is one the key producer selection criteria. Before starting to work together meet them in person by visiting their production facility area.
  • Elevate the vegan offering with unprocessed plant based healthy food deliciously prepared and presented.
  • Arrange for your chefs to get professional training in vegan cooking.
  • As an operator you are transparent what sustainability means to you. This can be your commitment for local products and  not use anything outside the natural growth season.
  • Use video in social media, and email newsletter to tell the world that what you do matters.

 

 

Every destination has something unique to offer. Travelers, especially those in the millennial generation, are interested in what the destination offers that is different from someplace else.

These unique and authentic experiences can be built upon street vibes, local ingredients and culinary traditions, as well as history and culture. In addition, travelers are also concerned on the impact to the environment and that chefs are using locally sourced products.

 

In my recent travel, I stayed a week in a mountain destination in Southern Europe, and it was one the most memorable experiences I have had in a long time. While walking in the mountain, I could feel the strong scent of local herbs when I crushed the dry leaves between my fingers. I indulged in fresh succulent figs and juicy peaches in season from the nearby orchard and enjoyed authentic local dishes in the nearby village.

 

One of the absolute highlights was joining a beekeeper feeding the bees with honey. He is  focusing on natural beekeeping and sustainable practices that are in balance with nature. Both the beekeeper and myself did not wear any protective gear – we did not have to. I had some hesitation but followed his suggestion anyway and was not stung. Watch the video to find out why I was not stung.

 

The beekeepers trace and verify their honey are of highest quality and free of pollutants. All the batches are collected separately according to seasons and blossoms. The visit to the beehives was one of most memorable experiences of my trip and a life changing experience.

Here is a clip from my experience from the beehive.

 

So what has that to with the hospitality of tomorrow?

 

Travelers are seeking opportunities to better understand and connect to our environment, a trend that is only going to grow as the world becomes more fragile and imperiled.

I believe in a general sense, travel is the search for the authentic. What is more authentic than enjoying the seasonally harvested organic honey from a local hotel beehive.

Even a guest not previously concerned with sustainability may be intrigued enough by a hotel hive to dip a finger into some hyperlocal honey and consider dipping a toe into bee conservation, asking, “ ‘What can I do?

 

What has been one of your most memorable experiences?

 

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