How are computers useful in hospitality?
How to become a great hospitality brand
First of all, I would like to do an elevator pitch with you. Please explain to us: What does the Rebel Agency do? Danger! We only go up to the fifth floor.
We develop, launch and support recognized, successful brands in the hospitality industry. Our basis is operational experience, a people-first approach and the will to do business sustainably.
They work for well-known hotels, restaurants and hotel chains and show them how to do it. From the concept to the menu. Why are you being called - shouldn't companies be able to do it themselves?
Everyone needs an outside perspective from time to time. We even hired an agency to take care of our rebranding. Working with experts can be useful when it comes to questioning or validating assumptions and ideas. Our customers appreciate working with us because we bring fresh thinking to teams that juggle a lot of balls. And sometimes in teams that do not have the skills we have.
Concept development, branding and marketing require specialist knowledge that is not always available in-house. We also find that a large part of our work - especially with larger customers - is aimed at aligning various stakeholders. Whereby it is often necessary to bring different departments and teams together. We love to bring ideas and people forward together with our customers.
We spend a lot of time catching up on the latest consumer and industry trends and really understanding how consumer behavior and expectations are evolving. And because we live our lives in and with companies of all sizes and types in the world, we can bring all of these invaluable insights into any project. Everyone benefits from this. Often it's 50% results and 50% strategy.
Edward Francis | Image: andydonohoephoto
You have been advising restaurants and hotels for over 5 years. What has changed during this time?
With the current Covid-19 pandemic, which is rocking the catering industry to the core, we are in unprecedented times. That is going to have consequences. It is inevitable. But there are also options that should be used.
I think what we're going to see is more of an acceleration of the shift in consumer behavior and expectations that is already taking place, rather than a fundamental shift. The biggest changes in the last five years have been sustainability and transparency. And it is no longer acceptable to be mediocre in any area of your business. People want quality and an experience, regardless of the occasion. Nothing in your restaurant or bar should just work. Everything has to be brilliant.
In addition, you need to have an honest standpoint on sustainability and not pursue the issue for profit. Consumers are simply not going to support companies that are lagging behind.
Transparency and authenticity will prevail. A company cannot carry a brand on its own. Groups like Jamie’s Italian failed, on the one hand, because the product was not good enough, and on the other, because the company expanded too quickly. But also because having a brand (or a name) above the door is not enough. People know the person is not in the kitchen. You have to have a real story.
Social media and the surge in cooking shows and celebrity chefs have sparked a boom in independent restaurants that people want to visit. They see every meal as an opportunity to brag about where they've been. So you'll go to the newest Master Chef winner's restaurant because it throws you in a good light, not because it's better than one of the many high street chains that used to stand for safety, familiarity and quality.
What challenges do hotels have at the moment?
Many hotels are in a saturated market. Often with little differentiation between them. The established brands are aggressive and driven by a real estate game. But that doesn't always bode well for the brand and the quality.
Loyalty programs have many brands. But price will become a determining factor. At least in the short and medium term. I am convinced that once we have a vaccine, we will return to normal. But the long and deep recession that lies ahead will result in hotels closing. The supply will be drastically reduced for a long time. It will be very difficult to weather the storm. Independent hotels with regional food and drinks that tell local stories will take over guests from the ailing brands. But at the same time, many hotels have the resources, space and surroundings to offer “safe havens”. But again. The product has to be good.
Do you see a new diet trend or changes in eating culture depending on the corona crisis?
That is hard to say. Most of us have had more time lately, and I know I've used that time to cook more, shop more carefully, and support small businesses and local producers. I hope that there will be a more fundamental shift towards more conscious consumer behavior.
Safety, traceability and hygiene are no longer given. They need to be incorporated into the marketing messages and the way in which the rooms are customized to comfort guests. From an operator's perspective, I think we will focus even more on efficiency, value and rationalization as operators look for cost savings. One obvious way to do this is to work with local restaurant and grocery partners, shift responsibility to them, and involve local communities in the process.
Which components do groundbreaking gastro concepts have to have?
We use the word concept wisely. Concepts are created, but then turn into restaurants and bars. “Conceptual” restaurants in the strictest sense of the word are not what consumers want in 2020. People want to feel like locals when they travel. Be part of the neighborhood they are in. So the starting point should be how a company can attract and work with locals. Be it as a partner to chefs / restaurants, local designers, artists and musicians. This is where history has to start.
When you are a hotel, you need to offer value whatever the price range you are in. And the prices have to be comparable to those in the neighborhood. It is no longer acceptable to charge £ 20 for a gin and tonic when the street bar is charging £ 10. F&B should be driven by talent, seasonality, authenticity, innovation and development. When things stay young and evolve, loyalty and repeat business are encouraged. The design should be simple and seen as the backdrop for an experience. It mustn't scream for attention. Restraint, simplicity and quality are essential.
In times of delivery services, you hear more and more about Ghost Kitchen. Could this be an opportunity for hotels and restaurants? And what do you have to pay attention to?
I wrote about this topic on my blog a few weeks ago. It is certainly a win-win relationship. Hotels are looking to expand their F&B game, and restaurants and grocery brands are looking for opportunities to expand. I think it's important to make a clear distinction between dark kitchens, which are faceless brands created for the delivery market, and those developed as add-on businesses by reputable operators, restaurants and brands. There has to be a real story behind them. But if hotels can use their space in this way to improve what is available to their guests, they will likely be able to connect with the outside world as well.
What could revive the market? What needs to be done? And how can hotels and restaurants make their contribution?
There is no silver bullet. I think it's important to stay positive and focused. Of course, it's important to keep an eye on the bigger picture and the competition, but don't let that weigh you down too much. It is a good time to take a thorough and objective look at all aspects of a business. Operators need to make sure that they really stand for something beyond making money; Take a targeted approach to your business and make your team and guests feel it. It's about making sure the marketing doesn't sell too much. I see this very often in hotels. The experience must not distract from the expectation.
Brand, marketing and operations have to work together to identify their strengths and to honestly identify the areas for improvement. But the guest must not get lost in complex internal structures and bureaucracy. We have this "trick" that we use in workshops and meetings by keeping a seat at the table free for the customer. In the end, everyone talks as if someone is actually in the room. This helps to keep an eye on the guest.
Be the best you can be. Don't lose sight of what makes your brand great, what defines your quality. Balance urgency and patience, create order. Set priorities and stick to marketing budgets as much as possible. Because there will be so much noise that companies will try to shout the loudest. And if you are not among them, you will be forgotten.
How do you develop new customer target groups? Are the old ones coming back to the hotel? Surely you have to reckon with a drop in the number of overnight stays. How do I handle this?
Yes, there will be a huge drop in room nights and probably prices as well. Hotels need to be prepared that this will be a reality for a while. Domestic tourism seems to be on the rise for many of us this summer and I think hotels are in a good position to market themselves more locally as people desperate for a change of scenery but not traveling long distances want.
I think we will see both loyalty and experimentation in the market. Guests will trust and support their favorite brands. But it's also time to try new things. But if brands are doing well on loyalty, it would be wise to redouble their efforts with existing customers.
Is climate change also showing up on the plate?
Covid-19 gave the planet the respite it needed. Mother Nature is a wonderful self-corrector. We have to include climate change in every conversation. The subject is not off the table yet. But now we really have a chance to do something positive about it. But it's hard to imagine how that will happen when the world opens up again and everything goes on as usual.
You can't market your eco credentials and then still have plastic in your restaurant. And you cannot be wasteful of resources. That hasn't changed. It used to be irresponsible and will continue to be. Here, too, it is important that you lead your company purposefully and take a real standpoint on sustainability. It has to be authentic and transparent and cannot be lip service from the marketing team.
We are a member of "1% for the planet". And many companies are now looking for a B corp registration to wash their dealings in. I look forward to a time when companies are taxed not only for their profits but also for their failures.
I think we will have a lot less business travel. But all travel should be necessary, and businesses and individuals should use offsets to counter their carbon emissions. For example, we use myclimate.org for our business trips.
Has Corona encouraged us to try new things, for example new taste nuances, or do the guests no longer want to experiment?
That depends on the market sector you are targeting. Less adventurous people withdraw into familiarity during uncertain times, while others use this as an opportunity to experiment and broaden their horizons. It all comes down to knowing the customer.
But whatever the case, nothing should be "experimental". Things should be carefully and lovingly created, tested and refined before they come to the guest. You have to do your homework because one bad meal or stay can be enough to turn away hard-won guests for a lifetime. And when that happens there will be many alternatives out there.
Did we drink enough alcohol during the lockdown? Is now the time for non-alcoholic beverages, teas, and juices?
Wine is my greatest passion, and that's why I'm not the best person to answer that. There is always time for good wine. Seriously, it's about balance and choice. We call this healthonism - the balance between health and hedonistic moments. Guests expect you to have what they want, whenever they want, and it can be many different people while staying at a hotel or dining out.
Natural ingredients, drinks from the region, taste, presentation and adaptation to the wishes of the guest are decisive. Every bar and restaurant should have something for everyone. Whether it's a Friday evening with margaritas at the bar or a cold-pressed juice for breakfast.
Digitization has gained enormous momentum. Now in the kitchen too?
Maybe? This is not my area of expertise. I think we can use the technology in all of our business areas and that can have huge operational benefits. But it must not be at the expense of the human touch and creativity. But if there are ways to deliver an authentic, high quality product to a guest that meets their expectations, at a price they are happy to pay, then that is a win-win situation for everyone.
Mr. Francis, thank you for talking to us.
Expert Summit online: Hotel & Marine
Wednesday, August 26, 2020
With international guest speakers, panel discussions and chat opportunities on topics such as networking, food & kitchen trends and food to go. Tailored to the questions of hotels and cruises.
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