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Restructuring F&B product design in city hotels

With city hotels facing a tough competition from standalone restaurants, it is high time to think whether there is a requirement for hotels to revisit their F&B product design. Kathryn B K speaks to a few F&B consultants and hotel operators to know how they are looking at this issue and their suggestions to tackle them.

Monday, April 10, 2017, 15:45 Hrs  [IST]

The days are gone when luxury hotels alone are able to satiate people’s taste buds with an array of specialty F&B offerings. Unlike a decade ago, today’s new age traveller is willing to explore different cuisines which also include local offerings in the F&B segment. It is an accepted fact that mainstream hotels are losing customers to standalone restaurants on the hi-streets and premium shopping areas in the cities, with standalone restaurants offering the same standard that a 5-star hotel offers and at an affordable rate. Global and local independent restaurant chains are fast conquering territories and their growing demand has already posed a threat to the mainstream hotels. And this compels one to raise a question as to what should be a perfect F&B design in a city hotel in today’s time.

WHAT SHOULD BE An ideal F&B product design IN a city hotel?
Positioning a hotel F&B outlet as a standalone restaurant is important and can be one of the ideal F&B designs apt for a city hotel. Marketing and promoting hotel restaurants along with the hotel property will help rake in lot of revenues in the F&B front for a hotel.

Sunil Khanna, Principal Consultant & Partner, Hotelconsult Orient explains, “An all day dining restaurant with a number of interesting pods besides a holding bar and wine cellar at the entrance can make for an ideal F&B design. Ideally the wine cellar should be shared with another F&B outlet. The pods should be used for laying the breakfast/ brunch buffet and should be interior features by the night. The restaurant should take care of the breakfast, lunch, high tea, beverages & snacks during the day and bar service in the evening followed by dinner ensuring high sales volume. Pods need to be placed on one side so as to be shut off when not required and may not be the focal point apart from the dinner time. In case hotel is next to a business district, the bar could include a grab & go station.”

Foodrool, bringing food at your doorstep
Food delivery is a huge market and hotels have started realising how it can help them to generate additional revenue. Online food delivery companies help hotels to tap clients who would love to order from their favourite restaurant or hotel at the comfort of their home.

“When we first started approaching five-star hotels, they were reluctant to partner with us. They couldn’t digest the fact that five-star hotels will deliver food. But we got a positive response from few hotels and we started delivering food for them. Now as we are growing, it is getting easier to partner with these hotels and some of the hotels have approached themselves to tie up with us,” says Tanmay Garg, Co-Founder, Foodrool.

Currently Foodrool has partnerships with Vivanta by Taj - Khan Market, Crowne Plaza - Rohini, JaypeeSiddharth - Rajender Nagar, PiccadilyHotel - Janakpuri and Radisson BluPlaza – Mahipalpur to name a few. The company plans to move to different cities and explore new markets starting from Mumbai and then to Bengaluru.

Social media plays a significant role in the F&B sector especially in today’s time. There are various apps and online reviews which gives out information about the F&B options with images and prices. With these updates, one can be aware about the offerings of hotel outlets in comparison to standalone restaurants. Hotels can do the necessary changes required with a little R&D with the help of social media to cope with the challenge from standalone restaurants.

H A Mishra, Chairman & MD, Foodesign Hospitality Systems Pvt Ltd is of the opinion that authenticity & innovation in F&B product design and ambience which gives guest a superior dining experience, with best quality and sufficient quantity of F&B products in proportion to the prices charged and value for money pricing of product with best service standards are the mantras to success. These factors will create complete foundation for the F&B product design in a city hotel.

R&D goes a long way in shaping the foundation of any project. Chef Ramesh B Javvaji, Certified Culinary Educator, IFCA, Director of Culinary Studies, Academy of Pastry Arts, Bangalore also believes that a well researched and reviewed product with a keen eye on exemplary quality including the taste, flavour, aroma, presentation will make for a perfect F&B product design in a hotel.

As it is observed, hotel restaurants are not overcrowded with services and so the space and expenditure spent on a restaurant in a hotel can be curtailed. Instead the hotels must be spending more on the kitchen areas which consists of large equipment and other services. Ram Vittal Rao, Director, Vital Concept Design Pvt. Ltd. points out that a healthy balance of space and good spends on the equipment are necessary rather than spending too much on the restaurant spaces.

Adapting the changed F&B market landscape
To reform or bring change to the orthodox ways of F&B market in a hotel outlet, hotels need to study the new F&B market and adapt to it. Change is the only constant thing in the world and the one who adapts to changes will only sustain.

Majority of city hotels have realised that F&B has major scope of generating revenues. Therefore hotels have started adapting to changes in F&B market and started positioning themselves as superior option for food dining by offering authentic, new and trendy cuisines of food options.

Menus at hotel restaurants should not just be tailor-made or restricted to suit the guests staying at the hotel but also the local community. Supreet Roy, F&B Manager, Hyatt Regency Gurgaon suggests that hotels need to understand the clientele and their liking, their choices and their taste. Hotels must understand the product and offer it in such a way to the customer that is likely to the people of the particular place. And then it will be adopted by the people easily.

Standalone restaurants are quick to grasp the changed F&B market and bring in the desired change in the product. Sudhir Pai, Executive Chef, Holiday Inn Mumbai International Airport says that hotels have to follow the same approach and constantly be related to the market needs and bring in change rapidly.

Since hotels have understood that the F&B business has largely moved outside the hotels, they have reduced the number of F&B outlets. It is rare to find a hotel today with more than one specialty restaurant. Some city hotels have already started undergoing changes. Khanna says, “Major change in hotels is in the banqueting area where the hotels have now opted for display kitchens, well equipped bars & innovative food display to adapt to the changed F&B market landscape.”

Surjan Singh Jolly, Director F&B, JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar says that the team at JW Marriott Mumbai Sahar is consistently taking feedback from guests, which helps the hotel foresee guest demands and preferences. This helps the in-house restaurants offer specialty menus, a wider spread of food, live stations, one-on-one interaction with the chefs, a lively ambiance with music and interactive kitchens. The culinary team at the hotel including the operations and kitchen team, undertake rigorous research in local and global trends.

Winning loloyaltalty customers
Nowadays customers are quite demanding and price as well as quality conscious. It is up to the hotel restaurants and standalone restaurants to reckon differently, be innovative, think out of the box to be able to sustain and excel in the F&B business.

Since hotels cannot match the footfalls of malls or high streets, they need to have powerful loyalty programs to attract as well as retain customers. Hotel outlets should offer F&B options which are not easily available in standalone restaurants. Khanna proposes that hotel restaurants can offer hygienic juice bars, salad buffets, sandwich bars, dessert buffets, food cooked in wood fired ovens, duck ovens or rotisseries, baked dim sums, high quality teppanyaki, robatayaki, sushi bars which are not actually available at standalone restaurants.

Maintaining consistency of retaining the authenticity of cuisines, standards of products offered and service, to keep up with market trends and understand the needs of the guest they cater to are of utmost prominence to win back customers. Aggressive promotions, rebranding and launching of new menu can bring back customers but to make them coming back, it is important for the hotel restaurant to be consistent in the standards of product and services, says Mishra.

Indigo Restaurant, Mumbai

It is rightly said that first impression can be a lasting one. If a customer is satisfied and delighted at the first experience, the same customer turns out to be a loyalty for a hotel outlet or standalone restaurant. Roy agrees saying that it is very important to give the best service at the first time to craft more success and to win back customers.

Winning back customers can be a gruelling task. Changing the avatar of F&B space to attract more customers is not enough. “We need to put ourselves in the customer’s shoes and see as to why we would want to come back to the hotel outlets whilst standalone restaurants,” says Chef Javvaji. Ambience, service, elegance and brand equity combined with service synergies of excellence will win customers over and over, provided we keep an eye on variety without really robbing the customers of authenticity and standardisation.

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