HOTEL F&B OPERATIONS is one element in the industry hardest hit by the COVID-19 pandemic. As a result, hotels all over the world have changed their catering options to allow for drive-through, curbside pick-up and take-out and delivery, according to global consulting firm HVS.
A survey by F&B marketing agency Hunter found 54 percent of Americans now do more cooking than previously, while 35 percent said they enjoy it more, according to an article by Court Williams, chief executive officer of HVS Executive Search based in New York. If this trend continues, Williams said, it could have major repercussions for the dining-out industry.
“Many hotels will replace restaurants with pre-packaged, grab-and-go meals and deliveries from third-party restaurants as their main forms of foodservice,” he wrote. “Restaurants, bars and lounges are likely to reopen with limited capacity to ensure social distancing, but will have to be certain of getting enough diners to make it worth their while to do so. Once that happens, they’ll have to redraw their floor plans to ensure a minimum of 6 feet between tables.
Williams highlighted eight new methods leaders in the industry are doing during the pandemic.
Contactless food delivery options – This enables customers to avoid in-person contact and offers greater convenience, less travel time to get to a venue, and the ability to support the local economy. This is effectively resulting in a transition from ‘dining in’ to ‘dining out’. A close option to this is socially distanced service in which servers typically wear masks and/or face shields. Many use paddle-type objects to place the food on the table from a greater distance.
Sale of gift cards and certificates – Hotel F&B divisions have begun offering gift cards and certificates for purchase, which customers can buy in advance of their next visit. These are accompanied by a special promotional offer or an attractive discount.
Repurposing operations – The chef-driven, fine-dining restaurants are now aiming to deliver the same type of pleasurable experience in customers’ homes with critical attention paid to hygiene and safety, packaging and customer-centric online ordering.
Promoting ‘at home’ dining experiences – Hotel F&B brands are offering ‘at home’ experiences that include delivering alcohol, including hand-made cocktails, and food platters to customers’ homes.
Alternative cuisine options – Plant-based meat substitutes, vegan cuisine and local produce also are rising in popularity, and there’s no shortage of funding options for food tech and alternative protein start-ups. Reports said that coronavirus makes people rethink their reliance on animal-based protein.
Digital menus and self-service – Digital ordering from web-based menus or iPads, to reduce the contact between servers and diners, is the new norm. Payments are contactless and restaurant cashiers are protected from customer contact by Plexiglass shields. Technology enabled self-service and robotics, such as the automatic Sally the salad maker, have already entered the sector.
“The hospitality industry will have to rethink every aspect of hotel F&B operations, from floor layouts to menu offerings, while also taking environmental impact and corporate culture into account. Hotels will have to reconfigure their kitchen layouts to create more space between workstations,” Williams wrote.
In 2018, procurement and supply chain management services provider Avendra predicted F&B revenues would continue to increase, leading hotels to add more F&B square footage to new builds and remodeled properties.