Transforming the F&B Department in F&F
March 4, 2015 5:10am
By Larry Mogelonsky, MBA, P. Eng. (www.lma.ca)
In the good old days of hospitality, food and beverage was part of the core. Management treated the department with the lofty respect it deserved, not only in differentiating the property, but also because of the profits it delivered. The iconic hotel dining room was an important meeting place in the community it served, often considered the best table in town.
Times have changed. Food is clearly important, as witnessed by a myriad of great chefs and restaurant brands associated with and located within hotels. But the drink side of the equation has taken a heavy blow. Alcoholic beverages aren't being consumed in the same portions as they were 20 or 30 years ago, especially when it comes to dining receptions for dining. And so, to pick up the slack, let me propose a departure from F&B to F&F, that being: food and fitness.
Just take one look at any episode of the TV series "Mad Men." The sixties, it appears, were fuelled by Canadian Club. Fine dining meant traveling to a hotel restaurant, where multiple vodka martinis or three fingers of scotch were de rigueur. Interestingly, wine was not a major player in the beverage mix.
It doesn't take a genius to recognize that today's era of responsibility has taken a toll on alcoholic consumption. You just cannot compare the beverage revenue from a two-martini lunch to a bottle of San Pellegrino. Rare too are dinners with multiple rounds of cocktails or aperitifs before dinner, a bottle of wine (or two) during dinner, followed by liqueurs.
Call it the perfect storm: increased penalties for drinking and driving (serious charges and heightened monitoring), legal consequences for the hotel provider (leading to potential lawsuits) and a movement towards healthier lifestyle choices, one less inclined towards alcoholic consumption given the calorie count there entailed.
In business terms, the change wasn't overnight. F&B managers watched their cover yields drop as alcoholic beverage consumption dried up, but because this was such a gradual trend, no alarm bells rang. While many hotels have bolstered their wine lists, added new martini and other creative concoctions, alcoholic revenues still aren't anywhere near the dollars per customer levels attained a generation ago.
While alcoholic beverage consumption has been in decline, the fitness movement has taken hold. It started with a few exercise bikes in the basement and sporadic TV coverage of beach-bound meatheads, but grew quickly to full-featured gyms with enough equipment to fill a small ballroom, personal trainers, yoga, pilates, group classes, marathons, triathlons, daily regimens outlined on a slew of websites, exercise videos, organic grocers and nutritional displays everywhere.
During this same period, the concept of a spa has also been gelling. An increased focus on health and wellness brought the spa into mainstream hotels. It was not just luxury resorts that had a lock on the wellbeing of guests. Any hotel that has sought luxury status is more or less compelled to build a spa somewhere on property.
With the concept of spas now commonplace, it would appear that the expectation for many hotels is undergoing a paradigm shift. People want their hotels to provide physical, mental and spiritual rejuvenation. To this end, should we look at merging these two departments - F&B and Spa - and call it Food and Fitness (F&F)?
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