The GMs Conclave panel discussion at the 35th edition of Express Food & Hospitality Expo, threw light on trends of taking in-house restaurants brands outside the premises, MICE and banquets being key drivers of revenue and strategies to retain and reach maximum customers
Followed by the inaugural ceremony, the Mumbai edition of Express Food & Hospitality Expo conducted the GMs Conclave, discussing trends, drivers and opportunities in the hospitality industry. The panel discussion was titled, `How F&B is driving Revenues in Hotels’.
The esteemed panelists included Sameer Sud, GM, The Leela Mumbai; Nicholas Dumbell, GM, Renaissance Mumbai Convention Centre Hotel & Lakeside Chalet, Mumbai; Puneet Singh, GM, Grand Hyatt; Kuldeep Bhartee, Area Manager – West, ITC Hotels & GM, ITC Maratha The Luxury collection; Amit Sharma, GM, Amanora The Fern, Pune and Ravi Khubchandani, GM, Novotel Hyderabad Airport, sharing their views on the topic.
Business drivers: Hotel rooms or F&B
Initiating the panel discussion, Singh said, “As a hotelier, the focus area for rooms and, F&B area in a hotel is same. But one has to know that rooms have limitations whereas food and beverage doesn’t. With focus on introducing F&B signature restaurants, it gives a unique experience to customers.”
Bhartee mentioned, “In case of ITC Maratha, 48 per cent of the total revenue is contributed by the F&B department. Hence, we give equal emphasis to rooms and food & beverage. ITC Hotels is one of the first luxury hotel chains in India to introduce luxury dining cuisines through its iconic brands. Therefore, we are constantly focused on upholding the unique essence of our branded cuisine offerings, which is today rated highly by food connoisseurs from all over the world.”
Talking about the Pune market, Sharma said, “Pune being an IT hub, there are lot of business travellers to the city. The food drives 75 per cent of business vis a vis rooms. For us MICE along with catering are major drivers for our business. Banquet sales itself contributes 58 per cent in revenue.”
Dumbell felt differently. He said, “Rooms will always be the money maker for hotels. But food is a big support. The way to India’s heart is through the belly. Rooms have limitations, wherein in food there is lot of scope for innovations. One can focus on F&B signature restaurants, giving unique experiences to guests.”
Sud agreed, “Two important factors for any hotel is a good room and great breakfast. Other than this, one has to constantly strengthen the brand and its offerings.” Khubchandani said, “MICE along with banquets are the major drivers for the hospitality industry. It’s not just drivers for hotels but also drivers for cities like Jaipur, Mumbai and Hyderabad. Here unlike rooms, there is a lot of opportunity for innovation. F&B can be customised and innovated as per the customer’s need.”
Touchpoint of customers with hotel services
Giving best customer service is vital for the success of the brand. To give maximum guest satisfaction, it is important to innovate and cash-on at every touch-point of the customer in a hotel stay.
Throwing light on this, Khubchandani said, “The point of interaction of the customer with hotel services in the room is limited, as customers spend more time outside the hotel which may be as a tourist or for business purposes. Food is where they gain larger influence from the hotel.”
Singh said, “Quality and authenticity of food is non negotiable. It is the quality of food that drives the business.” Sud agreed, “It’s all about how wisely you choose the ingredients and people. We develop supplier relationships, follow the processing and the sorting and procurement procedures to give quality and hygienic products. There are multiple audits that take place before procuring the goods.”
Bhartee opined, “F&B acts as a major touch point and plays an important role in defining the overall experience of a guest. The F&B offering and presentation needs to match the personality of the hotel in quality, creativity and must be locally inspired. New cuisine trends also need to be constantly developed to seek changes in food habits of consumers and match up with the current trends.”
He added, “Standardising and maintaining consistency in quality F&B offerings is also the key for business stability. Emphasis needs to be given on the source from where the ingredients are procured. Hence, sourcing of quality vendors, training and developing existing vendors, is now an important factor that needs to be taken into consideration for growth of F&B in a hotel .”
Elucidating on the strategies needed to retain customers, Khubchandani said, “Experience goes beyond ambience and food. Nowadays guests need entertainment during their stay, which may be games, fun activity or food festivals.” Sharing a latest customer engagement activity conducted in his hotel, Sharma added, “For Pune, it has to be more about experience, like we recently conducted kite flying programme on Makar Sankranti for our customers.”
Speaking on loyalty programmes, Bhartee said, “If there is one industry that depends on repeat purchases, it is the F&B industry. To stay ahead of competition, restaurants need to target high volumes. Volumes can be created by getting people to buy more per visit or by getting them to visit more often. This is where an effective loyalty programme comes in. When business is slow, many F&B outlets turn to ‘discount cards’ to quickly attract customers instead of concentrating their efforts on building their ‘loyalty programme’ . However, this eventually ends up hurting the business. I believe, if you have the backing of a strong branded cuisine, then, an effective loyalty programme can play a key role in retaining customers and create brand loyalty in the long run. ITC has stood the test of time and created well-researched dining concepts, which continue to drive brand loyalty.”
Sud pointed out, “A loyalty programme card is more like a lifestyle card which are customised for customers. Here customers can get exclusive experiences like exotic food, stay, spa rejuvenation package, which differentiate it from other programmes of our competitors.”
Social media is the latest tool used in hospitality sector to interact with customers. It has impacted the travel decision of potential customers. Unfolding the concept, Bhartee said, “Online marketing plays a vital role in this contemporary era. In the new digital age, social media marketing platform is on the rise and has become an indispensable platform for any business to create brand awareness. The great thing about social media marketing is that it can be implemented at any stage of the customer’s journey with the brand. Whether you’re attracting followers to become visitors, converting visitors into leads, closing leads into customers, or delighting customers into regular patrons, social media marketing can play its role at any given phase. The key is setting yourself apart from your competitors, which makes you more visible with guests not only within the hotel but also appeals to the target audience outside the property.” he added.