Posts in Hospitality News
The expectations of the modern consumer
 
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“It is getting Harder and harder to please the modern consumer. With fast, Cheap and reliable a standard commodity how do you stand out?”


We attended Caffe Culture and The Independent Hotel this week and both were packed with insight. At Caffe Culture we had the excitement of the SCA UK Latte Art Championships and more coffee than we knew what to do with, I haven’t slept since!

At these recent shows some themes have been constant, such as sustainability, the rise of veganism and the nod to the healthy life. However, with these two shows the demand of the modern consumer and the call for an experience stood out.

The rise of the experience

The focus on experience is a game changer. Restaurants and hotels can’t just supply their primary function of great food or an amazing room, they have to have an edge. This is due to the rise of demand from the consumer. They want more bang for their buck.

Specifically looking at hotels, the development of Airbnb hasn’t helped their case. A hotel has become more of a luxury commodity than ever before. The Airbnb model is amazing – it allows the guest to have an experience around the primary function of a warm bed to sleep in. It means you can stay in a homely property and gives you an opportunity to meet the owners and share life stories. It gives you something extra.

I’m not on commission I promise, other booking websites are available!

Using tech to manage the consumer’s expectations

There is definitely a balance that needs to be found. Looking at engagement, tech is a great way to optimise this.

1 in 10 diners post their meals to social media. Using this information and engaging people over social media by tagging and acknowledging their visit makes them feel special and valued. It is important not to over step the line. Guests are happy for relevant engagement, but if it’s irrelevant it becomes annoying and leaves a bad taste.

Using technology you can build a profile of a guest so when they return you know more about them. You’ll know it they are allergic to nuts or prefer to be sat in the window. Acting on this information creates a unique experience and again makes the guest feel valued. This allows every guest to be treated as a regular, which is what they all want.

The stigma around the use of technology

There is still a stigma attached to the use of technology. 33% are still uncomfortable with privacy invasion regarding data collection. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal has acknowledged that whilst tech is important to the unique experience, they have kept it firmly in the background. Stuck to pencil and paper chits rather than tablets for front of house staff, all EPOS systems are hidden away and they only interact once a guest has interacted with them to allow them to feel comfortable.

So it seems technology may be the way to tackle the modern consumer and boost the all-important experience. Just use it appropriately.

 
Does Michelin matter anymore?
 
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"The Michelin Guide has been around for an astonishing 118 years. But, has it run its course?"


The Michelin Guide returns later today, but it’s not been the best year for the guide. With chefs giving stars back and politely requesting inspectors don’t enter their premises, it begs the question: does Michelin matter for chefs or consumers anymore?

Before we get to that rather big question, here’s a quick run through of what’s been going on.

 

A recent guide to the Guide

Last September, Le Suquet restaurant in southern France was the first restaurant in history to have itself removed from the Michelin Guide. It had held an incredible three Michelin stars for 18 years, but chef Sebastien Bras said enough is enough, and requested to be removed. He found the pressure of retaining stars was too great and held him and his team back from serving the food they really wanted to.

More recently, The Checkers in Montgomery, Powys, also handed back their one star, which it’s held since 2011. Their reasoning was to “put family first” after “years juggling the kids with working split shifts and late hours”.

And then there’s Marco Pierre White – the original rock star chef who continues to own the news. The enigmatic chef told an Asian lifestyle website “I don’t need Michelin and they don’t need me”. He’s stated that the Michelin Guide does not have permission to visit and inspect his new Singapore restaurant, The English House.

 

Why are chefs turning their backs?

So, it’s been a tumultuous year for the Guide, which for so long has been considered the pinnacle of restaurant reviews worldwide. It’s famed for high standards, incredible expectations and brutal honesty. And therein lies the problem.

Getting a star is still an exciting achievement for any restaurant and head chef. But retaining it becomes as big a part of the job as pleasing customers. An inspection can happen at any time, meaning all-year round, a restaurant has to tick the many boxes that Michelin is looking out for.

Not knowing when a restaurant could be reviewed makes trying out something new an even more terrifying ordeal. What if the inspectors arrive on the day a new menu is introduced, and it’s just not quite right? The star’s gone.

So, it’s best to just stick with what you do.

 

Does the Guide take everything into account?

The judging criteria used by inspectors is a mystery to most. In a recent tweet, Michelin said that it’s the food on the plate that’s judged, which is why street food vendors have an equal chance of winning a star.

In a way, this is great news. The food is what matters most and great food deserves praise, wherever it’s from and however it’s served. But, speak to any chef and you can be sure that it’s not all they care about. Food is experiential, more so than ever. The décor, the feel, the atmosphere, the restaurant as a whole, they all play into the dining experience, not just the food.

If the Guide is purely critiquing the food, is that really enough? Because food today is much more than just what’s on the plate, however pretty the plate may be.

 

The cost of creativity

Chefs are inherently creative individuals. They want to cook and create the perfect menu that represents them, their tastes and their culture. Holding back a creative person is like locking a cheetah in a cage. It doesn’t want to be there, it’s not going to be happy, and the moment it gets out, you know it’s going to run.

The constant pressure of inspection causes even longer hours and even greater expectations in an industry that’s already full of long hours and great expectations. And these hours and expectations often occur at the detriment of profit, with margins often said to be lower at Michelin-focussed restaurants.

But, is that why chefs and consumers are turning their backs on the Guide? Or is it because the world of reviews has changed?

 

Reviews beyond the Guide

The Michelin Guide has been around for an astonishing 118 years. But today, there’s a world of reviews beyond the guide.

Bloggers, journalists, TV critics and review aggregator websites such as TripAdvisor have changed the face of reviewing. The Guide sits at the top, but for the average customer, why would they listen to a Guide that’s criteria for success is a secret, when they could just see genuine peer-reviews?

Restaurant A has a star, but the last 20 people that visited had a dreadful experience. Meanwhile, Restaurant B is star-less, but has page after page of flawless reviews. Where would you eat tomorrow?

We live in a society where everyone is now a critic, and everyone has a platform to share comments, pictures and reviews. This happens every day, not just once a year, making the Guide essentially behind the times as soon as it’s released.

 

Who is the Guide really for?

This begs the question, who is the Guide really for? Is it for chefs or for consumers?

Consumers undoubtedly want to enjoy the best cuisine and cooking possible and the idea of eating at a Michelin-starred restaurant still has a great appeal. It has pulling power, but it’s no longer the only factor a consumer looks at.

For chefs, winning a star is still one of the highest culinary accolades out there. It can change a career in a heartbeat. But, as we’ve seen, retaining a star is often a step too far for many creative chefs. It limits them and stifles creativity; two things that a lot of chefs won’t enjoy very much.

At the end of the day, the Michelin Guide isn’t perfect. But, it still matters a great deal to chefs and consumers alike. As Adam Coghlan, Eater London Editor, puts it: “Like driving a car on a treadmill, Michelin appear to be moving forward all the time, but really, they’re standing still. The thing is — they’re still driving the car.

One thing’s for sure. We’ll still be watching to see the updated list, because today it still is the pinnacle. The question is, how long will that last? And will we see any restaurants ask for their star to be removed in the same week the Guide’s released?

 
LACA 2018: Our Highlights
 
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"Plant-based food hasn’t just arrived in foodservice, it’s here to stay."


Health, sustainability and plant-based products were the unmissable trends we saw at this year’s LACA Main Event in Birmingham. 

Often we see foodservice trail behind consumer product development. But, it would seem that brands right across foodservice are now doing all they can to create products to meet growing demand from savvier customers, particularly teenagers and secondary students. 

 Health

As school meal standards continue to improve, reduced salt and sugar was a key focus for Kraft Heinz, who has launched healthier versions of its beans and tomato ketchup into schools. 

On their stand they had a blind taste test pitting an own-label ketchup against their regular and reduced product. We passed the test with flying colours, proving once and for all that William Murray knows its ketchup.

Sustainability

The global push for greener products and less environmentally-damaging supply chains continues. Quorn’s campaign encouraging kids to eat meals that are as good for them as they are for the planet aligns with the growing number of young people adopting alternative diets in order to reduce their environmental impact. 

 Elsewhere, Young’s was promoting not one but three sustainable fishing accreditations across their products, proving that sustainability and responsible sourcing continue to drive schools’ purchasing choices. 

Plant-based

2018 really has been the year when the vegan diet went mainstream. At LACA you couldn’t look to a stand without seeing the ‘V’ word leading a list of products or featuring as a hero, something that just wouldn’t have been the case just a few years ago. 

Vegan pastries from Délifrance, a new vegan-range from Kerrymaid and an entire stand from the UK’s first entirely vegan football club, the Forest Green Rovers, were just the tip of the iceberg. 

Plant-based food hasn’t just arrived in foodservice, it’s here to stay.

 
Coal drops year: A template for the future of retail?
 
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"The new shopping district is the biggest development in central London for more than 150 years."


Morty & Bob’s is the latest Instafamous restaurant to join Coal Drops Yard when it opens this autumn. It’s part of an already starry line-up of eateries, including Barrafina, Casa Pastor and The Drop, all of which are set to open in the new King’s Cross development on 26th October 2018.

The new shopping district is the biggest development in central London for more than 150 years. It forms part of the King’s Cross regeneration plan which, once complete, will be home to 50 new buildings, 1,900 new homes, 20 new streets, 10 public parks and squares and 26 acres of open space. It’s so beefy it’s even got its own postcode.

With constant news headlines about the death of the high street, is Coal Drops just what the UK retail scene needs? With the aim of becoming a neighbourhood amid an era of generic townscapes, it’s a scheme that – if it proves a success – could provide a template for urban retail for decades to come.

Here’s why.

BESPOKE ARCHITECTURE

The mix of sweeping modern curves, concrete and historic architecture designed by hip Heatherwick studio and realised by developer Argent is taking its final shape and is nearly 75% leased. The location of every retail unit has been cleverly determined. Michelin-starred French chef Alain Ducasse’s café and shop, Le Chocolat, is near the entrance, so the smell of warm chocolate wafts along the canal, drawing people in viscerally.

IT’S BARELY BRANDED

Even the hoardings around the development and its head office are discreetly labelled. It’s the antithesis to Westfield’s near-generic blueprints, which feature mostly indoor shopping spaces.

IT RECALIBRATES WHAT GROUP RETAILING MEANS

As well as homes, offices and education (Central Saint Martins is just next door in Granary Square), its village-like layout has plenty of opportunities for outdoor events based around music and culture. Public areas and wow factor brand concept spaces act as a conduit for engaging with young trendsetters and tastemakers that can’t necessarily shop at this stage, but are future spenders.

THERE’S A SHREWD MIX OF HIGH AND LOW END RETAILERS

Like a petri dish for the evolving retail sector, Coal Drops packs in a wide variety of shops, from global names like Samsung and Paul Smith, through to artisanal brands like eyewear label Cubitts, eco-luxe accessories company Lost Property London and cult homewares designer Tom Dixon. Concept-led stores offer everything from pencils and candles up to lighting and furniture. After all, shoppers rarely stick to one price point nowadays.

AND IT MAKES THINGS MORE ACCESSIBLE FOR SMALLER RETAILERS, TOO…

Several collectives in Lower Stable Street, which comprises smaller units, will be given over to smaller retailers and collectives, many of which will undertake events like product-making workshops with local schools. There’s also specific space for service-based tenants in the grooming and beauty world such as barbershops, beauty salons and a tattoo joint.

FINANCIAL POTENTIAL IS CONSIDERABLE

With the halo effect of the commercial-institutional heavyweights set to open, Coal Drops could be registering a potential spending power of approximately £1.6bn per year – if it can deliver the concept authentically. With only three months to go, we don’t have to wait long to see if a retail scheme 160 years in the making will succeed where other high streets have failed.