Fast Casual Craze Creates Long Lasting Memories

By Jonathan M. Raz Director of Food & Beverage, Waldorf Astoria Orlando | August 21, 2016

When it comes to dining at hotels, guests immediately consider their restaurant, bar and in-room dining options, but there is a new movement taking hold in the hospitality industry: fast casual dining. This trend presents hotels with an opportunity to engage with guests and staff while creating added value, providing guests with an abundance of dishes to explore without leaving the property. Internally, these menus encourage team members to experiment with new cuisine and showcase their culinary talents. Ultimately, fast casual dining allows guests to rediscover food as a social experience, where they interact with staff and other guests while sampling dishes rarely seen on sit-down menus. Hotels can take advantage of the fast casual trend in countless ways.

Create Authentic Experiences

Studies show that travelers are increasingly looking for localized programs and services – they want something they can’t find back at home. This is why providing guests with innovative experiences is so important, especially when it comes to food and beverage. A good meal has the power to transport a diner back in time or evoke a favorite memory. Chefs are embracing the fast casual trend because it allows them to create simple meals with classic ingredients executed to perfection, bringing guests back to – or creating – these memorable experiences in their lives. At Waldorf Astoria Orlando and Hilton Orlando Bonnet Creek we pride ourselves in creating the ultimate guest experience, especially with culinary offerings and are embracing the fast casual trend by serving ethnic "street food" on property. Drawing inspiration from across the world, dishes include Middle Eastern chicken shawarma cooked on a spit, served with authentic naan bread prepared in a traditional Tandoori oven and assembled to order, Belgian Ham and Gruyere waffle sandwiches and Neopolitan pizza with flour imported from Italy, pad-thai noodles from Thailand, and Hungarian chimney cakes.

Today’s hotel guest has a more modern global palate and experience with cuisines from various cultures, making them more apt to try ethnic dishes such as traditional street food. By offering this variety of global cuisine, we provide guests the opportunity to immerse themselves in a new culture without having to leave the hotel grounds. Leveraging food and beverage to develop authentic experiences, hotels can create a conversation surrounding food, inspiring guests to chat about where they’re from, what makes them feel most at home and what makes their culture special. With respect to the quality and integrity of the ingredients, food and beverage teams can create distinctive fast casual moments that are rich in both tradition and taste. These delectable food and beverage experiences not only make their stay more memorable, but keep guests coming back year after year, inevitably driving revenue back to the property.

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Interactive chicken shawarma station

Social Dining

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Coming up in January 2018...

Mobile Technology: Relentless Innovation

Technology has become a crucial component in attracting and retaining hotel guests, and the need to enhance a guest’s technology experience is driving a relentless pace of innovation. To meet and exceed guest expectations, 54% of hotels will spend more on technology in 2018, and mobile solutions in particular will top the list of capital investments. Many hotels are integrating mobile booking, mobile keys, mobile payments and mobile check-in into their operations. Other hotels are emphasizing the in-room experience, boosting bandwidth and upgrading flat screen TVs to more easily interface with guest mobile devices. And though not yet mainstream, there are many exciting technology developments on the near horizon. The Internet of Things (loT) is taking form in some places, and can be found in guest room control systems, voice activation systems, and in wearable sensors that can be used for access and payment options. Virtual reality headsets are available at some hotels so guests can enjoy virtual trips to exotic locations or if off-property, preview conference facilities and guest rooms. How long will it be before a hotel employs a fleet of robots for room service, or utilizes a hologram as a concierge, or installs gesture-controlled walls that feature interactive digital displays? Some hotels are already using augmented reality for translation services, or interactive wall maps, or even virtual décor. This pace of innovation is challenging property owners and brands to stay on top of the latest technology trends while still addressing current projects. The January Hotel Business Review will explore what some hotels are doing to maximize their opportunities in the mobile technology space.