Do You Do Kosher? A Niche Piece of Business
By Bruce Seigel General Manager, The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe | November 09, 2014
Lubicom Marketing & Consulting estimates that there are over 5 million consumers who observe kosher dietary law in the United States and values this growing kosher market at $12.5 billion. This audience is celebrating birthdays, anniversaries, weddings, special holidays, meeting and conventions, and more importantly, they are willing to spend in order to ensure an authentic and memorable kosher culinary experience. For instance, the average bar/bat mitzvah can cost between $35,000 to $70,000 and some can cost thousands more while a kosher wedding can cost a minimum $250 per person. These specialized gatherings are an excellent incremental revenue driver and profit generator for value dates and, therefore, it is advantageous for luxury and upscale hoteliers to examine how they can attract and grow this niche kosher market.
The intricate dietary, preparation and rabbinical needs required to create an authentic kosher event can make hotels reluctant to accept the incremental business. Often, when a kosher inquiry comes into a sales office, hotels will decline the lead or recommend an outside caterer. Not surprisingly, many of these leads are not converted or more concerning, the caterer selected does not represent the hotel's brand standard. As a result, many affluent kosher observant families' are seeking venues that offer seamless service with emphasis on fine kosher cuisine and luxury experiences. Additionally, with the improving economy these families want to create unique and memorable events that stand out from other celebrations and are looking to upscale locations to accommodate their distinct requests. This further reaffirms why hotels should reconsider their approach and recognize the kosher consumer is a growing affluent market segment and that kosher events present an opportunity for resorts to fill need dates and generate incremental revenue.
Many catering leaders who are currently offering kosher events agree. "Kosher events are good for business, if properly confirmed" comments Jason Kwintner, director of catering for JW Marriott Essex House New York. "I have been coordinating specialized kosher events at the hotel since 2012 and for several years prior to that under different management. On average we book about ten kosher events per year and are seeking more opportunities to accommodate this niche segment because they are a good revenue source over need and shoulder dates."
In order to attract this complex market, it is important to understand kosher and the unique requirements necessary for kosher preparation for the respecting client.
Kosher is the observance of a dietary law, which is deeply rooted in religious rituals that date back to ancient times. For some, kosher laws are observed year-round and govern when and what foods can be eaten. Kosher law also extends to non-food products such as utensils, ovens, plates, pots, pans and dishwashers.
Traditionally, to accommodate the unique needs of the kosher client, hotels would provide service and the venue, but event planners and families would have to outsource the complex details required for authentic kosher preparations to third party caterers. This practice is problematic because often when a third party caterer is involved, food is prepared in an offsite kosher kitchen and delivered to the event where it must be reheated onsite which immediately reduces the quality level. This strategy not only reduces revenue for the hotel but diminishes the hotels brand by creating a disconnect in service and quality for the guest. For instance, if there is a mid-event dietary request, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to accommodate when the kosher kitchen is located offsite.
Providing authentic kosher supervision, as provided by the Orthodox Union (OU), to complement the hotels brand standard can be a challenge in many ways. In order for hotels to accommodate this growing affluent clientele, they need to follow strict kosher dietary law which requires all food to be sourced from vendors who abide by kosher practices including the separation of meat and dairy. Onsite preparation requires a thorough cleansing of the kitchen under rabbinical supervision, which includes the ovens, countertops and dishwashers and keeping separate dishes and flatware.
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