True To Your DNA: The importance of consistency when embracing emerging trends
By Troy Clarke Food & Beverage Director, Royal Sonesta Hotel Boston | October 30, 2011
It's an exciting time to be working in food and beverage. There are many trends that vary from food trucks, sourcing local products and providing an extreme dining experience with molecular chemistry. With all this excitement and opportunity to wow and lure new consumers into your outlets, it's important to step back and understand the DNA of your outlets on an individual basis. Trying to be all things to all people is a quick way to blur lines and lose quality and consistency of your outlet. For example, if you don't have a nuclear chemist on your payroll then perhaps molecular chemistry is not the right fit, or if you are in a remote location, then the 100 mile rule can't and shouldn't apply. What is of utmost importance is to check the emerging trends against the DNA of your restaurant. If it's not a match, don't try and fit a square peg into a round hole, and certainly don't worry about what others are doing. Instead have a firm understanding of your DNA, customer expectations and from there develop and standby the concept that will work with the philosophy for your restaurant.
Ocean Scallops & Bacon
The literal meaning of DNA is the combination of features that make something what it is. For industry professionals, this entails having a clearly defined concept and service style, consumer profile, understanding what their expectations are, meeting those expectations by providing a consistent price point, experience, and food style. Once these factors are defined, they must be kept top of mind and not written down and put in a binder and forgotten. Because when emerging trends arise, you must remember the aforementioned before making changes, enhancements or running promotions. If you stray from who you are, then the consumer doesn't know what to expect and may not come back as a result. When contemplating adopting industry trends, you need to consider if it will make your job easier, how will you incorporate it into your overall marketing strategy and what will it do for the guest experience. Once these items are taken into consideration, it will be easier for your team to promote and introduce such trends that might not yet be understood or even accepted by the general public.
Another exhilarating aspect of the industry is that there are some skilled chefs out there catalyzing creative ideas so that there are always new trends underway. In my opinion, one of the finest trends evolving over the next few years is the importance of developing deeper relationships with farmers. This is important for many reasons. For one, customers are now more conscious of knowing where there food came from, how it gets to the plate and how their menu choice may affect the environment. And maybe, more importantly, by developing a connection with local farmers and buying organic and/or locally grown products and produce, you are supporting your community agriculture. The thirst for knowledge around food and beverage continues to grow creating a much smarter and savvy consumer. This will challenge operators to be ever more creative and push the barriers with new ideas. At our restaurant and outlets we have been working closely with both local farmers and local businesses to create menu items that support our local community.
In addition to listing local ingredients, we are beginning to incorporate educational components into our programming at the restaurant. We are offering a culinary weekend where guests have the opportunity to not only dine on some of the best of New England's local product but also to visit the farms and participate in discussions about the importance of buying local and organic. Another example of an educational component that we are utilizing is classical cocktail classes. At class, customers will have the opportunity to learn that the spices we are using are from less than one mile away and they are walking away with having learned how to add an extra special touch to cocktails to amaze their friends, but also feeling good about having supported a local business and hopefully choosing to support that business in the future.
Since we've developed our DNA to be a refined restaurant that boasts local ingredients native to our region we try to let that shine through by keeping our menus simple as less is most certainly more. Our restaurant menus are 100% local and 100% organic, but yet we also offer a unique allergy free menu for our guests who have allergies ranging from gluten to nut allergies. While this philosophy works for our restaurant, keeping the DNA consistent across all outlets is not necessarily the answer. For instance, we can't transplant the restaurant experience to the banquet hall because there are other priorities like efficiency, cost, production, volume etc. The one factor that can and should be applied across all outlets is the fact that the quality of your food is transparent. It doesn't matter if it's IRD or catering that is serving the food, consumers still want and expect the freshest ingredients.
Your philosophy and the DNA of your restaurant (or outlets) should be understood and accepted by all that work in the department. Do you know who your brand ambassadors are? It's not you, it's not the customer; it's your frontline staff. Whether you realize it or not, they are the ones who need to live, breathe and exude the DNA of your restaurant. Reviewing your hiring process and proper training is essential to finding the people who will understand and compliment the DNA of your restaurant. On the restaurant level we have created a stage for every position. This stage program has details specific to each position that allows potential employees to experience the restaurant, and for us to see if the candidate can perform at the level we discussed during the interview process. It also gives the potential candidate the opportunity to understand the DNA of the environment to make the decision as to whether it's the right environment for them to succeed. For example, we are striving to enhance the art of bartending so for the current openings we have for bartenders we ask them to do the following; blind free pouring tests of four pours and a jigger pour.
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