In or Out: The Evolution of Dining

By Patrick Berwald Vice President of F&B, Benchmark Global Hospitality | August 26, 2018

When I was growing up, sitting down at the dinner table with the family was a standard five days a week. I knew when my father walked through the door from work, I had between the time he finished a cocktail and changed his clothes to be seated at the table. Once that composed plate of a protein, a starch and a vegetable (usually nuked) was placed in front of me, time was encapsulated. In roughly a thirty to forty-minute period of time, we all engaged in conversation of what happened today in each of our lives, what our passions were, what our motivations were and what was happening in the world. By the way, this all seemed to happen without a device in hand or in ear.

On the rare occasion we dined out, it was truly a special treat. I vividly recall the circus of activity that took place in restaurants. The choreography, the skill, the ambiance and of course the drama. Being witness to the banter between servers and cooks, the guests and their various demands and me examining every plate of food as it made its way through the dining room. I suppose this "cocktail" of experiences is what sparked a desire in me to what to pursue a career in food and beverage. Dining out left an indelible impression on me. Going to a restaurant was in fact, in itself a special occasion.

In my family, often dining out was something that occurred on a Friday or Saturday night. It was planned – we knew it was coming and we all looked forward to it. Sundays typically marked a trip to the grocery store in preparation for the week ahead. We had our favorite brand chain grocer - for us it was Ralphs®. My father made a claim they had the best meat counter and his butcher would fabricate any cut he desired. We would literally walk up and down each and every aisle making our selections.

Going to the grocery store was an adventure filled with decisions, rejection (if I didn't get what I wanted) and anticipation of staking my claim on my favorites of the haul once we returned home. Fast forward to today, we don't have time to make time consuming pilgrimages to the market or let alone the attention span to plan out a week's worth of meals. Between work, school, commitments, appointments and being stuck in traffic moving from point A to point B – our time has become far more valuable. Understanding the demand and ability to return a bit of that time arose several options to feed busy Americans.

Considering the widespread use of mobile devices and our addiction to them, restaurants began to partner with application platforms that combined their collective power of diversity. As such, Grubhub®, Seamless® and Caviar® (to name a few) were born. No surprise two of the three of these brands were New York City start-ups. These mobile apps allowed the consumer to order from a variety of cuisines, price points and even how soon they could receive their food – all from the comfort of their living room or while waiting in their car at a stop light. A multitude of dining options were available to us at the ease of a few finger point touches. Better yet, nobody was tasked with doing the dishes! Eateries also loved this as they just grew a whole new segment of their "to go" business and in some cases reduced their need to carry the weight of traditional dining room service labor.

These brands changed the way we eat – allowing us to answer every hunger impulse 24 hours a day. We were no longer burdened by a schedule, having to get the kids dressed and, in the car, or the stress of getting a reservation at our favorite spot. The food delivery application filled the need for convenience and gave us back some precious time. The growing popularity of online ordering service like the services previous mentioned, make ordering food and avoiding supermarkets, where the food is cheaper and easier than ever.

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Coming up in December 2018...

Hotel Law: New Administration - New Policies

In a business as large as a hotel and in a field as broad as the law, there are innumerable legal issues which affect every area of a hotel's operation. For a hotel, the primary legal focus includes their restaurant, bar, meeting, convention and spa areas of their business, as well as employee relations. Hotels are also expected to protect their guests from criminal harm and to ensure the confidentiality of their personal identity information. These are a few of the daily legal matters hotels are concerned with, but on a national scale, there are also a number of pressing issues that the industry at large must address. For example, with a new presidential administration, there could be new policies on minimum wage and overtime rules, and a revised standard for determining joint employer status. There could also be legal issues surrounding new immigration policies like the H-2B guest-worker program (used by some hotels and resorts for seasonal staffing), as well as the uncertain legal status of some employees who fall under the DACA program. There are also major legal implications surrounding the online gaming industry. With the growing popularity of internet gambling and daily fantasy sports betting, more traditional resort casinos are also seeking the legal right to offer online gambling. Finally, the legal status of home-sharing companies like Airbnb continues to make news. Local jurisdictions are still trying to determine how to regulate the short-term apartment rental market, and the outcome will have consequences for the hotel industry. The December issue of Hotel Business Review will examine these and other critical issues pertaining to hotel law and how some companies are adapting to them.