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 June 2019...

Sales & Marketing: Selling Experiences

There are innumerable strategies that Hotel Sales and Marketing Directors employ to find, engage and entice guests to their property, and those strategies are constantly evolving. A breakthrough technology, pioneering platform, or even a simple algorithm update can cause new trends to emerge and upend the best laid plans. Sales and marketing departments must remain agile so they can adapt to the ever changing digital landscape. As an example, the popularity of virtual reality is on the rise, as 360 interactive technologies become more mainstream. Chatbots and artificial intelligence are also poised to become the next big things, as they take guest personalization to a whole new level. But one sales and marketing trend that is currently resulting in major benefits for hotels is experiential marketing - the effort to deliver an experience to potential guests. Mainly this is accomplished through the creative use of video and images, and by utilizing what has become known as User Generated Content. By sharing actual personal content (videos and pictures) from satisfied guests who have experienced the delights of a property, prospective guests can more easily imagine themselves having the same experience. Similarly, Hotel Generated Content is equally important. Hotels are more than beds and effective video presentations can tell a compelling story - a story about what makes the hotel appealing and unique. A video walk-through of rooms is essential, as are video tours in different areas of a hotel. The goal is to highlight what makes the property exceptional, but also to show real people having real fun - an experience that prospective guests can have too. The June Hotel Business Review will report on some of these issues and strategies, and examine how some sales and marketing professionals are integrating them into their operations.