BITAC Food & Beverage Panel: R, B & E/Restaurant Group – 2023 Corporate F&B Positioning

While F&B was the dominant acronym at the BITAC Food & Beverage conference, the third of three panels at the event was directed around a different one — R, B & E, or Restaurant, Bar and Events. This focus has evolved within the corporate food and beverage scope, as the three prongs have become more important to overall hotel operations.

Four F&B executives from top hospitality firms spoke on these issues on Tuesday at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa in Sonoma, California. The industry panel took place at the first BITAC conference of the year.

The panelists, each of whom have backgrounds as chefs, were initially asked about the background of RBE and how to define it. Nathaniel Brethold, Corporate Director RBE for CoralTree Hospitality, said that the F&B term isn’t as robust as RBE and doesn’t fully describe the functions that executives look at. 

“The definition of the hotels are more likely than not the food and beverage that’s being offered,” Brethold said. “It’s in our DNA to make sure that our restaurants are as relevant as possible in each of the markets that we’re foreseeing. And then we don’t even see them as banquet spaces anymore, but we see them as event spaces. Because at the end of the day, normally people are celebrating something and the conference nomenclature is starting to not be as appealing to a lot of ownership groups that they were in the past.”

Guy Reinbold, VP Food and Beverage for Meyer Jabara Hotels, emphasized the importance of events on the bottom line.

“I would not ever discount the impact of events, and the impact on what that does for your group business, your group dynamics and the hotel,” Reinbold said.

Reinbold also talked about increased flexibility in how hotels utilize their space, sometimes having events in a bar or restaurant instead of a typical square meeting room.

Greg Griffie, Senior Vice President of Davidson Restaurant Group for Davidson Hospitality Group, said new hotels have a “third space” built in for event flexibility.

“It’s that usable indoor (or) outdoor space that, whether the restaurant has it, or it’s off your event space, we’re doing it in all of our new builds,” Griffie said.

Brian Contreras, Associate Vice President of Integration Coordination and Corporate Director of Culinary Experiences for Miraval Resorts, said he needs to have input on the design side to make sure hotel and restaurant spaces are efficiently laid out. 

“You have to have some level of input, especially from an ops perspective, specifically for F&B because it’s revenue per square foot (at the) end of the day, right?” Contreras said. “How can you look an owner in the face and say that we’re really leveraging their asset by designing it in a way that only serves the 500-600 rooms that may be above your head.”

Speaking more to design evolution, Brethold said that now bars will often be more incorporated into the lobby area to greet guests with a fun ambience right when they arrive.

“Because who wants to go into a hotel, especially with boutique hotels, and not have energy or liveliness happening in there?” he said. “Gone are those days unless it’s a convention hotel.”

Finally, Contreras wrapped up the 25-minute panel by talking about the importance of researching the local market when coming up with RBE concepts.

“I mean, if you don’t take a look at what’s going on locally, you’re shooting yourself in the foot and wasting a bunch of money that’s not yours,” he said. “Find the niche, be intentional about the concept. Be genuine, be authentic, and activate it. Don’t try to be everything to everybody because you’re just going to be nothing to yourself and the staff.”

BITAC Food & Beverage Panel: How to Better Manage F&B Amidst Today’s Labor & Supply Chain Shortages

As the new year begins, hotel executives have labor and supply chain issues on the front of their mind. Shortages in kitchen labor and across the supply chain have impacted operators around the globe in recent years.

Four F&B executives from top hospitality firms spoke on these issues at the BITAC Food & Beverage conference on Monday at the Fairmont Sonoma Mission Inn & Spa in Sonoma, California. The panel was the first of three industry panels at the conference — the first BITAC conference of the year.

Speaking in front of a sold-out audience, the panelists gave their perspectives on these important topics during the 25-minute session. Elie Khoury, EVP of Operations at Aimbridge Hospitality, was asked about how supply chain shortages are impacting hotels today. Khoury said that, post-pandemic, he and his team have realized that collaboration is key across all links of the supply chain.

“I think because of the labor shortages throughout the industry, whether on the supplier or manufacturer or industry, it kind of taught us that we have to be much more collaborative, and kind of discuss the approach from the sourcing to the distribution to the hotels to the full restaurant operations,” Khoury said. “So I think if we don’t do that, we’re always going to continue to struggle.”

Roger Taylor, VP of Procurement for TPG Hotels & Resorts, echoed the sentiment of collaboration, adding that employees must feel genuine care from employers to be motivated to stay in a job long-term.

“It is critical that you take care of your employees better than anybody else does,” Taylor said. “You really got to show them love and kindness because the whole evolution of the hospitality business has changed.”

As supply chains get disrupted, hotel restaurant staff need to be “creative with less,” Khoury said, shrinking their menus while still offering a wide variety of tastes.

David Morgan, Vice President of Food & Beverage at Sonesta Collection, said the collective shrinking of menus can actually help restaurants better meet the needs of consumers. 

“I think the world changed,” Morgan said. “I think people’s appetites have changed and desires have changed. And it’s okay now to have 10 things, but just make sure the 10 things are great, that they make sense, and we can focus on them. And I think that’s a good thing for all of us.”

Another shift in consumer tastes comes on the latter side of F&B; many travelers today want healthier alternatives to alcohol, Taylor said. 

“There’s a lot less people drinking, and so the mocktails, attractively prepared and everything like that, are becoming more important to today’s consumer in that suburban hotel setting,” Taylor said. “And they’ll pay for a non-alcoholic beverage.”

As time ran short during the panel, panelists were asked to gaze into their metaphorical crystal balls and talk about their predictions for F&B labor and supply chain shortages in 2023. Brian Sterner, VP of F&B Operations at Delaware North, said he thinks the “mocktail movement” is going to take hold this year. 

“That sober-curious movement will take off, beverage menus are going to continue to expand and almost take more real estate on an overall menu than than food itself,” Sterner said. 

Morgan and Khoury said that F&B operators need to embrace emerging technologies in the field. Whether it’s the expansion of QR code usage or the adoption of robots for serving and hosting, technology can be a powerful tool used to solve labor and supply chain problems. 

“Technology is going to shift the way we look at our industry in such an incredible way,” Morgan said. “I don’t think many of us even understand. I mean, yeah, there’ll be robots in the kitchen. [But] I think there’ll be efficiencies in that that we haven’t even thought about. I’m kind of excited about what technology is going to do and how it’s going to positively impact our business.”