The best trend we could see in 2020 at restaurants and hotels is a ‘return to hospitality’

Profitable food and beverage outlets need help to make the bottom line. There are many creative food and beverage consultancy firms out there with lots of ideas to help a business grow but they are expensive.

I am not one of them but I do like to dine and drink at these outlets and have made it my goal to only do so at hotel food and beverage outlets. To project my own preferences, I asked Justin Dunne, founder of Evolution 48 to help identify if my projections could turn into a new trend for 2020.

Will the ‘Chocolate Martini’ — my forever favorite drink — become the drink to taste before you die?

Justin: Sadly, I don’t believe so. While the chocolate martini still has its place in some of the most fashionable bars, I think your claim to fame will continue to be your contribution to the hospitality industry — your newsletters, interviews, conferences, and no-holds-barred attitude towards life, often tempered with a chocolate martini. It’s always nice to see your name on a cocktail menu, but the chocolate martini’s influence will be much shorter and pale into insignificance compared to all your other contributions.

‘Desseralité’ — if it's supposed to be simple and good for you, is it really a dessert?

Desserts are terribly misunderstood. Yes, if it tastes great, it’s good for you! But unfortunately, magazines like Men’s Health and numerous others; all with six-pack models on the cover, will tell you desserts are bad. Come on, if desserts were meant to be bad for you, they would be flavorless, surely? What often seems unhealthy is actually our mindset against the pleasure of eating. Go on, dig in and enjoy those desserts — many of them are far too good to pass up.

Guests who care about sustainability often drive a big car, sit in traffic for hours, get to a restaurant, the AC blowing in their faces, order farmed Alaskan king crab (from a sustainable farm a thousand miles away).... What's the next sustainability trend for F&B next year?

I call the next sustainable trend, ‘stop the phoniness’. Much like your notes here, every hotel and restaurant in town has now stopped the plastic straw onslaught (well, except for those animistic, earth loving spirit houses), and got a pat on the back from the media. Yet behind the scenes, while plastic straws may be out, few hotels are recycling their bottles, cans, and cardboard. If hotels really want to make a difference, they need to do much more than just replace their plastic straws with paper, corn starch, metal, etc. We’re still waiting for the first hotel brand to actually offer guests money back for any sustainable practices they bring to the hotel during their stay. Until we actually monetize sustainable practices, we’ll never get people as involved as we’d like. ‘Use your own metal straw and get a 20 THB rebate on check-out’. This is just one example of how to make a significant difference.

Will the ‘nice and friendly’ chef become a huge trend next year? (Like the hipster bartenders a few years back.)

Man, I sure hope so. Competition in this town is so fierce, that you can’t afford to be unfriendly. With labor rates in parts of Europe and the US increasing, many restaurants are turning to a more ‘fast-casual’ style of dining to help minimize labor costs. Thailand may be in the middle of the greatest period of hospitality it’s ever seen. Because labor rates in Thailand have not increased at the same rate as much as in other parts of the world, you can still receive a fantastic full-service experience here. Sure, there are plenty of duds out there, but Thailand is in the middle of what could easily be a return to the ‘golden age of hospitality’.

In general, the best trend we could see in 2020 at restaurants and hotels is a ‘return to hospitality’. As restaurants have become more focused on Food Panda and GRAB orders, they have got too heavily involved in social media feeds, and too caught up with hoping for Michelin recognition. Far too many venues have simply forgotten the smaller guest touch points like answering the phone professionally, holding the door open for guests, being well versed in the menus, etc., etc. We must get back to the basics of hospitality.

What's the next big thing in F&B?

I believe these are three of the biggest F&B trends we’ll see in 2020:

  • 1.) Transparency and Imperfection. In recent years, we’ve seen kitchens become more transparent, resulting in ‘open kitchens’. Additionally, in the recent past, we’ve seen popular chefs struggle with depression, addiction, and trying to maintain a sense of balance in the all-encompassing world of hospitality. We’ll start to see more stories and have a greater understanding as to what type of people are drawn to F&B careers, the challenges they struggle with daily, and the beauty of imperfect individuals in a very demanding industry.
  • 2.) End of the Counter-Top Tip Jar. I visit two venues close to me on a regular basis — a coffee shop and a juice bar. Both have tip jars on the counter, regularly unemptied with receipts thrown in from rude patrons, and a neglected, often very visible rubbish bin, sitting underneath the POS. Coming from a strong tipping culture, I’m not advocating no tipping, but the counter-top tip jar makes no one feel good about themselves — neither guests nor staff. Staff aren’t paying attention as to whether or not anyone tips and if they do, the amount is so minimal (often satangs), that the staff rarely gives a damn. It’s time to remove these things.
  • 3.) The Power of Family in F&B. Have you ever noticed that some of the top restaurants in Bangkok are run by loving family members? For example, Bo.Lan, Suhring, Smokin’ Pug, to name a few. Sure, these are all owning parties, but they are onto something: having family in the kitchen helps bring teams together as there is more at stake. Furthermore, families have a greater emotional connection to their internal teams and in turn, guests. (Yes, I know most venues claim to be ‘Your Family Away from Family’ but much of this is just BS). Thus, I believe we’ll see much more of this trend, especially for non-owning parties. Sure, we’ve all been burned and are often very cautious about hiring family members, but in today’s hospitality world, if we err toward anything, let it be family and love.

There you have it. Even though Justin mentioned that my chocolate martini wouldn’t make any of the lists, just like any other paid guest, one thing to remember: ‘You will be successful if you give the guests what they want’. In my case, I want a chocolate martini, great hospitality, a straw that doesn’t get soggy when I suck on it, and a really nice chef to interview for 2020.