This is the first time in my life when I see fine dining do delivery, and five star restaurants let loose on their dress code. The world is changing so quickly that everyone has to adjust to its speed.
While ordering a fancy meal to indulge in front of your TV is nice, once this is over people will be missing the luxury of dining out. Have you seen the news about how much Hermes in China made on its first day of re-opening? $2.7million.
Should we be expecting the same thing, and what will the culinary scene look like?
“Hotels should continue delivery service post-covid. One element in the art of being successful in business is to constantly look at and create new and innovative products. As an example, I will ensure to continue my vice of watching TV and eating pizza at home on my couch,” said Emmanuel Benardos, General Manager, Food & Beverage Fairmont Singapore & Swissôtel The Stamford. “If I could (after covid), I’d also have one of the delicious Rustica pizzas from Prego at the Fairmont Singapore delivered to my home, with a bottle of delicious Barolo with a tiramisu to finish, of course!”
“The opportunity also exists to deliver beer, wine, and spirits as well as food, perhaps even a cheeky pre-made cocktail that just requires chilling in the bottle it comes in, a frosty glass, garnish and ice,” he added.
I couldn’t agree more on cocktail delivery.
Since Food & Beverage outlets are competing to win over customers, another strategy they use is offering ‘promotions’ - some of them are very hard to walk away from. But, just like hotels selling rooms through OTAs, or hotels engaged in price wars, they seem to struggle later on. My question is whether customers will be willing to pay full price again once they have tried and tasted the ‘affordable’ offer menu.
“At the moment, affordability, speed, and availability are key, but times and tastes change. I believe we will see the return of dining in restaurants and drinking in bars when the time allows. Price will be second to people’s desire for a change of scenery from dining within their homes,” Emmanuel said.
Meanwhile, Justin Dunne, GM, Restaurants and Bars at the soon-to-be-open Kimpton Maa-Lai Bangkok, commented that while offering better pricing may help lure interested guests back immediately, lowering prices won't protect the venue from any future work stoppages and won't help improve margins.
“But yes, part of the road back will be to look at pricing,” he explained. “Now, most guests do understand that the experience for at-home dining is far inferior to dining in a restaurant and will understand that there are 2 tiers for in-room and take-home meals. Hopefully there will be a sense of renewed appreciation for the value restaurants play in our lives and a greater understanding that meals cooked for you in the restaurant come with added perks that you don't receive at home - great ambiance, talented and attentive service, and the social atmosphere. These, of course, justify higher pricing when dining at the restaurant. Restaurateurs have faith that guests understand, appreciate, and recognize these differences between dining in the venue and having meals sent to your home.”
“Thus, what we'll likely see is the following strategy - restaurants will offer 'welcome back' pricing, but once things return to normal (which may not happen for a long time or ever), the prices will need to likely be more than what they were previously. People may moan that restaurants are overpriced, but in fact, many of them are underpriced for what they deliver and the number of people who suffer when a work stoppage begins - the staff, the owners, the suppliers, the farmers. We will see some attractive pricing when restaurants re-open, but they'll need to be significantly higher than some of the pricing we're currently seeing for home delivery. The pricing we're seeing for a lot of home delivery is strictly for survival (rent, wages, utilities, labor) until restaurants can re-open,” argued Justin.
Emmanuel pointed out that, “customers’ tastes and preferences change quickly and these changes are generally led by opinion leaders (Evelyn Chen – Bibik Gourmand) or trend setters (David Pynt – Burnt Ends, Meat Smith Little India/Telok Ayer, The Ledge). I would look to these two individuals to see where and what people are eating/drinking,” he said.
As a consumer, I can’t wait to go back to my favorite hotel bars and restaurants and I am also very excited about what hotels are doing to welcome guests back.
“We can’t wait to welcome guests back to Fairmont Singapore, Swissôtel The Stamford and Raffles City Convention Centre! To celebrate the reopening of our restaurants and bars, we will be offering 5 different champagnes for under $100++ to help with the next big decision of where and what to eat!” Emmanuel added.
“While we are also welcoming our colleagues back to work and getting them ready to serve it is a great opportunity to clean the restaurants, bars and kitchens (as well as any public and heart of house areas), look to see if any maintenance is required, and provide training on food and beverage so that colleagues are aware of what is and isn’t available and also any potential changes. This is also a great time to gather colleagues’ feedback and suggestions if there are things that can be made better.”
Justin said part of welcoming the team back in action was to be empathetic and supportive. “This is an ongoing mental health crisis that has been loaded with half-truths, fear, and unfortunately, a huge loss of lives.”
“Hopefully managers and owners have stayed in touch with their teams and have often just asked to see how they were doing and how their families were doing. The teams will also need to be mega-flexible. Not only does information change hourly, but restaurants and hotels will likely have many immediate changes that are uniquely different to what was offered previously. And lastly, loads of healthy communication - not only is all of this scary, but it's rife with tremendous uncertainty. Teams need to tackle this head on with optimism, flexibility, empathy, and an evolutionary mindset.”
While this situation seems to humble us all, I couldn’t help but ask if this also applies to chefs? Or diva chefs?
“I think it will likely humble just about everyone. Chefs will realize how fortunate they were to have restaurants full of guests, and guests, likewise, will have loads of renewed appreciation for the life that restaurants provide as part of our core of social living. This crisis has stripped all of us of some of the items we took for granted - going outside, going to school, being able to buy a beer, meeting up with friends, and dining at your favorite restaurant. If there's any silver lining here, it's that we express more gratitude towards all the good that we had in our lives and are re-invigorated with appreciation for all the magic in our day-to-day lives,” Justin commented.
Emmanuel concurred. “It would seem that Covid has humbled us all in the food and beverage industry. Business survival is now, and more than ever, about listening to customers and offering what it is ‘they’ want in every aspect (price, portion, provenance just to name a few). Let it also be known that divas come in many shapes, sizes, and positions in the hospitality industry, including myself.”