In this day and age, any hotel worth its salt has to provide food and beverage options. In recent years, food and beverage has become an integral part of the hospitality business, thanks to growing consumer interest. Moreover, hotel restaurants and bars are broadening their appeal to attract locals and guests alike.

SkiftX recently spoke with Amir Nahai, AccorHotels’ CEO, food & beverage and lifestyle brands, about why food and beverage is becoming a central pillar of hospitality and how AccorHotels is approaching its food and beverage offerings.

SkiftX: What defines a good restaurant?

Amir Nahai: Good restaurants or bars are places where guests choose to return repeatedly. This usually happens when they’ve had excellent food and service and when the atmosphere feels special. If you don’t get those things right, it just comes off as trendy. Attracting repeat guests is something the AccorHotels food and beverage team really works to achieve –– it’s great when someone comes in for the first time, but the important part is to get them to return over and and over again.

SkiftX: You often talk about the importance of paying attention to secular trends instead of cyclical trends. Can you expand on this?

Nahai: When I started at AccorHotels, I noticed that many people in our industry –– general managers and food and beverage directors, for example –– would obsess about the very latest fads. As a result, there was an overemphasis on cyclical trends, which was frustrating, given that these change all the time by definition. Conversely, people would not take the time to step back and look at the more profound changes taking place in our industry. I think it’s a mistake to base restaurant concepts and offerings on cyclical trends. Instead, we should look at the secular trends that profoundly impact what a dining experience should be and how such experiences might evolve in the future.

SkiftX: What are some of the secular trends you think restaurateurs should be paying attention to?

Nahai: At Accor, we have developed a very clear point of view on eight trends that matter most. Being fully aware of this helps us create venues that are not simply “hot and trendy,” but essential to the very fabric of the cities and communities where we live, for locals and travelers alike.

We’ve named these eight trends as: 1) Interested: People are “hungrier” and more passionate than ever to explore all things food related. 2) Social: People are highly connected. If you eat something delicious and didn’t post it on Instagram, did you really eat it? 3) Informed: Menus and reviews for every hotel and restaurant are literally at our fingertips, creating a more informed consumer. 4) No compromise: Everything has to be awesome, no matter what the place or price point. 5) Healthful: Guests have a more holistic view of health and demand greater transparency. 6) Hurried: Guests want it all, but they want it in less time. 7) Less is more: Simplicity is the new luxury. 8) Convenience: There are more options than ever for eating in your pajamas. Delivery services are reshaping the landscape.

SkiftX: How do these trends impact how AccorHotels delivers its food and beverage experiences?

Nahai: We have profoundly transformed the way we manage food and beverage and create concepts. We have gone from being centralized and directive –– meaning we want innovation to come from the field and we want to empower our local teams to make decisions, instead of having headquarters dictate what concepts are created. All we ask is that they follow our four strategic pillars.

First, we aim for excellence, authenticity, and simplicity. Excellence means the basics have to be perfect. Authenticity means no lying. Simplicity means no artifice. Guests can sniff out when something feels forced right away. It’s not a question of price, it’s about giving customers exactly what they want and not complicating or diluting the experience.
Second, we try to put a touch of entertainment in everything we do. People are looking for great experiences. They want Instagrammable moments to share with friends and family. Often, this just means being more transparent with the theater of our craft.

The third pillar is about listening to our guests. Today, we have access to a massive amount of information that we’ve never had before. Feedback and data are powerful tools, but difficult to use, both objectively and emotionally. We encourage our teams to interpret the data we have and take action around it. We encourage them to develop routines that work for them and act on guest feedback. Finally, we focus on inspiring and motivating our teams. There’s a lot that we are doing as a company to become an employer of choice for food and beverage talents. A lot of this needs to happen on property. Specifically, chefs traditionally spend only 5 percent of their time coaching, training, and developing their teams. We want them to spend 20 to 30 percent of their time in these areas.

SkiftX: How can the food and beverage experience distinguish one hotel from another?

Nahai: Food and beverage venues really create the heart and soul of a property. They’re where you’ll find all the energy, fun, and ultimately all the memories. They also play the biggest role when it comes to how hotel employees interact with guests. This is only going to grow in importance as other processes like check-in and check-out become increasingly streamlined.

We use food and beverage as one of the main ways to communicate that a brand has been rejuvenated. For example, Novotel was traditionally a pretty standardized concept. But we’re changing that message with the Novotel Canary Wharf to show that “this isn’t the Novotel you know.” The property has a three-floor restaurant with an open air roof deck with a view of London. The food could be served at any top independent restaurant, and it’s constantly packed.

Food and beverage is also important in the economy segment. For example, one-quarter of Ibis’ revenues come from food and beverage. Our breakfast at Ibis is one of our most successful products. Guest satisfaction is extremely high, our capture rate is above 70 percent, and it’s very profitable. That’s what I call an effective food and beverage experience.

Then there’s Jo&Joe, our new urban hostel concept. We expect 50 percent of the brand’s revenues to come from food and beverage. A large part of achieving this will be by encouraging people from the neighborhood to stop in.

SkiftX: Why is it so important to focus on locals today?

Nahai: Food and beverage is a great way to engage with local communities. If locals regularly come to a hotel for a meal, they will think about the property when friends come to town or for events and banquets.

But it goes beyond that. I dislike the term “hotel restaurant.” It comes from a world in which people were trapped, and the hotel in the restaurant was their main dining option while traveling. Today, a restaurant is a restaurant, and thankfully, no one is trapped. We’ve made a huge shift in our strategy based on this. Instead of focusing mainly on travelers, we focus on local communities first and foremost. If the bars and restaurants attract locals, travelers will be delighted. It’s the cornerstone of what we’ve been doing.

Skift X: How does AccorHotels approach staffing?

Nahai: Food and beverage is all about experiences, sensations, craftsmanship, and guest passion. It’s a deeply human profession. It’s no secret that it’s difficult to find great staff in today’s industry. Twenty years ago, if you went to cooking school, you got a job at an established restaurant or hotel. Today, if you’re talented, you have many more options, including entrepreneurship.

We aim to be very visible to food and beverage talent. It comes back to AccorHotels being seen as a food and beverage company in addition to a hotel company. We also want our team members to be able to express themselves here.

We want the best food and beverage talent out there to know they can have awesome career at AccorHotels. You’ll receive training, you can see the world by working in our many different types of restaurants, and we’ll invest in you.

To read more about how AccorHotels is thinking about the food and beverage experiences it offers travelers and locals alike, click here.

This content was created collaboratively by AccorHotels and Skift’s branded content studio SkiftX.