Industry News Food Focus

How to have a hospitality mindset? – it’s all about the customer

In part one of Future Food’s Future Series, Francis Loughran discusses the proposition that successful and profitable food and hospitality venues do not just happen, they are in fact the outcome of a range of factors including business, psychology, design, passion, culinary capability, customer engagement and consistency.

The business of food starts with thinking about hospitality – I call it a consumer-first approach. One that consistently excites as well as offers choice, efficiency, value, quality and consistency. Food and hospitality spend across the globe is on the rise, with all sectors vying for the food-dollar. Where the customer decides to spend is highly dependent on how well the food operator has considered the customers’ aspirations and needs and aligned these with a clearly defined ‘hospitality mindset’. Time and time again, this presents as a memorable experience-proposition. A strategic blend of art and science is required by all operators to ensure a return on experience for every customer. The trilogy of design, food and service cannot be separated, as they represent the cornerstone first principles, and when combined with psychology, emotions and passion, produce a successful recipe every time.

Clare Smyth at Crown Sydney

In today’s increasingly competitive world and slim margins in food and hospitality, never before has it been more important to focus on the hospitality mindset – the art of psychologically defining and delivering positive experiences when eating, drinking and socialising.

In the current landscape, this has become more apparent than ever, as not all food businesses have re-opened with a warm welcome. This is a clear reflection of some operators’ limited understanding of what genuine hospitality actually is. But it does say a lot about those who have re-opened and gone the extra mile in planning, preparing, communicating, designing and delivering positive experiences without omitting the first principles of hospitality – philosophy, passion, design, food, beverage, culture, service and communications. Old-fashioned hospitality is the base-platform that influences the first principles and ultimately maximises sales and positive experiences, built around the proven disciplines of a social space, psychological and emotional connection, all relevant to the current and future world.

It is all about the seamless and emotional integration of design, food and service – at all levels of food operations, regardless of size or positioning. While the topic of augmented restaurants is emerging as a key aspect influencing the future of dining in both the physical and digital environment, first-principles are still 100% relevant if sales and customer satisfaction are to be optimised, based upon creating beautiful spaces to eat and drink, complemented with great service, attention to detail and value for money. Everyone loves value for money, like great food and a warm welcome, it is about positive emotional engagement. Happy customers spend more and more often. Anyone for a second coffee?

While this article is not about a post-COVID world, one positive outcome of the pandemic has been the endless creativity, pivoting, flexibility and re-focusing of new ideas on how best to deliver food and hospitality safely and profitably in a post-COVID era. Across the globe, we’ve seen the cultural, social and economic landscape of food and hospitality destinations upended, increased outdoor dining focus, delivery platforms, dark-kitchens, grocery e-commerce and social media continue to redefine dining and its new parameters regarding safety. This is all fine and probably temporary, but it is secondary to a hospitality mindset.

In 2020, we’ve learnt how the hospitality industry has responded to the COVID global upheaval. New opportunities have emerged for food and beverage operators of all sizes to rethink the art of hospitality. Subsequently, developers, architects, designers, place-makers, lifestyle operators and service-teams are refocusing on the importance of the hospitality mindset. From Stockholm to Sydney, Seattle to Shanghai, Dubai to Daylesford, new and cutting-edge hospitality projects are emerging; each better than the one before, but all reflecting the passion and emotion of combining style and substance based upon the first-principles mentioned above.

Regardless of where the food operations are positioned on the hierarchy of hospitality eating or drinking echelon, this article aims to explain that great food concepts and their execution are made possible by applying thought to the research, planning and testing process. The application of the ‘classics’ such as  psychology, sociology, architecture, accounting and more recent disciplines such as hospitality, market research, place-making and customer service all contribute to the recipe for success.

When astute developers and their creative tenant culinarians partner, they can ignite the correct hospitality mindset. Their experience, passion and deep thinking approach to every detail and individual customer’s emotional needs are considered, right down to the very napkin that the customer uses to wipe their mouth. It’s about each and every touchpoint that leads to feeling good as a customer.

People such as Ken Himmel, Developer of Hudson Yards in New York, who worked endlessly with world-renowned chef, Thomas Keller, to curate the food and hospitality vision for the development and Spanish food chefs José Andrés and Ferran and Albert Adría, to collaborate on the creation of the Mercado Little Spain, also at Hudson Yards.

José Andrés and Ferran Adría, famous for the Mercado Spanish Market

Closer to home, Lang Walker, developer of Collins Square in Melbourne and the recently opened Parramatta Square, has engaged leading restaurateurs and chefs such as Maurice Terzini as part of the $3.2b development, which includes a cast of proven food operators, delivering concepts from modern Asian to delicious desserts.

Maurice Terzini and Lang Walker at Walker Corporation’s Parramatta Square

Maurice Terzini, owner of CicciaBella Trattoria + Bar said: “Parramatta Square is an incredibly exciting development, revitalising the city centre and creating a new culinary experience in Parramatta.”

We all have our favourite café, bar or restaurant; what we need to do as food and hospitality planners is to analyse what makes these favourite spaces special, appealing and comforting to us, and then place the key ingredients into a framework that can be tested and then customised to each food and beverage concept. I believe there is no one single ingredient that can claim to be the winner; it’s a combination of many parts that, when strategically planned, have the capability to maximise the opportunity and customer spend.

Modern cities such as Dubai are enjoying the culinary benefits of adopting the hospitality mindset with world-class chefs and food service leaders such as Australian Tom Arnel, who has been at the forefront of the casual and smart casual dining scene in Dubai. Arnel plans to open a 5000m2 culinary collective of eight home-grown (Dubai-based) concepts in 2021 called The Guild in the prestigious Dubai International Financial Centre (DIFC). “I want to create the most electric dining room in Dubai,” Arnel said of The Guild, which will be made up of about eight different home-grown concepts together under one roof, with a program of live entertainment thrown in.

It’s all about building a food and beverage strategy that in itself has the customer at the centre of the decision-making process, including the capability and creditability of the best practice operators to deliver the best possible food and hospitality experiences on a consistent basis. While creative culinarians and hospitality professionals are masters of delivering great food and service, other key skills also contribute to ensure the built environment and its location are designed to ensure a relaxed, safe and convivial ‘hospitality space’ that allows for maximum spend and a positive experience every time.

In summary, creating a hospitality mindset means having a laser focus on design, food and service.

About the author

Francis Loughran

Francis Loughran, specialising in Retail Food and Food Service Management, is the founding Director of Future Food and has been involved in the food service industry for 35 years. Francis has built a wealth of knowledge and experience in concept development, food service strategic planning, design, retailing and food service management.

His work has taken him around the world and includes a diverse list of projects, involved in the planning and development of waterfront developments, restaurants, cafes, food courts and fresh food markets along with food service solutions for restaurant precincts, stadia, airports, mixed-use developments, leisure and entertainment precincts and corporate office towers.

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