Poor stepchild or the new frontier of hotel F&B?

Can you fully assess how much creativity, investment, attention and career focus (just to name a few issues) are put into the “banquet, conference and events” segment compared to a signature restaurant or a bar?

To me, the discrepancy of time devoted to that segment compared to other outlets became glaringly obvious during multiple meetings for an opening or a renovation (steering committee, design workshops, budgeting, tastings, sourcing, branding discussions, etc.).

Shouldn’t it be the other way around, or at least equal, considering the profitability and competitive advantage that banquets offer?

Conferences, meetings and receptions always involve food, and especially in Asia it is a sign of prestige to host an event in a hotel. In a broader sense, hoteliers have taken over the function formerly attributed to castles and palaces.

As a public space, a hotel restaurant comes with a certain set of expectations, and to be innovative is not easy. The guest doesn’t necessarily want to be surprised. Only in the last decade have hoteliers paid a lot more attention to their restaurant offer moving towards celebrity chefs, Michelin-star restaurant or branded concepts. The best designers and architects have now collaborated on these hotel restaurants and developed the importance of the décor, the tableware, the music and the service style.

The meeting and banqueting side, in my opinion, has never received the attention it deserves, considering that in this dedicated and customized space the potential and flexibility for creativity, inventiveness, financial earnings – and yes, branding – is enormous. The world is your oyster so to speak, even if only for one night.

Many innovations or experiments indeed started on the event side, which is why I believe that this segment has to be reinvented in our hotels. This can and should be the new frontier and the expression of refinement and luxury through a unique experience. We are the new castles and palaces, welcoming guests for festivities and celebrations.

The most creative talents should see meetings and events as an undeveloped area open for making an impact and providing a challenging and interesting career option. I would encourage young talents, having developed skills such as sales, branding, people management and innovation, a little bit of mechanics sometimes and a lot of passion, to look at this great career path.

Food has and will always have a social role. We have never had so many requests for cooking classes, food to share or innovative set-ups in our meeting and banqueting rooms. Food brings people together, whether they cook together or share the meal. The same holds for the “coffee breaks.” There are more and more creations around the food, with some stories and moments of surprise: a whole farm, a chocolate room or a full vegetable market, not to mention the local experiences and healthier options. We create memories around the food.

And this applies to any F&B activity in our hotels, including banquets!