Fine vegan and vegetarian cuisine, exotic yet local cuisines, and all-day coffee are just some of the menu trends that hotels and resorts are gearing up to capture in 2022. In this two-part feature on hotel F&B trends, today we look at forward-looking food menus and experiences, while tomorrow’s story will focus on the beverage side of the business.
Contributed by Jeanette Hurt
“Let’s be honest,” said Manpreet Singh Malik, executive chef, Crowne Plaza Chennai Adyar Park in India. “For the elite gourmand, by the fourth month of the lockdown, it wasn’t biryani from their favorite joint, but the global experience that their palate was craving. Offering a superior culinary experience right here at home is the need of the hour for the restaurant industry.”
This is a need that hotel F&B operators are seeing around the globe. In Morocco, at the newly opened Fairmont Taghazout Bay, the signature restaurant is Morimoto, helmed by world-class Chef Masaharu Morimoto. “We wanted to bring concepts that people haven’t yet seen in hotels in Morocco,” said Francis Desjardins, the hotel’s general manager. “There was a lack of (fine) Japanese cuisine in Morocco.”
Morimoto draws on its renowned chef’s experience and techniques, as well as the Japanese style of service, but the restaurant, which just opened this October, uses fresh, local fish from the Atlantic and other local ingredients, and the restaurant is staffed by Moroccan chefs. “We’re using very traditional methods of Japanese cuisine, but we also have a vibrant and local aspect in a very sophisticated way.”
Malik called this paradoxical trend “local exotics.” “The lockdowns have not only further increased the importance of local food production, but at the same time, they have awakened a new longing for culinary discoveries and exotic delights,” he said, adding that his hotel, for example, sources locally produced cheese but uses it in more exotic preparations.
“The kitchen trend will continue to be the search for quality cuisine based on the right creativity, not exasperated, with strong references to local cuisine,” said Claudio Sadler, executive chef at the Baglioni Resort on the Mediterranean Island of Sardinia.
“People are interested in more exotic flavors,” added Eric Brownlee, executive chef at the Katherine at the Kimpton Cardinal Hotel in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. “People have been stuck at home for so long, and they’re not traveling overseas. So, they’re looking for flavors they can’t get at home. What I’m doing isn’t anything outlandish, but incorporating things that stay true to our concept as a French restaurant.”
Perhaps the most challenging trend that chefs have been grappling with is disruptions in the supply chain. “Sometimes, our menus are more about what’s available than about what we’d like to do in our menus,” said Kristin Beringson, executive chef at Henley’s inside the Kimpton Aertson Hotel’s signature restaurant in Nashville. “And it can be really hard to predict what weird thing might be missing. For example, one week you might not be able to get peppercorns. You need to work around what’s available.”
Bradley Moore, vice president of food and beverage operations for Evolution Hospitality’s Taste & Theory Group, said that to deal with this, hotels need to have not just one backup plan, but two. “Sometimes, we have gone down to actually pick up our food if there’s a delivery hiccup, and we try to have our delivery made on a Tuesday or a Wednesday so if there is a hiccup, we have more time to respond than on a Friday morning,” Moore said.
Health trend continues
Local cuisine and sustainable eating also remain strong. “People want transparency on their menus, not just what the ingredients are, but how they affect you; and supply chains, which is something we never talked to guests about, have become really important,” said Angela Kuzma, vice president of lifestyle for San Clemente, California-based management company Evolution Hospitality, which operates the Taste & Theory Restaurant Group.
“I believe that the sustainable, local culture and healthy philosophy will dominate the trends for next year,” said Oliver Campanha, executive chef at Mystique, a Luxury Collection hotel on the island of Santorini in Greece. “Food with exceptional nutritional value and authentic regional ingredients will harmoniously coexist, to culminate into sophisticated flavors.”
Healthy eating – and healthy vegetarian and vegan cuisine – is a trend that started pre-pandemic, and it’s poised to remain strong in the upcoming year. “In the past, when someone announced at the table that they were vegetarian, you would serve them a selection of our sides,” said Taste & Theory Group’s Moore. “Today, that dish should have the same composition as any other dish on the menu.”
These dishes are less focused on food “created in a petri dish” and more centered on whole foods, Kuzma added. “In the past, it was a grilled vegetable plate, but now there’s a contrast between colors and flavors, appealing to all the senses and beautiful plating,” she said. “I would say it’s become kind of sexy food.”
“People want those options, and they want to be able to select them without having to make a special request or ask for modifications,” said Jonathan Knudsen, principal of The Gilded Group, a restaurant group which recently partnered with the Selina Chelsea hotel in New York to launch its F&B concepts. “Plant-based will certainly be a trend that we’ll see carry into 2022, and it is one that may stick around longer than others.”
“Plant-based food has been a major trend in the last several years,” said Dana Pellicano, vice president of food and beverage global operations for Marriott International.
Pellicano points to several studies that back this up. Packaged Facts released a study in fall 2021 that estimates that plant-based dairy and egg sales would register at about US$4.3 billion and would grow at an annual rate of 6%. Another study by Nielsen revealed that meat alternatives were up 140% in 2020 over 2019, and according to the International Food Information Council, at least 54% of those surveyed were overall more concerned with the healthfulness of their food, even if they don’t identify as vegan or vegetarian. “We are seeing an increase in alternative milks and meats,” Pellicano said. “People are ready to return to wearing real clothes and pants that button, and they want to feel good about their health again.”
The experiential aspect
Guests are also seeking unique experiences. At the Ciasa Salares, a luxury hotel in San Cassiano, Italy, guests can go on a tasting experience, moving from the wine cellar to a charcuterie room to the cheese room to the chocolate room to a spirits room. “Absolutely, we take a guest on a journey,” said Ciasa Salares owner Jans Clemens Wiese. “We have one of the largest and most eclectic libraries of wines that are biodynamic and natural, and we take our guests through the experience.”
At the Kimpton Aertson Hotel’s signature restaurant in Nashville, the 14-course tasting menu in the kitchen for two to four people that’s US$250 per person quickly sells out. “It’s nice to be able to offer something super special, and tickets for this sell like hotcakes,” said Beringson, executive chef at Henley’s.
Special experiences aren’t just limited to the hotel or resort’s signature restaurants. Pool bars, for example, can also offer them. At the Fairmont Taghazout Bay, the pool bar is more playfully named Reef and Beef instead of surf and turf, and the signature menu item is a tomahawk steak, which can be set on a Spanish paella. “It’s an experience,” General Manager Desjardins said. “We’ve taken what most people call a pool bar, and we’ve made it into its own identity.”
Creativity in breakfasts and brunches is also coming back in a big way. “If you brunch it, they will come,” Beringson said, adding that one of the most popular items on her menu is a Southern twist on the croque madam called a croquet ma’am, made with locally made, smoked bologna, on local sourdough, with a farm fresh egg. “We’re seeing more exciting brunch food.”
“The demand for breakfast is back,” Chef Brownlee said. “But we’re seeing things that you might not have seen on a breakfast menu in the past, like baby arugula with egg whites. We also make a lot of house-made sorbets, and we’ve seen some traction with that, and it looks promising in the future.”
Brownlee also pointed out that diners are lingering more for dinner. “A table would normally be around for an hour to an hour and a half, and they’re staying for two hours or longer, a solid 20% to 25% longer, so you want to capture that business,” he said. “I’m looking into larger sharing plates. People missed restaurants, and they want to be back.”