HOTELS’ Hot Issue: F&B goes big

As part of HOTELS’ 2017 guide to what’s hot in categories like design, wellness, technology, sales and marketing, and development, we present what’s new and what’s hot in F&B. Today: Grab and go goes big; what’s that you’re drinking? And a First Person on the timelessness of French cuisine – a passionate one, bien sûr. 

Orlando World Center Marriott’s new Central Pantry concept
Orlando World Center Marriott’s new Central Pantry concept

Grab and go big or go home 

Grab and go. A concept that for years in the mid-level market was more akin to an elevated convenience store. But hotels are starting to stock up on local specialties and investing more in physical spaces. The Orlando World Center Marriott’s new Central Pantry offers bakery items, salads and flatbreads, with self-serve wine and craft beers. Guests will still find their favorite potato chips, and the hotel has added hard-boiled eggs and protein packs based on feedback.

Following a move to amp up its Hilton Garden Inns with a new design, Hilton gave the brand’s grab and go a facelift. Offerings skew local and healthier and include a self-serve coffee bar at the Pavilion Pantry, which launched in several U.S. properties, as well as in Krakow and outside London. “The ultimate goal is to produce an increasing, more profitable revenue stream for owners,” says John Greenleaf, global head of Hilton Garden Inn, “and to generate higher levels of guest satisfaction for the people coming through our hotels.”

A coconut fat-washed Negroni at Kimpton Gray Chicago's rooftop bar, Boleo
A coconut fat-washed Negroni at Kimpton Gray Chicago’s rooftop bar, Boleo

Cocktails: All fat, no fret 

The fats are here to stay. The good fats, that is. Ingredients like coconut and avocado are migrating away from the cabana and making more elegant appearances in cocktails.

Making use of those ingredients is the non-meat fat washing trend, as declared by Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants in its 2017 trend forecast. 

Fat washing, a fancy term for infusing alcohol with fats – typically meat-based ones like bacon or duck fat – has come around to alternative ingredients like milk, peanut butter and coconut.

At Kimpton Gray Chicago’s rooftop bar, Boleo, a Coconut Negroni infuses the South American

brandy Pisco with coconut oil, then mixes it with sweet vermouth and Campari. 

And while vegetarians and vegans can reap the benefits of these drinks, they’re not necessarily what’s driving the trend, according to Kimpton’s Director of Bars Mike Ryan.

“It’s more driven by bartenders’ quest for flavor, for doing something different,” Ryan says. “Trying to get something that’s a little bit brighter. Because a lot of these meat-based fats tend to be pretty heavy.”

It isn’t just fats getting a makeover. JW Marriott Chicago consulted a nutritionist for its Cocktails with a Purpose program. One of the top-selling cocktails, the Green Mountain Dynamite, contains elements of the lemon, maple and cayenne detox diet, including organic maple bitters.

At Vancouver’s Rosewood Hotel Georgia, head bartender Robyn Gray created a Turmeric Fizz with fresh turmeric infused into honey and blended with tequila and dry vermouth, lemon and orange juices, and topped with cracked black pepper. 

“The beauty of alcohol is that it has the ability soak up minerality, thus it’s being used as a medium to transfer the attributes of botanicals,” Gray says, adding that botanicals are a hit with guests. “If you put acai or pomegranate or turmeric in a cocktail,” adds Gray, “the reaction is, ‘Yes please!’” 

First Person: Vive la France!

In too many countries where I travel, while there is so much respect in the industry for our French heritage and culinary skills, when it comes to concept, that’s another story.

Peruvian, Mexican, Californian, South African, Scandinavian… There is not one cuisine from around the world that did not become “trendy and cool” in 2016 and 2017. But when I argue that France has so much to offer from a conceptual and experience point of view? I am shocked by the French-bashing!

Extracts: “French food is only fine dining, expensive and boring.” “Oh, again – foie gras and snails.” “Your food is heavy and too traditional.” Trust me, most of these quotes come from “experts” from our industry.

Sorry to say, but we have so much to offer. All French people are not spending their lives in a small village in the southwest of France, eating foie gras and drinking Bordeaux at breakfast. We do also travel the world, we do love and respect other influences, and our new generation of chefs is simply fantastic.

Look, I firmly believe that – unlike many national cuisines – French cuisine’s strength is precisely the ability to accept and integrate external influences without losing itself.

I firmly believe that our design, our storytelling, our marketing, our approach on our new concepts (sometimes called our “French touch”) are much more subtle, sophisticated, timeless and creative than many hoteliers – who know everything, who have seen everything – would believe. Our French concepts are rejuvenated and more trendy than ever!—Stéphane Bellon is founder of Studionomie in Geneva, Switzerland, and a HOTELS blogger.