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The F Word and Why It's Important.
By Ian Graham
Monday, 1st April 2013
 
Discussions why F&B (Food and Beverage) is more about the right brain than the left.

4Hoteliers Image LibraryFood is the four letter word that we in the hotel industry dare to say. "Food and Beverage" (F&B) can be many things.

It is a profit, or sometimes loss making centre, a career to be pursued in its own right, a department in the Uniform System of Accounts, and the part of a full service hotel where most people are employed.

It is strange that we industry insiders are apparently so fixated on ingredients when our guests and customers buy things like "an anniversary night out with my spouse", "our daughter's wedding party", "a family breakfast at the hotel before going out exploring our holiday destination", or "lunch with friends".

Is it me, or is there a disconnect between what the industry puts its thinking and resources into - we call it F&B - and what the customer buys - they call them "great experiences" in restaurants, bars, or banquet rooms?

For the majority of us, eating and drinking is not about survival. We have a privilege denied earlier generations, that is of being able to design, prepare, serve and then enjoy our meals and drinks as 'events'. This pleases us, our nearest and dearest, and our friends and colleagues. The same applies to our guests and customers.

But when we design a kitchen, propose the interior design of a bar, or work in/lead an F&B department, too many of us put all this behind us.

For the time we are at work, and we become an avatar focused on the ingredients of Food and Beverage - the food cost percentage, the supply chain, the labour cost, and labour turnover. All of these factors are important, but are just Maslow's hygiene factors surely.

Think how much better it would be for our guests and customers, our shareholders and work colleagues, if instead we aimed to deliver a faultless and memorable dining or drinking experience.

Recently I went back to school, spending a day in the good care of award-winning Ashburton Cookery School re-learning Chef Skills. As a hotel school undergraduate at University of Surrey, I had been taught kitchen and restaurant skills of course. But that was 45 years ago and for most of my post graduate life I have been working in finance, albeit within the hotel industry.

After so long, some skills have evaporated. Some just lay unused and rusting. But once I get a knife back in my hands I find I can still filet a sea bass! And when I come to plate up (on a slate) the wild pigeon breast I have cooked, I produce something which is good to look at and good to eat. At the end of the class, I am re-enthused for the 'art' of the hotelier, something I had consigned to the far right of my brain for too long!

I'll treat myself to more days at school I think. I strongly recommend reconnecting to your inner self by discarding your business suit in favour of chef's whites, if only for a few hours!

You won't regret it. And if we all did it, then I suspect that the F&B in our hotels would edge ever nearer to the exceptional experiences that our guests and customers seek.

4Hoteliers Image LibraryIan Graham, CEO, Hotel Solutions Partnership

Ian leads and contributes to complex advisory assignments for hotel owners and operators around the world, leveraging his deep understanding of the goals of the guest, the hotelier, the investor, the lender and the brand owner - and all this from a unique base of experience that has seen him working on hotel issues in more than 60 countries.

The Hotel Solutions Partnership Ltd
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