An inside look at 5-star F&B

I’ve long held the belief that you can’t be successful in the hotel industry without a dedicated effort in your food-and-beverage offerings. This is especially true for hotels at the 4-star, 5-star and ultra-luxury levels, where guests are expecting far more from their dining options than just a grab-and-go style outlet.

But, like every other aspect of our operations, F&B is an orchestra of moving parts and it takes a healthy blend of managerial savvy, cordiality and experience to get it right. With this in mind, I approached Victorio Gonzalez, the director of F&B at Montage Laguna Beach of Montage Hotels & Resorts, to answer a few questions on the subject.

Mogelonsky: Give me an overview of the F&B operations at Montage Laguna Beach.

Gonzalez: “Our F&B operations consist of a very dynamic mix of banquets (social & corporate catering, conference services, premier charity/fundraiser) along with a first class, 24-hour in-room dining department. Our main outlets are: Studio, modern French cuisine, Forbes Five Star signature restaurant, dinner only; The Loft, creative American cuisine, our main dining room serving breakfast, lunch and dinner; and Mosaic, California Beach cuisine, serving the patio, our spa and alfresco by the pool.

“Additionally, we are also proud of our Artist’s Café, which is the dining room for the Montage team, serving upwards of 600 meals per day. All told, F&B is the largest division in the hotel with approximately 320 associates serving our guests and fellow associates.”

Mogelonsky: Three restaurants, three kitchens: How do you do it?

Gonzalez: “Given the diversity of purpose that each of our restaurants has, it is essential that they are each equipped and resourced appropriately in order to serve their purpose. However, when efficiencies are identified and there is a synergistic opportunity, we will pursue it. A great example of this is The Loft, The Loft Bistro and in-room dining. Given their geographical proximity within our building, it is possible to combine these culinary productions into one kitchen that operates 24 hours per day.”

Mogelonsky: What autonomy does each outlet have for suppliers, menu selection, specials and staffing?

Gonzalez: “We establish a comprehensive operating budget each year and once that is done, our leadership team is allowed and encouraged to run their business as if they owned it. We hired them because we believe in them, trust them and know how capable they are, so they are completely empowered to make whatever decision they wish to do.

“Keep in mind that we believe that the role of senior leadership is to be thought provoking, challenging and motivating to our team. We provide them with a tremendous purchasing and finance team that assists with sourcing products, negotiates pricing and contractual agreements, and ensures that we are adhering to the environmentally conscious efforts of our company.”

Mogelonsky: What about recruiting?

Gonzalez: “It is our strong belief that the biggest and most essential element of our success is our human resources. There is a tremendous emphasis on and commitment to recruitment. It is not easy to get hired into our family, yet once you are in and demonstrate your ability to succeed within our culture, we go to extraordinary lengths to teach, mentor, coach, motivate and convert talent into success for the individual and the team as a whole. We believe that knowledge—better yet, applied knowledge—is the only real differentiator between a good, great and extraordinary experience at the ultra-luxury level.”

Mogelonsky: Let’s talk wine.

Gonzalez: “We have a main cellar in which we house the great majority of our inventory, yet our wine programs are so diverse that we have holding cellars in each of our restaurants, allowing our sommelier team to properly service our guests within a timely manner.

“On the typical day, my director of wine may consult with one of our estate owners on how to best outfit these individual cellars, determine which wines to acquire for a special event and conduct a strategy meeting on how to improve the Studio wine list. We have a team of eight full-time sommeliers that, along with our ‘wine runners’ and cellar clerks, maintain a resort-wide inventory of over 40,000 bottles.”

Mogelonsky: Care to share some details on the bakery?

Gonzalez: “Our executive pastry chef leads a team of incredibly creative and productive culinarians that makes everything we offer our guests from scratch each day—breads, chocolates, desserts, ice creams, cookies, macaroons and sweet delicacies, you name it. The pastry kitchen operates 24 hours a day via three shifts. Due to the size of our kitchen versus the resort’s overall consumption of breads, we do partner with specialty bakers to have them produce some of the dinner roll selections.”

(Article published by Larry Mogelonsky on Hotel News Now on February 17, 2014)

Larry MogelonskyAn inside look at 5-star F&B