In the good old days of hospitality, food and beverage was part of the core. Management treated the department with the senior respect it deserved — not only in differentiating the property, but also due to the profit it delivered. The iconic hotel dining room was an important meeting place in the community it served, often considered the best table in town.
Times have changed. Food is clearly important, as witnessed by a myriad of great chefs and restaurant brands associated with and located within hotels. But the beverage side of the equation has taken a heavy blow. And so, let me propose a departmental shift from F&B to F&F: food and fitness.
A perfect storm
Just take one look at any episode of the TV series “Mad Men.” The 1960s, it appears, were fueled by Canadian Club. Fine dining meant traveling to a hotel restaurant where multiple drinks were de rigueur. Interestingly, wine was not a major player in the beverage mix.
It doesn’t take a genius to recognize that today’s era of responsibility has taken a toll on alcoholic consumption. You just cannot compare the beverage revenue from a two-martini lunch with a bottle of San Pellegrino. Rare too are dinners with multiple rounds of cocktails or aperitifs before dinner, a bottle of wine (or two) during dinner, followed by liqueurs.
Call it the perfect storm: increased penalties for drinking and driving (serious charges and heightened monitoring), legal consequences for the hotel provider (leading to potential lawsuits) and a trend towards a healthier lifestyle, one less inclined towards alcoholic consumption given the calorie count there entailed.
In business terms, the change wasn’t overnight. F&B managers watched their cover yields drop as alcoholic beverage consumption dried up, but because this was such a gradual trend, no alarm bells rang. While many hotels have bolstered their wine lists, added new martini and other creative beverage concepts, alcoholic revenues still aren’t anywhere near the dollars-per-customer levels attained a generation ago.
While beverage was in decline, the fitness movement was just starting to take hold. It started with a few exercise bikes in the basement and sporadic TV coverage of beach-bond meatheads, but grew quickly to full-featured gyms with enough equipment to fill a small ballroom, personal trainers, yoga, Pilates, group classes, marathons, triathlons, daily regimens outlined on a slew of websites, exercise videos, organic grocers and nutritional displays everywhere.
During this same period, the concept of a spa was also gelling. An increased focus on health and wellness brought the spa into mainstream hotels. It was not just luxury resorts that had a lock on the well being of guests. Any hotel that wanted to claim luxury status seemed to have a spa somewhere on property.
With the concept of spas now commonplace, it would appear the expectation for many hotels is undergoing a paradigm shift. People want their hotels to provide physical, mental and spiritual rejuvenation. So, I ask the question: should we look at merging these two departments — F&B and spa — and call it food and fitness (F&F)?
(Article published by Larry Mogelonsky in HOTELSmag on August 14, 2013)