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1. What Are the Top Trends Shaping the Hospitality Industry Today?

What are the latest trends in the hospitality industry? As a testament to its resilience, agility and innovative spirit, this article reflects today’s increasingly dynamic hospitality industry in terms of its long, medium and short-term evolution. Discover the industry's adaptability and forward-thinking approach, shaping its trajectory in the face of challenges and opportunities, while staying attuned to the latest hospitality trends. 

Workforce empowerment: Transforming challenges into opportunities

Over the past two years, the industry's biggest challenge has not been attracting customers but rather finding and retaining staff. To address this issue, many hotel groups have begun to make improvements, and there has never been a better time for newcomers to the industry to negotiate better working conditions and salaries.

Today, many hotels offer their staff free or low-cost accommodation, increased wages and reduced peak-time working hours. They also invest in training programs to motivate staff and allow mobility up the corporate ladder. Empowered employees not only have a positive impact on how guests feel and their decision to become repeat guests, but also help attract other employees to build a cohesive, high-quality workforce.

Culinary experiences: Putting experiences, authenticity and the senses first

The desire to experience rather than simply consume means that experiential dining has today evolved in new ways. Hotels are now required to offer a range of dining options to cater to different customer tastes and, when correctly done, can become a culinary destination where the restaurant is at the heart of the experience and not just an extension of the hotel. A good example is the Grand Resort Bad Ragaz in Switzerland which boasts seven restaurants, three bars, a bistro, a café and a sushi takeaway, (plus an array of Michelin stars and GaultMillau points), unsurprisingly making it a mecca for traveling gourmets.

Experiential design can also allow customers to taste food in a multi-sensory environment that stimulates all the senses, not just the taste buds (e.g., Ultraviolet by Paul Pairet in Shanghai). Some hotels have started to provide experiences even on a smaller and more dynamic scale. E.g., They offer four-hand dinners (an invited chef cooks with the in-house chef), organise kitchen parties (clients eat in the kitchen), or have a front-cooking area. Specialist cooking classes can complement this. The key here is to offer a unique experience like how to make your own gin, cook local food, or bake bread with the experts.

Another trend relates to children. A menu of unimaginative, standard food à la burger and chips is no longer enough; parents want their children to eat healthier, globally-inspired food with high-quality ingredients. Adding world food or plant-based products and packaging them in innovative ways will make for happy families likely to return.

A final significant trend in the food sector is off-premise dining and digitalisation. Although customers have returned to eating in restaurants since the pandemic, a large proportion mix on- and off-premise dining. Restaurants need to cater to this clientele to increase revenues, as takeaways are no longer limited to fast food but also exist for traditional and even fine dining. This means that restaurants need to reorganise their workflows and operations to cater to in-house diners and delivery, alongside designing appropriate, creative, high-quality packaging and optimising delivery or collection methods to be easy and inexpensive without competing with traditional delivery platforms.

This can also include ghost kitchens focusing only on food production for delivery and takeaway. Post-Covid, ghost kitchens have become an increasingly popular trend in the restaurant industry with statistics showing that they are projected to be a $157 billion market by 2030. As of 2021, there are over 100,000 ghost kitchens operating worldwide.

 Fine dining: In need of reinvention but full of potential

The pandemic has unexpectedly affected consumer behaviors: they now organize themselves on short notice, have become increasingly spoilt for choice and no-shows are today the norm. More and more restaurants are responding by asking for a credit card at the time of reservation. But this only treats one of the symptoms without solving the problem. "A full house one day, but only four tables occupied the next", is an observation that led Antoine Lecefel to shut his restaurant – sadly one of many fine dining establishments to do so.

Inflation and declining purchasing power play a part, but more generally, the fundamental problem lies in the inability of fine-dining restaurants to reinvent themselves. Unlike hotels and other players in the hospitality industry that increasingly compete with them through ambitious and innovative culinary projects, they have to contend with limited financial and human resources. They have neither the capacity to implement and manage a proactive strategy nor the means to invest in cutting-edge, highly experiential concepts. Initiatives such as Eatrenalin, which create a unique experience by combining gastronomy, décor and entertainment, offer a glimpse of this changing industry and the new competition facing traditional players.

Solutions? A strong, contemporary concept plus a business-oriented management that understands consumers, connects with them and is thought through from the outset to generate margins and create synergies and/or economies of scale. The Igniv chain is a shining example of this, driven by an extraordinary chef and based on the principle of “we love to share”, Andreas Caminada has created a unique and fully coherent concept, the success of which is now being rolled out in various locations, all of which have been rewarded with rave reviews from customers and expert guides.

Green hospitality: Beyond sustainability to net positivity

After a period of harvesting low-hanging fruit, hospitality groups are increasingly looking for more innovative and meaningful ways to implement, measure and communicate their sustainability practices. In the F&B industry, local sourcing has become standard in many outlets. However, it has now started to scale up more by offering better traceability of products (e.g., The Europe Hotel in Ireland has its own farm with livestock, fish, and produce). In addition, guests are increasingly being educated on sustainable practices, e.g., cooking classes on how to use the entire ingredients and avoid food waste. It is no longer about doing good but rather showing customers how to do good.

Hospitality groups are also increasingly adopting sustainable building techniques and are generally trying to adopt a 360-degree strategy that allows them to be sustainable from the first brick up to the operation (e.g., the Beyond Now Network where industry experts have joined forces to transform hospitality businesses into environmentally friendly, efficient and profitable enterprises). Some are going even further, not content with being net zero but aiming to become net positive, exemplified by ‘regenerative tourism’ practices.

In today’s hospitality landscape, it is difficult to confine ourselves to an annual update. Certainly, several general trends have been in place for years and continue to evolve, but by and large, this once cozy industry is constantly innovating and reinventing itself. It is not just adapting to customers. It is creating its own momentum, helping to shape the society and economy of 2024 and beyond.

Have a great Easter weekend folks!

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