Insights: The Big F&B Forum 2019

by Dina Maaty | Published 1 year ago

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Hotel & Catering News Middle East’s The Big F&B Forum 2019 took place on November 18, 2019 at Sofitel Dubai The Palm.

From founders and CEOs, to F&B managers, key players, professionals and general managers, the biggest names in the industry come together every year at Hotel & Catering News ME’s The Big Food & Beverage Forum to engage in game-changing discussions and network.

Attendees shared their expert analyses on the F&B, tourism and hospitality sectors in attendance of over 250 professionals. The Forum was presented by Du, and supported by Platinum Sponsors Nestlé Professional Middle East and Nescafe, Gold Sponsors Bidfood and Gates Hospitality, Silver Sponsor MonViso Trading, Category Sponsors Glee Hospitality Solutions and Insinkerator, and Water Sponsor San Pellegrino.

The event was moderated by Founder and Managing Partner, Soul Communications and Culinary Correspondent Farah Sawaf, while Panel 1 was moderated by Naim Maadad, chief executive and founder, Gates Hospitality. 

Panel 1 – Going out or staying in? The balance between restaurant experiences and delivery services in the market

  • Yousef Al-Barqawi, regional manager, Deliveroo Editions – EMEA
  • Naim Maadad, chief executive and founder, Gates Hospitality
  • Sudqi Naddaf, executive chef, Kempinski Hotel Mall of the Emirates
  • Spero Panagakis, co-owner, BB Social Dining
  • Danny Planter, founder, D&T Group

Despite the costs of maintaining delivery vehicles and allocating the right talent, global reports have revealed that mobile app delivery platforms are expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 27.9% — to $16.6 billion — by 2023, a jump from $3.79 billion in 2017.

The main drivers of this growth include high internet penetration, higher standards of living in developing countries and an increase in mobile phone usage. While offering convenient experiences to consumers, a number of restaurateurs and industry professionals are debating whether delivery has affected in-restaurant dining experiences, and if the two can co-exist in harmony.

In this panel, attendees will discuss the creativity behind reinventing and rebranding dining experiences, convenience versus quality, rising demand for discounts and deals, shifting consumer patterns and more.

What the panellists said:

  • On this panel, the discussion took on a positive twist, with most panellists expressing their satisfaction with the delivery scene, and willingness to explore delivery options at their venues – given the feasibility of the idea.
  • Panellists agreed: venues will have to step up in order to keep up with the delivery game, constantly innovating, and making the most out of the delivery option in order to expand their market segment wisely.
  • Restaurateurs need to make sure to approach the delivery arena carefully, avoiding the easy option of having their entire menu on every single application, and rather following a more streamlined, tailored approach.
  • Venues need to be smart about delivery-related concepts, such as cloud kitchens, to avoid any potential problems; for some brands, the delivery option would never work because of the type of food on offer. 

Panel 2 – The right people: Attracting, and retaining, the right talent in the regional F&B landscape

  • Lynne Bellinger, director of Food & Beverage Development, Marriott International Middle East & Africa
  • Kelly Anne Luker, head of HR, The ENTERTAINER
  • Reif Othman, chef and founder, REIF Japanese Kushiyaki
  • Piers Burton, owner/executive director, Eagles Spearing Consulting
  • Russell Scott, vice president, Food & Beverage, Luxury Brands, Accor Middle East
  • Minella Tayade, HR manager, Glee Hospitality Solutions

One of the biggest challenges facing industry professionals in the region is finding the right talent, and offering a combination of work-life balance, compensation and working conditions that is lucrative enough to make employees want to stay.

In addition to industry trends, which have a direct impact on employment patterns, business owners and hiring managers constantly face the need to adapt to ever-changing markets – so how can a winning human capital formula be achieved?

Panellists will discuss top strategies for employee engagement and retention, development and training programmes, head-hunting tactics, the possible shortage of qualified candidates and – an important topic – female leadership in hospitality.

What the panellists said:

  • Retaining the right people should be at the core of every restaurant’s human capital formula – regardless of market conditions in any part of the world.
  • Even under challenging market circumstances, the right talent is always out there. If venues are holding on to existing talent, they should find ways to retain them.
  • Prioritising talent retention should always come first; while most businesses look at profit-making as their main concern, cost cuts, bonuses and packages are things to consider before letting go of staff.
  • Valuing staff is of importance, and so is involving the team in all aspects of the business: this includes offering them what the venue offers in terms of food – your team is part of your business, rather than outsiders. 

Panel 3 – The perfect match: How suppliers can help make F&B operations a success

  • Wael Al Jamil, CCO, Bidfood
  • Kyra Bommelje, director of food & beverage, JA The Resort
  • Stefano Iorini, managing director, Monviso Trading
  • Monal Malhotra, head of F&B operations and business development, Sharjah Investment and Development Authority – Shurooq

Quality suppliers can make or break F&B operations. How can a match be made between the right suppliers and F&B venues for a smooth flow, and how can the former help the F&B sector achieve the tricky balance between quality and speed?

From researching everything from reputation to success rates, to considering costs versus results, F&B outlets will spare no efforts when it comes to choosing the right suppliers, but how do suppliers ensure they’re a good fit for the task at hand?

Panellists will discuss the challenges facing suppliers, trends and developments in foodservice, the newest products and services, the role of technology in delivering optimum guest experiences and more.

What the panellists said:

  • Maintaining a quality relationship, or even friendship, with the supplier is of prime importance to any business.
  • In search of consistency, venues will often have to go the extra mile to source products and find the right suppliers. Finding a good balance while bearing in mind the sustainable approach is a must for venues.
  • The business owner should be in charge of and in control of what’s being purchased, ensuring an open communication with the chef and team, which will have a positive effect on the relationship with consumers and create quality menus.

Panel 4 – The customer isn’t always right: Calorie counts, ingredients and everything in between – how far should F&B establishments go in an effort to cater to consumers?

  • Omar Chihab, founder and general manager, BOCA
  • Ziad Kamel, co-founder and director, Couqley French Bistro
  • Martin Kubler, CEO, sps:affinity – Strategic Partnership Solutions
  • Mariangela Ruggiero, executive chef, Radisson Blu Media City

According to a report issued by the Business Registration & Licensing (BRL) sector in Dubai’s Department of Economic Development, the total number of restaurants and cafés in Dubai reached 427 during the first four months of 2019. This included 258 restaurants and 169 coffee shops, a growth of 25 percent compared to the same period in 2018.

With more options in the market, consumers are becoming increasingly aware of their power to choose, while venues often risk a full-on identity change as a result. Topics of discussion in this panel include changing consumer preferences, the rise of plant-based eating, menu calorie-count requirements, restaurant staff communication tactics and more.

What the panellists said:

  • Restaurants know that the consumer isn’t always right, but in a service-oriented industry they need to accommodate and assimilate as much as possible, widening the range of dishes on offer.
  • Venues that are known for their meat offerings may have trouble accommodating vegan and vegetarian guests, so a change will be tricky, but it’ important to do the best they can and survey the market.
  • Restaurants need to hold their ground, even at a time when social media offers the public the opportunity to become critics.
  • Thick skin is a must in the F&B industry; while restaurants need to check reviews, they need to understand when a negative one has been posted: it can be a possibility that the service, music or food weren’t up to standards.
  • The customer may be always right, but so is the restaurant – and that’s where a careful balance needs to be achieved.

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