This article is sponsored by my partner Accor – my opinions are not
What is the future of Food & Beverage? Well, if you ask the professionals on stage at the F&B&E Camp in Berlin, the future is all about putting the E for Entertainment in F&B and thereby recognising the element of engaging and taking care of your customer – and that’s where F&B&E was born.
On January 23rd and 24th I had the pleasure to attend the second edition of the F&B&E Camp, a project that started as an internal platform for knowledge exchange and learning among hoteliers, restaurateurs and chefs within the Accor group in 2019, but in its second edition expanded into an open platform for all professionals in hospitality. Held in the Mercure MOA Hotel in Moabit, the second edition of the F&B&E Camp managed to attract over 300 guests congregated over two days to learn, network, eat and party with their peers.
“…the future is all about putting the E for Entertainment in F&B”
As I walked through the door towards my seat at the stage, it was clear that this wasn’t going to be your normal, sleep-inducing conference: Clapping, cheering, high fives left and right, followed by a hip-hop performance and daft punk lookalike-dancers – the energy in the room was eclectic and the speakers on stage started delivering their messages, one after the other. The core message of Accor’s Global F&B CEO Amir Nahai initial keynote in the lobby and Managing Director Volkmar Pfaff’s welcome speech in the conference hall boiled down to the same point: F&B is booming and the opportunities and potential for the hotel industry are tremendous. The vital part is to understand that creativity and outside-the-box thinking are imperative in this progress; hoteliers need to understand the importance of the quality of their restaurant offerings and that they nowadays not only compete with other hotels, but with high street gastronomy. The key to success within modern hotel gastronomy is to create concepts of such quality that they attract local customers and external guests who then join hotel guests for an extraordinary dining experience.
Food trend expert Pierre Nierhaus gave some very valuable insights on industry trends, from the overarching topic of adapting global thinking to a local strategy to how delivery, casual snack lunches and sustainability thinking have changed consumption patterns over the last years. And apart from pointing out the importance staying in top of the trend wave and staying on point, Nierhaus emphasised the value of the real time hospitality factor – the guest always wants to be well taken care of as well as rigorously entertained.
“…and an emphasis on the continued value of the real-time hospitality factor”
Eric Lassiaille, the legendary chef owner of the Mercure in Freiburg, gave some very hands-on tips on how to improve the restaurant offering in hotels and the Accor Team behind the new loyalty program ALL (Accor Live Limitlesss) provided some insights into how the new cutting-edge program connects to customers credit cards and triggers F&B consumption on a global scale. Even more hands-on was the on-stage cooking session by Chefs Frank Pahlke and Thomas Haus, who put on their chef jackets and showed how easy it is to “food-pimp” hotel restaurant menu classics like the burger and the pasta dish with some easy tricks. During the “Idea-Labs” satellite session, the audience was split into small groups of 40 to be able to dive deep into topics like customer and employee retention or hands-on tips for social media photography and sustainability programs. I joined the photography class myself, and even for a seasoned social media buff like myself, there were some great tips and tricks to be taken away.
As it should be during an event for hospitality professionals, between the sessions, participants didn’t go hungry or thirsty for a minute. For lunch, partners like Frische Paradies, Transgourmet and many more plated up a massive buffet with live cooking sessions in the atrium of the Mercure MOA. From pan-fried Skrei to vegan burgers and French pastry – the offering was as massive as it was diverse and it was a great opportunity to learn about the newest product innovations from their hotel food partners.
The last words on stage that day were spoken by Vice President Food & Beverage Northern Europe Shane Munro, emphasising the message that had been at the core of this day: The opportunities and challenges within F&B are equally huge and hoteliers need to start thinking like restaurateurs today in order to tackle both.
“…hoteliers need to start thinking like restaurateurs”
Lights on and exit to the hotel rooms to freshen up: The end of the talks was the start of the after party and for the evening, everybody reconvened at the Westhafen Convention Center for a night full of cocktails, food and extraordinary live music sponsored by the ALL loyalty program. Based on the conversations that night and the look on people’s faces, it was easy to tell: These people would be back for the third edition of the F&B&E Camp.