Tuesday, 7 May 2013

What's Our Next Big Thing in Food and Beverage?

Food and Beverage is a large business segment for our company. Many of our hotels enjoy almost 50 per cent of total revenue streaming from this division.

So when I ask myself what is the secret of successful restaurants and bars, I find that it usually boils down to a simple formula:

Be very good at one or two things. 
In other words, have focus.

Don’t try to be all things to all people.
A business will never get a great name unless it specializes in something. That specialization will create talk and chatter, and that will in turn rebound in business.

An excellent example in our company of this focus is Melba at The Langham, Melbourne.
This restaurant turns over AUD1 million per month and is the best performing restaurant in our group. What is their speciality, you might ask?

Simple – Its vision is to be the very best interactive, high-end buffet restaurant in Australia. This is clear and the customers understand that perfectly.
The team in Melbourne continually challenge each other about what can be the next "big thing" on their interactive displays.  Recently, they added a “seafood altar” that’s a roaring success. Now they are changing part of the hot section to provide Asian noodles cooking a la minute.  They prepare fantastic fresh naan bread and Tandoor in front of you, and the desserts and cheeses are as high-end as any a la carte restaurant.

Their secret?

Not wavering from the single idea that this is their core mission, that their buffet has to be better than any Sunday brunch, anywhere – and to consistently deliver at that high level seven days a week.

Another restaurant I can remember that is both unique and a great success story is Henne in Berlin. 

This restaurant, located right beside the former Berlin wall, and tucked away in the city suburbs serves just one thing – chicken.

Actually, there are only two items on the menu: chicken with potato salad and chicken with coleslaw.

That’s it.

It is packed every night and has been for 100 years! This is extreme, I know, but it underlines my point - you don’t have to be all things to all people to be successful in this sector. 

I truly believe that Food and Beverage has to be run with our hearts and only then will our customers feel this passion; best of all, it will give them something worthy to talk about.
So what I ask all of us to do is question ourselves:
What are we famous for?

What do we do better than anybody else in our communities?

Are we consistent with this?

Does the entire team know and focus on this?

Is our messaging unwavering?

Now, I am sure you can also think of other restaurants that serve the best something.

You rave about them to your friends, you recommend them to strangers, you think of special dishes with great affection, and these are the businesses that will continue to not only survive but prosper, and for some, achieve legendary status.

I'd like to hear from you on this blog about these restaurants that are close to your heart and why you think they are so special.  Hopefully, that way, we can share our experiences and work collectively to find our next "big thing" in our company.


  1. Additional signatures within Langham worth mentioning, in my opinion:
    The Chocolate Buffet in Boston
    High tea in London
    Chocolate lab in Shenzhen

  2. In Boston, as well as our Chocolate Bar, we are well known for our Sunday Brunch. It was actually put into a local periodical, Boston Magazine, many years ago, as a “Hall of Fame” Brunch for multiple consecutive years of winning the title "Best Brunch" in Boston. We see the effects of this, particularly on holidays with reservations being filled sometimes as much as 2 to 3 weeks out.

    We too are now focused on making our Tiffin at Langham, served in our newly renovated lobby, the Best in Boston. We see month over month growth in Tiffin cover counts and have received some great PR and media attention for this.

    This topic makes me think of a personal story from the beginning of my career. While attending culinary school in Rhode Island in 1982 I was the chef of a newly opened, small 60 seat Trattoria; a casual Italian restaurant. In the Italian section of the city, everyone was serving Deep Fried Calamari with Marinara Sauce. I began preparing a Pan Fried with Lemon, Parsley and Hot Pepper Rings base on a recipe from my aunt. To make the story short, we would have lines out on to the street waiting to get in for up to 2 hours to get a table. We got great local press. We were going through over 200 pound of calamari a week, the owner actually had to build a free standing freezer outside the restaurant for inventory storage.

    As they say, “Imitation in the best form of flattery”, well many other restaurants have copied the dish but it was our attention to detail in preparing each dish to order in fresh oil in a sauté pan instead of deep frying that made the difference. The dish “Rhode Island Style Calamari” prepared with hot pepper rings shows up across the country and is even in State legislature now to become the Rhode Island State dish.

  3. Dining and socializing with friends and family is one of life's great pleasures. Completely agree that restaurants do well when they are focused and create excellence. I had the pleasure of dining at the Langham in Pasadena at their new steak house Royce. Which is taking the market by storm!

  4. I am thrilled that, here in New York, the new lounge concept off the lobby, Measure, will be focused on what our guests have expressed that they need - a convivial place to meet, relax and, of course, eat. The menu focuses on just two influences - classic New York and modern British influences. And the chef, Jeff Seizer, is not trying to be another Ai Fiori (our Michelin-starred fine dining venue) but rather is focused on fulfilling a specific need for our guests and local patrons while letting Ai Fiori shine for what it does incredibly well. It's a perfect combination of offerings for the Langham Place Fifth Avenue guest.

    It's a great city in which to have options. New York City is home to so many restaurants, and what always appeals to the fast-paced attention spans of the city's residents and frequent visitors, is authentic focus on detail. Every year there is a new trend that grabs everyone's attention - last year it was meatballs, the year before that it was banh mi, the year before authentic macarons - but what lasts in New York are the establishments that do that one thing well and grow it authentically to include other like-minded menu items. A great example is The Meatball Shop, the last restaurant still standing from the 2011-2012 meatball trend - because they do that one menu item incredibly well and grew their business in a measured, strategic way, focused on locations and expanded menu items that fit their brand personality. Another is Laduree, which brought the real thing in from France, and unlike the other macaron shops that opened everywhere and then started serving sandwiches, soup and cupcakes - they focused on what they have done well for decades and grew accordingly, expanding to multiple locations in a focused way.

    That is not to say that chefs and restaurateurs should never expand their knowledge-base or their offerings. But it's about realizing, to the point made above, that no one can be everything to everybody. The best restaurants in the world know that if you can get diners to fall in love with your authentic brand personality and what you do well they will remain loyal to you as you grow that brand, even if you eventually change focus. Look at Andrew Carmellini, who has gone from Italian (Locanda Verde), to American gastropub (The Dutch), to now embracing the roots of his classical French training (Lafayette). In each venue he creates an experience that inspires repeat visitors but what he doesn't try to do is be anyone but Andrew Carmellini.


  5. At Langham Place Mongkok, Hong Kong, since opening from 2004, we have achieved what very few hotels/restaurants in the world have, 2 Michelin stars for our Cantonese restaurant, Ming Court! We have been able to sustain the 2 Michelin stars in the last 4 consecutive years, helping to make LP synonymous with modern fine dining Cantonese cuisine while changing the face of Mongkok forever. Another iconic venue which has really taken off in the last few years is The Backyard, our al fresco lounge bar/dining area; as well as the ‘Lazy Daze’ concept, where patrons can enjoy champagne and house made pizzas under the stars as much as they like at less than US$70 per person for 3 hours! Taking a specific concept and be a trendsetter has been our strategy from the beginning at LP, we will continue to focus our energies to elevate other F & B outlets in the hotel.