Related News

Home » Feature » iDEAL

More bang for your buck: Local hotels spare diners the pinch

FACED with the economic slowdown, hotels and restaurants promise to maintain exemplary dining experiences and offer special food deals, writes Aubrey Buckingham

As each day brings further news of doom and gloom, it has hit home that the recession has struck far and wide. No longer just a problem on Wall Street, the financial mistakes made have clear and present implications for our everyday lives.

Needless to say, the food and beverage scene will take a blow to the temple if it hasn't already. This will be a period where big names living on reputation alone will go up in flames, and stand-alone restaurants have to trim their operating fat in order to survive. Grab a copy of tomorrow's Sunday edition with an exclusive review of Jean-Georges' local strategy to keep patrons well fed and pocketbooks healthy.

Hotel restaurants have always been a different kettle of fish altogether. Customer expectations, especially here in Asia, are sharply higher, and food and beverage chiefs are given the unenviable task of balancing books and providing exemplary dining experiences.

So with global travel down and expense accounts shelved, many are asking if local properties are going to rein in spending by skimping on food costs. The answer, as industry insiders are quick to assure us, is a resounding no.

"We are not cutting food costs, but we continue to source for the best available product at the best price," explains Jerome Colson, director of food and beverage at The Portman Ritz-Carlton. "In addition we are re-negotiating pricings with our suppliers, as is to be expected at this time, but none of this activity impacts the quality of our produce or our ability to be able to deliver world-class food to our guests, who expect nothing less from us."

This sentiment was echoed by his counterpart Rolf Buelhmann at JW Marriott. Changes at the Tomorrow Square property are being undertaken "back of house and as such do not have a direct impact of the level of service that we offer to our guests."

With more than a decade of experience in the local market, the Hilton Shanghai is faring slightly better than most in terms of occupancy.

"The hotel is running stable with more than 60 or 70 percent occupancy - much better than other hotels," claims Director of Food and Beverage Fredy Pascal. "We still have many in-house or outside guests dining in the hotel, so we must keep our standards."

The Frenchman also reiterated his property's intent to reap the rewards of looking to local produce as often as possible. This policy is not native to the Hilton alone; industry insiders say the hiring policy for executive chefs over the past year has factored in their willingness to go local.

With the guarantees not to skimp on ingredients, the task is then to convince existing customers to continue their patronage while enticing new ones to pop their heads in through the door.

Over at the Pudong Shangri-La, Executive Assistant Manager Thomas Schmitt-Glaeser believes the brand's dedication to service is the right direction for his team. "We are constantly fine-tuning our services and offerings, no matter the circumstance. Training is enhanced to ensure that our service standards are continually kept at the optimum, to always keep our guests happy when they patronize our restaurants, bars and lounges. Recognition of our guests is all important and we show our appreciation in different ways.

"We aim to please, by creating what the guests would appreciate, and always keeping focused on maintaining our standards of offering quality food and beverage at all times."

Special food deals are also on the menu for local properties. The Ritz's Hanagatami Japanese restaurant, voted as having the best food in the local edition of the Zagat Survey, recently launched a new "Happy Hour" from 5:30pm to 7:30pm, Mondays to Saturdays, with 60 percent of the regular sushi menu at half price. Italian fine dining restaurant Palladio is also getting in on the act, with three-course dinner set menus for 350 yuan (US$51) and four courses for 450 yuan.

Meanwhile, the JW Marriott is targeting the lunchtime crowd, with all-day diner Marriott Cafe offering a 98-yuan "Soup, Salad and Dessert" buffet aimed at business lunches, and Chinese restaurant Wan Hao featuring a 98-yuan all-you-can-eat dim sum.

While hotels have to get creative with their promotions as well as create extra value for customers, they also have to be wary of taking steps that might tarnish brand image. "During tough economic times, companies are looking to reduce expenditure across the board so it is important to maintain a high level of consistency," says the JW's Buelhmann.

"Customers still need to travel to do business. Hotels and restaurants just need to be more strategic in the way they provide their service to guests and continue to look after loyal customers in order to attract long-term retention from these customers rather than try and cut costs in the short term."

At the Hilton, assistance comes from the corporate office in the form of monthly visits from secret brand standard shoppers. "Report and feedback will be sent to management to review if anything is not applied to Hilton global standard," says Pascal. "The requirement to F&B is very demanding so we cannot do much about lowering cost."


Copyright © 1999- Shanghai Daily. All rights reserved.Preferably viewed with Internet Explorer 8 or newer browsers.

沪公网安备 31010602000204号

Email this to your friend