Bad F&B won't bring home the bacon – The Pig CEO

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Hotels that fail to master food and beverage are said to be missing out on significant revenues.

Home Grown Hotels CEO Robin Hutson, which runs The Pig chain of hotels, says F&B makes up two thirds of its annual £4 million turnover at the 26-key The Pig in the New Forest hotel in Brockenhurst.

“I’ve always been a great believer that most hoteliers seem to shy away from the food operations and it seems to me just an easy way out because selling bedrooms is pretty easy, the F&B is the difficult stuff – they struggle.

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“If you ignore it [F&B], you’re leaving so much revenue on the table so we’re running at 97% occupancy and on top of that, twice as much again comes from our F&B operation,” said Hutson.

The group, which also operates The Pig in the Wall in Hampshire, with a further two properties opening in Somerset and Dorset next year, differentiates itself on the provenance of its food. More than 90% of fresh produce is sourced from within a 25-mile radius of the hotels.

Outside the winter months, the group claims to be 75% self sufficient in vegetables and also farms pigs and chickens on hotel land.

Boutique hotel guides and booking site Mr & Mrs Smith CEO James Lohan acknowledged the demand for locally-sourced produce and creative F&B concepts: “The challenge is a lot of people have pulled up to base-camp boutique level one so they’ve sort of got to get to the next level and what is the next level and where does it go from there and that’s when it becomes interesting.

“So when I hear little stories about The Pig down in Hampshire with a live kitchen garden, I love them, it’s so authentic. The whole provenance of where things come from is sort of a move onwards, rather than just being a style property, it’s about what does a property say, what are its values, it’s morals, what’s it all about?”

Hutson attributed a greater interest into the origins of food on the plate to scares such as the recent horsemeat scandal: “A day doesn’t pass without some health scare from processed food. People want to know what they’re putting in their mouths…

“Breakfast is very well received. The eggs are laid by the chickens that morning, the guests boil them and we offer all home-made, home-cured or preserved products. Whatever’s fresh from the garden is on the buffet and people like that,” he added.

Hospitality consultancy HVS chairman — London said boutique hotel brands such as Malmaison, Hotel du Vin and Firmdale Hotels had mastered the restaurant component of the business, while others still have a long way to go.

“One of the areas that hotels have traditionally performed appallingly is in the provision of restaurants and bars and so forth. And they haven’t really thought about who their target markets are. Where possible a hotel restaurant or bar should be there for the community in the area in which the hotel finds itself as well as for the hotel guest. Not just as an amenity for the guest, that happens to be open to non-residents.

“Hotels need to re-establish their relationships [with the public]; years ago the only places people went out to eat were hotel restaurants. That’s completely changed, hotels have lost ground. Independent restaurants have set up and hotels have just allowed them to take away the business," Kett added.

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