Kew Green Hotels’ Abby Hughes reveals the secrets behind the perfect hotel restaurant
With such a varied portfolio of brands, Kew Green Hotels tailors bespoke offerings to each and every property “We don't have a ‘one shoe fits all’ approach,” Abby explains. “It is important to us that we actually look at each hotel individually in terms of the food and beverage offering to ensure we exceed our guest’s expectations, whilst driving revenue generation and profit conversion. Essentially, I drive quality initiatives and standards in all areas of our operation focusing on delivering an outstanding food and beverage experience.
“One of the first things we looked at was our Cow on the Hill ‘steak restaurant concept’ which launched in six of our hotels during 2017. We assessed the offering to see how we could develop the menus to fit with our guest profile. Our burger and craft beer concept, Stock Burger, based at our Holiday Inn Brighton - Seafront, did well in the first year (it picked up a Food and Beverage Excellence Award), but was underperforming slightly when I took over,” says Hughes. “We worked on enhancing the concept and developing it further, focusing on the local area and direct competition. Many of our guests stay in our hotels three or four nights a week and they wouldn't want to eat steak or a burger every night of their stay, with this in mind, we developed our concept restaurant menus to offer more variety.”
So, how does Kew Green Hotels develop their concepts to offer guests more flexibility?
“A lot of my role involves implementing a food and beverage offering, which fits with the hotels individuality and profile. We ensure that our menus are updated and redeveloped on a seasonal basis, avoiding menu fatigue and staying in line with current trends.”
Training is integral to any restaurant experience and it represents an area that Kew Green Hotels is looking to fully capitalise on. “We took a good look at service standards to ensure our staff training was working for us. We ensure the staff are behind the brand, the concept and they understand the reasons behind it, rather than just being people who happen to be skilled in that service. We want passion around the food we’re delivering and to differentiate the restaurant concepts from the standard hotel F&B"
“People are key to delivering outstanding experiences and to our continued success. We are a very people-focused company and have a lot of talented people, which we recognise and reward for all their hard work. Our industry-leading learning and development program attracts the best people to work for us, obviously, working with key hotel brands such as IHG, Marriott and Hilton, does in itself attract skilled, talented people. We have also launched a unique chef's apprentice scheme, Chef School, which works on three levels: foundation, intermediate and advanced, working through the levels you could expect to become a head chef in five years. Chef School gives our chefs the opportunity to gain vital skills, attend field-to-fork talk experiences and take part in interactive and skill-based classes. They arrive as apprentices and leave as head chefs, working through our hotels. We are launching our next Chef School in September, as chef recruitment continues to be a challenging market.”
With 55 hotels situated throughout the UK, Hughes needs to ensure that the hotels enjoy a trusted relationship with their suppliers. “We work very closely with our suppliers in terms of infrastructure and future menu development ensuring we are not only ahead of the game but that they are able to supply new hotels and concepts we are creating,” she explains. “It is about being in partnerships that have contingency plans, we have seen interruptions to service with CO2 and vegetable crop shortages, but our suppliers work at finding alternative and effective supply routes and markets.”
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As with every sector now, sustainability is a hot issue for KGH. “We have been looking at reducing plastic within our hotels, sourcing alternative products for straws and takeaway cups. We, along with a lot of the other hotels, intend to be free of plastic straws in the very near future. Reducing our carbon footprint is also on our radar, our suppliers and have cut back on deliveries by about 30% in the past year. In terms of sustainability, there are two elements, ensuring our CSR whilst working with suppliers to safeguard supply chains.
“We have always partnered with suppliers we think are sustainable and unlikely to have issues in the near future from a food side. We have been working with Britvic, who supply the majority of our soft drinks, on reducing sugar content and promoting healthier choices. We are also launching a range of Purdey’s soft drinks, which are a new brand for our properties, to offer guests a more grown-up soft drink alternative, a trend which has been growing in recent years, and looks set to continue.”
With a large portfolio of properties, analysing data is essential to Kew Green Hotels success. “We have a very solid analytics team, based at our Commercial hub, who continually analyse and react to our data, and work closely with our sales and marketing teams. On the F&B side, some of our key KPIs are driven through the data reported back to us on a weekly basis.”
The growth of Kew Green Hotels requires a team that can adapt quickly to an ever-shifting portfolio. “We have expanded quite a lot recently,” Abby explains. “Six Hilton Hotels joined our portfolio in March 2018, this meant we expanded geographically, and adapted the F&B team, making sure our hotels had the support they needed. So that has been quite a challenge, in ensuring that we've got an infrastructure that can flex to the needs and the growth of the business, which is essential as there are huge projects ongoing with the Hiltons at the moment.”
What does the future hold for food and beverage at Kew Green Hotels? “Our business is constantly evolving, we cannot stay still in a competitive market. We have seen the recent challenges in casual dining, and it is important not to be complacent. Our teams are currently working on new products and concept development, alongside introducing new brands into our portfolio before the end of the year. Ultimately we want to offer the very best food and beverage experience to our guests in all of our hotels.”
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