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By Georges Panayotis

The two pillars of the hotel industry are accommodations and restaurants. A fresh wind is also blowing on the catering industry, with newcomers and changes in customer expectations and practices. The days when pubs served a single menu to employees at lunchtime and great dishes of French gastronomy graced starred table are fading. The Food & Beverages sector is emerging in a new light, sometimes with determination.

Here again, digital companies such as Deliveroo, are multiplying the catchment area of restaurateurs without forgetting to take a substantial commission - any resemblance to hospitality players is not accidental.

The sector faces many significant challenges. Employees dislike this demanding line of work, with its far from administrative hours, devaluation of the restaurant trades and their know-how. The exponential development of takeaway catering parallels changes in customer habits. The power of catering groups stands in the face of restaurant craftsmen who find it difficult to comply with regulatory and fiscal requirements that are sometimes totally inappropriate to their structure. All these pitfalls must be overcome by deploying the skill of a seasoned captain.

Some of them change courses by proposing new concepts that surf the wave of new trends and customer expectations. Friendly spaces where kitchens open onto the dining room offer a show skillfully orchestrated by chefs who are increasingly becoming media personalities.

Menus and supplies are also evolving for more local, organic products that answer the demand for authenticity and healthy cooking. Special diets based on choice or health concepts are increasingly taken into account. However, this return to the origins - after many years of using processed products - has a cost in terms of raw material purchase but also in terms of working time and preparation, which requires very precise organisation, a bursar and management as well as qualified personnel.

The arrival of digital technology in the catering industry will, and for some already does, make it possible to streamline and simplify management between the dining room and the kitchen, for example with orders placed on a tablet in real time. Some hotels invite their guests to order their meals directly from their smartphones with the possibility of picking them up whenever they want.

Flexibility, authenticity, healthy cuisine and an original image are the watchwords for an increasingly informed, health-conscious customer who wants to respect his dietary habits. Restaurateurs must find the concept that works and adapt quickly or die.

After having long considered the sector a necessary evil, an important cost item that is difficult to turn to profit, hoteliers now give it the importance it deserves.

A real living space in the hotel, where all customers meet in more porous and flexible spaces at any time of the day, relaxation and catering areas become a tool for differentiation and an additional argument at the service of the property's identity. Combined with a permanently available grocery store offer at certain brands - notably hotel apartments and tourist residences - the restaurant area occupies a central position in shared living areas and plays an active role in the evolution and growth of hotel products.

It is open to local customers and contributes to the life of the destinations where accommodations are located. Sushi shop, tapas bars, finger food.... these rapid and user-friendly consumption patterns meet current consumer expectations.

About Georges Panayotis

Georges Panayotis is the President & Founder of MKG Group & Hospitality ON.

Born into a family of hoteliers, Georges Panayotis left Greece at the age of 18 to study Political Science and earn a management degree at the University of Paris, Dauphine.

In 1986 he created his own company and started developing specialised marketing tools for the hotel industry.

Over the past 30 years, MKG Conseil, later to become MKG Group, became the leading European consulting firm for the hotel business, food service and tourism industries. He is also a consultant for several radio and television stations that focus on the economy.

Contact: Georges Panayotis

g.panayotis@mkg-group.com

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