By Chris Martha, Global Director of Food & Beverage – July 2023
With the rise in popularity of social media and the expansion of global hotel brands, we’ve seen hotel dining go from a thing of convenience to one of true experience.
In the world of hospitality, the pursuit of exceptional experiences is paramount. At Valor Hospitality Partners, we have taken this philosophy to heart by creating a one-of-a-kind culinary journey for guests across our properties worldwide. With a people-first mentality, our goal is to combine the finest cuisine with unparalleled hospitality, ensuring an unforgettable global food and beverage experience for every guest.
Serving as the global director of food and beverage for Valor, I support the global brand’s consistency and commitment to excellence across our properties in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and the United States. I’ve worked in the hospitality industry since I was a teenager and I’ve experienced the shift from convenience to experience-based dining first-hand.
Service has now evolved to where design is equally as important as the components of food, beverage and service, relative to the dining scene. There’s this movement of people still wanting all of the sensibilities of great food and great service, but now wanting to be able to enjoy them in environments that are casual, approachable and don’t necessarily require a jacket or a tie.
In addition to the expectations surrounding the overall dining experience, we have also seen a shift in the trends and styles of culinary presentation. The once-popular fads like “farm to table” are transitioning into longer-lasting pillars of supporting local businesses while supporting your place in the hospitality industry as well.
Additionally, while hotel restaurants used to be solely for the purpose of dining while staying at a hotel in a new city-for leisure or business-that stigma has caused hotel food and beverage offerings to be considered bland and lackluster. For that reason, we tend to lean on lifestyle-friendly brands that give us the latitude we need to be able to operate in our spaces from a creative and conceptual perspective.
With that in mind, we are creating a larger, global food and beverage experience across our 90+ properties that rivals standalone restaurants in the areas of their hotels. We’re ultimately creating independent, freestanding and positioned food and beverage operations meant to compete with the local market. The competition is stiff, and we have to be nimble and creative in the way that we’re cultivating our spaces.
From luxurious urban retreats to serene resort destinations, our properties are strategically positioned across the world to cater to diverse travel preferences. This global presence allows Valor to showcase an array of culinary delights, each with its own regional influences and flavors.
A People-First Approach
For Valor, this starts first with the guest in mind. Whether a guest is a novice traveler, expert jetsetter or somewhere in between-their stay at a Valor property comes down to convenience, comfort and an exceptional sense of service. This is especially true for the food and beverage offerings at each global property-all unique to the culture in which they are located but with the common thread of providing an exceptional experience that will be just as memorable as an individual’s trip.
It’s important to have great people operating in our space and delivering on that guest experience because without that, it’s just a really expensive coat of paint. You’ve got to have the right people. They’ve got to have the right talents. Our industry is a people industry. These days, more than ever, it’s tough finding those people.
The hotels within Valor’s portfolio are renowned for their uncompromising commitment to excellence. Every detail, from the ingredients sourced for each dish to the presentation on the plate, is meticulously considered to ensure an exceptional culinary experience. Our dedicated culinary teams are composed of skilled professionals who are passionate about their craft, consistently delivering flavors that leave a lasting impression on discerning guests.
But that coat of paint isn’t completely obsolete. We pride ourselves on creating a space that is memorable and cultivates an experience that mirrors the culture in which we are located. We choose design elements that make a statement and leave an impression in the mind of our guest-while also being photo-worthy to share with their friends and family back home. People love seeing those Instagrammable moments, whether they’re of people enjoying the space, the restaurant and bar itself or the nature of a chef working in a kitchen on a cutting board and butchering fish.
However, the root of what we do is all about people. We’re going to tell you that the easy part is creating great space. There are tons of resources out there. We’ve got amazing partners we work with and at the end of the day, space is space, and if you don’t have well trained people buying into what your concept is, your guests will be left wanting.
I came up from the business at a time when it was all about food and service and design was an afterthought and not as focal as it is now. Now that I’m in the position I’m in and working for the company that I’m working for, it’s great. There’s a huge focus on the people component to be sure that we are delivering on the guest’s experience.
Everything from starting with the research and a market will tell you that we’ve never duplicated a concept to date. One of my favorite parts of my position is designing these experiences and building out concepts and going through the process that we believe in so heavily.
We believe in getting into a market, doing the proper research and breathing life into it through great branding, naming, logo design, menu designs, collateral and more. This is true across our more than 90 properties in a multitude of countries and cultures.
At the heart of Valor’s culinary journey is a deep-rooted appreciation for local culture. Recognizing the importance of celebrating the authentic flavors of each destination, our hotels seamlessly blend global influences with regional traditions. In each location, our dedication to preserving and promoting culinary heritage not only enriches the guest experience but also supports the local community and their traditions.
I think that Food & Beverage helps bring the whole experience together and that’s a lot of the reason behind why we put so much effort into creating a great space. You want a space that’s convenient and attractive for people to enjoy. And our team members embody the brand’s people-first mentality, ensuring that guests feel genuinely cared for throughout their dining experience. The team goes above and beyond to create personalized culinary experiences that exceed expectations.
A few dining concepts at The Lodge at Gulf State Park in Gulf Shores, Alabama emulate these principles well. Perch is a bar-centric food and beverage offering that evokes a sense of place, has a coastal environment and offers shared plates-inviting guests to feel like part of our family. The restaurant focuses on sourcing the highest quality ingredients and products from trusted local fishermen and regional farmers and producers.
Additionally, Roasted Oak is located in the hotel lobby and provides a sense of convenience while also offering an “instagrammable” ambience for grab and go coffee, cocktails and light bites.
Across the pond, our DoubleTree by Hilton Manchester-Piccadilly property offers the Store Street Exchange and Store Street Craft Bar as inviting dining concepts for guests.
This foody theater turns food into performance art while also being a place for guests to exchange ideas and news while catching up on what’s important in life. While design-focused to provide an experience, Store Street Exchange is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner so that guests can experience its offerings at any time of day or night.
The Future of Hotel Dining
As artificial intelligence (AI) continues to infiltrate a number of industries-including travel and hospitality, I think there is this expectation that we will lose the people-focus of the guest experience.
You hear all the time about innovation and robots in particular. Naturally, people are looking at ways to mitigate the expense of operating in the Food & Beverage industry, because that’s getting to be more and more expensive, especially just from a people perspective. There’s going to be innovation in ways to cut back on the cost of operating.
However, people will always remain our top priority and we will never go so far into artificial intelligence and new technology that our guests get left behind. This is true regardless of the market-whether it’s the United States or globally, in our approach, the formula is the same but the market drives how the formula spells itself out.
As we look towards the future of hospitality-especially as it pertains to food and beverage offerings-I think the pillars of food and beverage are the same regardless of time and location. People will continue to want more casual, design-forward spaces, where they can still get great food delivered with a sincere sense of hospitality and service and where they feel the most value for their money.