Tuesday, 20 April 2021
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American businesswoman Marissa Mayer was once quoted as saying that innovation is born from the interaction of constraint and vision. Never before has that been as true as it is today regarding user experience (UX) in the hospitality & leisure industry.
Before March 2020, many operators were seeking increased market share by elevating the UX on a basis of the consumer’s wants. Whether it was enhanced in-room dining experiences in hotels, intuitive fitness equipment at resorts, or member-only smartphone apps at private clubs, UX was being driven by people’s preferences.
Then the global pandemic happened. With it came a screeching halt to much of the hotel business and greatly altered the functionality of other H&L sectors like the golf course and country club space. Survival mode kicked in and operators quickly turned from wants to the needs of their guests. It was true that consumers still expect quality and a unique experience but they now value safety and cleanliness at a much higher rate.
Now many areas are cautiously opening up once again. With such pent-up demand, consumers will be looking for UX to both safeguard their needs while satisfying their wants. Well, there is good news for them. Many operators have emerged from the previous months battle-tested and equipped with innovative ideas that expand the boundaries of UX. Here are three great examples.
What do you do when your patrons cannot travel? You bring the travel to them.
The culinary team at Chevy Chase Club, a private member-equity club located nearby Washington, D.C., took themselves to task. They knew the club’s members, many of whom are frequent globetrotters, had been grounded. Furthermore, local restrictions with on-premise dining had been put in place thus limiting serving meals on club property. With this in mind, Chevy Chase Club introduced a food and beverage offering called The Passport Series.
“With the world as our oyster, the possibilities were virtually endless for how we could enhance the member experience through the Passport Series,” said Assistant General Manager Elisha Cicerone. “It has been rewarding to produce a new menu each week that allows our team the creativity to explore and test recipes from around the world and for our members to experience them.”
Starting with ingenious packaging that includes luggage tags attached to each takeaway bag, the progressive four-course meal comes complete with a beverage that compliments the culinary diversity of the meal. Not a single UX detail was overlooked. Knowing that many orders would be placed by members with families, each Passport Series experience included a kid’s meal option as well.
An idea that started as a way to connect with their patrons through the pandemic has created a positive residual effect that looks to continue well into the future says Cicerone.
“After the success of our first scheduled Passport Series, we surveyed the membership for their travel recommendations. Members have shared photos of themselves enjoying their meal at home in thematic attire and have asked us to keep the Passport Series alive. This concept is likely something that will transcend the pandemic and find a permanent place at the Chevy Chase.”
As if navigating through the pandemic didn’t make it hard enough on hotels, throw in a generational winter storm and it is nearly impossible. Nearly, however, is not good enough to stop Teresa “Sarge” Colatarci and her Intercontinental Hotel Group (IHG) team in Texas.
The winter blizzard that hit Texas this past February literally froze everything for days—including operation of the region’s supply chain. That meant guests at the Fort Hood and Fort Sam Houston hotels were under the threat of lacking critical food and supplies. That is when Sarge and her team sprang into action.
She called Foodbuy and our organisation used various resources to secure both products and trucks to deliver. Within 18 hours, the IHG facilities had been turned into pop-up stores. The hotels procured enough supplies to provide for their hotel for the entire weekend.
“Our core purpose for IHG is great hotels guests love through true hospitality,” said Colatarci.
This purpose shone through in the warmest way during the coldest time. Well done, Sarge!
(Watch more about Sarge’s story by clicking here.
A consumer’s physical surroundings is a key component in UX. With that in mind, facilities tend to invest heavily on their respective venues. A recent Club & Resort Business Magazine survey noted that over 20% of properties will be investing “above average” amounts in capital expenditures on their buildings within the next 24 months.
But what happens when someone views their venue as something outside of the surrounding walls? You find out that wide open spaces lead to ever-growing UX opportunities and increased revenue. At least that is what Thomas Sullivan, Director of Restaurant Operations, at Carmel Country Club found out.
In the summer of 2017, this club in Charlotte, North Carolina wanted to find ways to bring their patrons closer to the club even when they weren’t within the walls or even on the 188-acre property. So they retrofitted a 1947 Chevrolet big block truck with a pizza oven and serving station and quite literally rolled it out to the membership. They named their mobile unit “Ol’ 47”. The response was overwhelmingly positive.
“Ol’47 quickly became a staple at the club,” said Sullivan. “Chef’s (Ryan Cavanaugh, CEC) classic, wood-fired pizzas rocketed to member favorite status. They also love the added component it gives to events.”
One mobile success led to another. Soon the club had purchased a tricycle aptly named “Lil’ 47 and most recently purchased a trolley car (47 Street Trolley) that could be used to serve sides or pour libations at outdoor weddings, by the pool, or anywhere else three wheels can go.
The addition of this mobile fleet became an advantageous one as regulations restricting inside dining sprouted during COVID. The club was able to support various member functions and events thus providing both positive UX as well as revenue realisation.
“We transitioned to making everything conveniently COVID-friendly,” said Sullivan. “During that process we were still able to successfully function our duties at the club and support numerous events such as Member-Guest golf outings, pool parties, Fourth of July celebration, family fun events, and even various outdoor Farm-to-Table events.”
These stories remind all operators to keep this in mind. While creating optimum UX for all guests can feel like a daunting task, especially with the uncontrollable restrictions of today, we can set the table for success by providing unique opportunities with the cuisine, the scene, and customer service.
The fun and fulfillment of the experience is always about them. The enrichment within the effort it takes to create is all about you and your team. Make your best UX happen today.