Luxury Travel, Lifestyle and Marketing Trends

Foodie Crime

Cruffin

Cruffin

 

With the foodie craze on the consumer side commanding ever higher prices for restaurant meals especially in the form of tastings with wine pairings and on the other, the business side, opportunities for instant celebrity stardom, possible franchises or IPOs and the money that goes with it, foodie crime had to come.

And come it has. First, at Christmas 76 bottles of fine wine were stolen from Thomas Keller’s French Laundry restaurant north of San Francisco. The wine was valued at $300,000. And more recently all of the recipes were stolen from Mr.Holmes Bakery in San Francisco – recipes and nothing else. Why could this be? It turns out that Ry Stephen, a 28 year old pastry chef invented the cruffin, a muffin croissant hybrid that has created a frenzy in the city, much as the cronut did in New York. They sell out before the long line is gone. Selling at $4.50 each, the cruffin is said to take three days to make the ice cream cone shaped bakery item and comes filled with caramel, strawberry milkshake or Fluffernutter cream, among others.

Where will the foodie thieves strike next? Better put those recipes in a safe.

Photo courtesy of www.abc7news.com

Culinary Tourism Trends: What’s In and Out

Eat With ; Hummus Brunch with Naama Shefi & Noam Bonnie ; Photo By: Eilon Paz

Make no mistake about it, culinary tourism is booming. It’s now a mature special interest category which brings with it higher expectations for novelty, creativity, and innovative offerings. Cooking and mixology classes, food and wine pairings, and food festivals seem so, well, yesterday. Here’s a look at what was and what’s now.

 

THEN NOW
Cooking classes Behind the scenes with the chef
Wine tastings Hot sauce or other specialty food tastings
Eating local Eating with locals in their homes or outside venues (e.g. mama cooks, eat with a local)
Group food tours Personalized dining itineraries based on food preferences, traveling configurations, budget
World’s Fair with Food Courts Food themed world’s fair (Milan Expo 2015)
Chef driven menus Crowd sourced menus
Dining as party Dining and conversation (“silence is the new luxury”)

 

And in the category of dining trends, it’s important to not leave out gluten free. Any major restaurant has to cater to the needs of gluten free diners. Not only is it expected, but the absence of sensitivity to these special needs loses business and also makes a statement about service.

It’s interesting that in two restaurant visits in Miami in the past 45 days, one to a multi million dollar upscale restaurant operated by an international group, there were only two items on a multi page menu for gluten free. I was with a group of 8 and the diner walked out. In another case, another high-end restaurant, the waiter and kitchen staff had obviously not been trained about this special needs group. Take note!

Photo courtesy of Travel and Leisure

 

4 Trends in the Business of Restaurants

kwe blog le locamerchant-1Not much has happened in the business of restaurants in recent years. I’m talking about innovations other than in the cooking itself or culinary approach, to increase revenues. With the tremendous competition now and rising rents and food costs, we’re finally beginning to see some new, creative ideas that are worth noting. Expect to see a lot more in coming months, especially with Priceline’s recent purchase of OpenTable.  Here are several restaurant trends that have a lot of promise:

!.How to increase covers in the downtimes of 5:30 to 6:30/7? Fine restaurants are trying to make diners feel as if they’re special, going out of their way with attention and service. Restaurants realize they need to overcome the traditional stigma of diners feeling like second class citizens, part of an “early bird special” group.  In addition, all matters of special incentives are being offered, from smaller portions (and prices) of signature dishes and a small bites menu to unique menus such as New York’s Le Cirque offering what they call a heritage menu with items like Dover sole and wild Burgundy Escargots. Read more in “No Shame in a Table at 5:30” in the Wall Street Journal.

2.As the top 1% get richer and the stock market continues on an upward trajectory, demand at the top restaurants in peak hours has been off the charts. New apps have sprung up like Zurvu and Resy that cooperate with restaurants sharing revenue for the most in demand dining times  and access to prime tables (a “commission” from $10 a person to $50 a table).

3.Restaurants hosting a visiting chef from out of town or out of country has been around for a long time. But now there’s a new twist – a visiting local chef.  Harry’s Pizzeria owned by star Miami chef Michael Schwartz hosted a series of themed dinners with Miami colleagues. We’re also seeing several chefs team up to do special dinners at a colleague’s restaurant. The idea? Copromotion which makes a lot of sense.

4.Reservation websites are providing incentives for early bookings. Members of Opentable get more points for booking early time slots and another app. leloca, gives last minute discounts at participating restaurants to users (like the restaurant counterpart to Hotel Tonight).

New Twist on “Grab and Go” Hotel F & B

grab and go

Vending machine at Mondrian Hotel South Beach

“Grab and go” luxury products? You got it right. A pioneer in this was the Mondrian Hotel in South Beach which opened with a full wall of the lobby taken up by a Semi-Automatic, purple vending machine that helped put it on the hipsters’ map. Some go-to items: a feather vest ($400), a $28 T-shirt emblazoned with the word recession, and even 24-karat-gold handcuffs ($350). You could even buy a nearby condo, or rent a 1953 Cadillac DeVille convertible. Prices ranged from $10 to $1.2 million.

The vending machine phenomenon is accelerating, embracing even luxury food and beverage products. Here’s a rundown of some of the newest, latest and greatest brought to my attention by Chicago based Farmer’s Fridge which could have some interesting applications for the hotel industry with the burgeoning “Grab and Go” food and beverage concept:

Let’s Pizza .Let’s Pizza kneads the dough, forms a round, adds tomato sauce, layers toppings and then bakes it all in front of every customer in 3 minutes. Let’s Pizza is basically a mini-pizzeria that’s open 24 hours a day!

Moët & Chandon Champagne Vending Machine (UK): Located in the Selfridge’s department store in London, this Champagne vending machine holds 200 milliliter bottles for $29 each. Each bottle is decorated with Swarovski crystals and the machine uses robotic arms to deliver the Champagne safely to the customer.

Corner Chips (BE): Outside of Brussels, Belgium, this unique vending machine is a diet-breaker. For €2.50, hot fries are delivered in 95 seconds with your choice of condiment including ketchup and mayo. Built with high-tech technology such as remote-management that lets its operator know when it’s almost out of potatoes.

Beverly Hills Caviar (US): From $5 to $600, customers in Beverly Hills, CA now have access to the delicacy of caviar from a vending machine. The caviar is dispensed in a glass jar and has an expiration date of 365 days.

 

ABOUT FARMER’S FRIDGE

Farmer’s Fridge, a new healthy vending machine concept, delivers delicious gourmet salads and snacks to customers via automated kiosks around the Chicagoland area.  The idea to provide nutritious meals came from Founder Luke Saunders’ realization that health-conscious people were struggling to find nutritious meals and snacks that were easily accessible.  Building on that belief, Saunders drew on his background in manufacturing to create an automated kiosk that could dispense healthy food options.  Farmer’s Fridge offers people healthy, nutritious foods that are delicious and satisfying in a state-of-the art, innovative automated kiosk.  The salads and snacks are made from fresh ingredients available from local produce vendors.  Farmer’s Fridge salads and snacks are handcrafted each morning in a local Chicago kitchen and are stocked daily by 10 a.m.  The company also provides catering to businesses in downtown Chicago. For more information, please visit www.farmersfridge.com.

 

 

Entertainment Returns to Dining

kwe blog crepes suzette

In the 70’s I fondly remember restaurant tableside preparation of Caesar salad, guacamole, and flambes. The flambes always added elements of entertainment and glamour to a meal, so I lamented their passing from style. With the advent of Spain’s Ferran Adria, his molecular gastronomy and disciples, tableside food preparation came back into fashion, but it just didn’t seem the same.

Now, restaurants across the country are bringing back some of the traditional dishes and with them, tableside preparation sometime by the chef himself. It makes sense. It offers a culinary experience for the diner at a time when travelers and the affluent want new experiences. For the restaurant it  not only creates a buzz, but also, helps justify higher price points and adds value. The Wall Street Journal recently described what some of the more innovative restaurants are doing. Leading the pack is New York’s Eleven Madison Park which has made their signature entertainment, justifying the $225 prix fixe dinner. For instance, a raw carrot is put through a meat grinder clamped to a table. Voila, carrot tartare. Michael Lomonaco, chef and partner at Porter House New York has brought back the duck press. In the $110 roast duck dish for two, bones are crushed in the French press at the table. The duck comes out on a gueridon cart and disassembled at the table. Duck’s legs and thighs are served in a salad for the first course, and the breast with the juice from the crushed bones is second.

Other dishes that get the tableside entertainment treatment are a 40 oz, 14 in long rib eye carved before the diners’ eyes at Urban Farmer in Portland, tea smoked oysters at Desnuda ceviche bar in Brooklyn, and tableside cloud preparations for pasta or rabbit with a mist of truffles at Marc Forgione in New York. And then there are the traditional dishes of the 50’s and 60’s like steak au poivre, crepes suzettes and flambéed drinks. Brennan’s of Houston has even created a new job description: flambé chefs. Glad for the return of this nostalgic element of dining.

Blogpost by Karen Weiner Escalera

New Twists on Eating Local

 

Erik Andrus explains The Vermont Sail Freight Project in their Kickstarter video

Erik Andrus explains The Vermont Sail Freight Project in their Kickstarter video

The eating of eating locally grown food continues to gain steam with new variations on water, land and sea, and novel ones at that.  Road warriors weary of the all too prevalent chain restaurants in airports and on interstate highways, will be delighted to hear that airports across the country are turning to leading hometown chefs for new eateries on the casual side. As reported in the New York Times,  at LAX airport, Michael Voltaggio of Ink and Ink Sack is opening an upscale sandwich shop and Suzanne Goin of the highly regarded Lucques will open a high end deli next month. Chicago’s Rick Bayless (Frontera Grill), Houston’s Bryan Caswell (Reef) and Denver’s Justin Cucci (Root Down) also have new dining spots on tap with extensive menu items to go.  Approaching local from a sustainable transportation model, Vermont farmer Erik Andrus launched the Vermont Sail Freight Project , a low tech approach to both food and energy,that features a 39 foot sailing barge, Ceres, that plies the Hudson River with produce from 30 new England farms. Produce is destined for sale in port towns from Hudson to Yonkers – farmers markets, dinners and parties. In an earlier post on the new phenomenon of the “hobby farmer’ we wrote about urbanites having their own chicken coops for fresh eggs. In the latest twist, a company started a business called “rent a chicken”. For $350 customers can rent a pair of egg laying hens, a supply of food, coop and water dish for a several month period to try it out. All the rewards of backyard chickens for much less responsibility. Sounds like an intriguing idea, but what do you do when you travel? How about a new business idea, hen sitters!?

Next Step in Farm to Table

Round Hill Hotel & Villas, Jamaica photo: modernfarmer.com

Hotels That Farm: Round Hill Hotel & Villas, Jamaica
photo: modernfarmer.com

Fairmont Hotels has its rooftop beehives, more hotels and restaurants their herb and vegetable gardens and buy local, and spas their herb gardens to use in treatments. It’s all part of the rapidly growing farm-to-table movement you’ve read about. Consumers, too, are doing their thing with urban chicken farming, gardening and beekeeping  proliferating across the country. In fact, this has raised issues for municipalities who are relooking zoning. The consumer phenomenon is called the “hobby farmer”, you could say a logical next step in the farm-to-table movement that has fueled a growth in farmers’ markets, community sponsored agriculture and young people going back to the land. To reach out to the market segment of “foodies”, the passionate about farm to table, and would be young farmers, there’s an intriguing new website and magazine  — Modern Farmer. Out since April, it already has a global following in Europe and Australia. I can see why. There are highly original, fascinating articles not covered by any other publication. Former President Bill Clinton contributed an article about the work his foundation is doing with farmers globally, and his memories of helping on his uncle’s farm in Alabama. Categories include food, travel, plants and animals and culture among others. Other articles have included everything from Hotels that Farm and  Farmers’ Market Etiquette to the Boston Design Center getting a 55K square foot rooftop garden, and probably more than you’d ever want to know about goats (a “hot” menu item now….the new lamb?).

Reprinted from www.miamicurated.com

Hotels Accelerate Innovation in F & B

Four Seasons Food Truck

Four Seasons Food Truck

kwe blog four seasons food truck 2

Over the years, first at my alma mater Hilton International and later
representing hotels and resorts, I frequently heard hotel GMs complain that
guests were bringing in pizza and fried chicken from the outside to their guest
rooms. This was particularly true in the off-season at resorts when the bargain
crowd moved in. Now, hotels have decided if you can’t fight them, join them.

As reported in the New York Times, the Amway Grand Plaza
hotel has created its own pizza delivery service .Convenient ‘grab-and-go’
restaurants with selections of sandwiches, salads and beverages  are
becoming more commonplace. The Westin Diplomat is one of several Westins that
created their own take on the concept with restaurants called ‘Ingredients, Some
Assembly Required’ in their lobbies. In some, but not all cases, these are in
addition to traditional room service offerings. For guests it’s a money/time
saving choice. For the hotels, it’s a way to capture some additional revenue
that would have otherwise gone elsewhere

With the high cost of running a food and beverage operation, hotels are looking
for more ways to capture revenue both in volume and by increasing the average
cover. In the luxury end, culinary experiences are increasingly more common which
offer the added benefit of reinforcing luxury branding. We’re also seeing
more hotels developing dedicated websites to highlight themselves as food
destinations. And, in one of the more exciting innovations, Four Seasons Hotels
has launched a food truck that is traveling to a number of its West Coast properties.

Young Foodies, your Devoted Customers-to-Be

Mikey Robins, 15, is the youngest champion of the Food Network's "Chopped".

Mikey Robins, 15, is the youngest champion of the Food Network’s “Chopped”.

More on millennials marketing. Remember you read it here first – teenagers and offspring of affluent parents will be a food focused generation. All of the signs are there. Teens favoriting the Food Network and other foodie shows, then trying out what they see in the kitchen. Even toddlers have become adventurous eaters and think nothing of eating sushi, sashimi and “Babe-a-ccinos” (a coffee free cappuccino).  We are, indeed, a food obsessed population. Look not only at the proliferation of cooking schools, growth of culinary tourism, tourist board food and wine festivals, but social networking sites, blogs, and review sites. Youngsters are eager to join their parents in cooking classes at the pricier resorts around the world. I have a 13 year old niece whose best friend gave her a ring that was inscribed with the words “kale” in honor of her obsession with the dark green leafy vegetable. Where does this come from? Their parents’ foodie culture.

Now we’re seeing exhibits honoring the world’s leading chefs: early next year will be an exhibit of the drawings and diagrams of master Spanish chef Ferran Adrià at the Drawing Center in New York.  And then there’s the Food Hotel which we’ve written about before. What does this all mean to marketers? Capturing the imagination and interest of these young foodies can create indelible memories that can translate into a devoted customer-to-be.

 

Blogpost by Karen Weiner Escalera, President and Chief Strategist

House Calls Spread to Other Retail, Service Areas

kwe goat2

 

Just when one thinks s/he has heard or read everything, how about this one — rent a goat, or rather, up to 800 goats. In the latest in ‘house calls”, Travel and Leisure describes a new Washington-based business that rents goats for brush removal . The animals are said to be able to eat two dump trucks’ worth of debris. The cost? $325. There are also podiatrists, car mechanics who fix your problem in your driveway, vets and even a nonprofit that sells medical marijuana to patients in San Francisco (prescription required). Next up in the hospitality industry? Rent a chef for dinner parties or room service (rather, house service) beyond the hotel doors.