I was recently asked to contribute thoughts for a U.S based magazine column, exploring the ongoing food and beverage trends in the london market. I thought that over the course of this, and next week’s blog, I would share those thoughts with you. Opinions and thoughts welcome of course, and in the event the article is published, I will be sure to let you know – an addition to my already existing, slightly dodgy video on the hotels you tube website channel.
What would you characterize as one or two main highlights/distinguishing elements of your F&B offerings for meetings and events?
How do you set yourself apart in this area?
I believe that we have an unsurpassed ability to listen to the needs of our clients, creating lasting relationships that surpass their initial ideas, taking an out of the box innovative approach towards enhancing their event further. For example, we have taken a Grand ballroom, capable of holding 220 people for a dinner dance and transformed it in to an intimate setting for 30, serving a seven course taster menu that included the finest truffles and space age dessert, or been able to work with our Executive Pastry Chef, Cherish Finden, on a special one-off pastry decorating class for one of our clients – allowing them to make the very pastries that they would then be eating for afternoon tea. Working together with the Executive Chef, Graham Chatham, we continually look to all worldly food influences, to see how we can then develop these “with a twist”, even going as far back as those fond childhood memories when creating one off candy station spectacular and usherettes tray floating stations – serving everything from Oysters to Edible Flower Gazpacho.
How have your F&B offerings for meetings and events evolved in recent years, and what factors have driven that evolution? How important are meetings and events to your overall F&B program, and how has that changed in recent years?
I believe that recently we have seen a trend, a movement towards greater synergy between meetings and “events”. There is no doubt that those clients holding a meeting on site still wants to be sure that they are able to accommodate all of their business needs – with all elements of the event itself being both functional, “clean and tidy”. There is however, more opportunity to add a twist to these meetings, suggestions to the clients as to how they can add a little fun element to “day two’s afternoon break” – and these don’t always have to be food related – maybe a quick neck massage to relieve the days tension and a healthy break with a live smoothie station or a team building workshop to finish off the day that involves a walk around the local area……
Meetings and events are, and have always been extremely important to any hotels business, and in the current London marketplace, where a large number of both new and refurbished hotels are popping up, together with a large selection of “venues”, we have to find a way to secure business through the relationships we create – never has it been so important to make a standout first impression. For events too, whilst clients are still budget conscious, there is the opportunity, for example, to offer our beautiful Middleton Garden space, connected to our Grand Ballroom, and transform this in to a winter wonderland, complete with ice skating rink bowl food dinner and hot chocolate cake lollies for dessert, or if this is a little extreme, any one of our other 14 meeting spaces, for a combination of themed or traditional events. Clients want to know that they have all options open to them, and that the old perception that left the impression that because you were in a hotel you were limited to what you could accomplish, just isn’t true, and at The Langham London, it isn’t.
How much do your F&B offerings for meetings and events reflect broader trends in the F&B space (e.g., using seasonal ingredients, local products, natural/organic, etc.)? What are the challenges of bringing your meetings and events F&B in line with these hot trends, and what are some ways you’ve found to overcome those challenges?
There is a fine line between a trend and a fad – and to be fair, sometimes the line is a little blurred. There is a challenge, as these trends progress, to manage this in line with the more black and white elements that need to be considered such as labour, food costs and service capability. In general, as a five-star deluxe hotel, of course we work with our clients and manage all their dietary needs. When it comes to produce, using local suppliers is always something we try and do at every opportunity – and working with these businesses to see how we can showcase them in the best light, and through as many of our outlets as possible. There is no real point in having to tell a client that they can only have a particular ingredient if they eat in the restaurant – where possible, we want to offer all clients, all dishes and options through all event, food and beverage spaces.
As event organizers, we guide our clients as best we can. Asking the right questions is key, and in doing so there is then the opportunity to advise, and where required, find the balance between what works, and what may lead to service difficulties come the event. We can of course produce 50% of one dish and 50% of the other, one for men and one for women…..but who will then have to explain when Mrs. Smith thinks it’s an insult to suggest she shouldn’t eat the chocolate dessert that the person sitting next to her has been served. Factor in vegetarian, lacto vegetarian, lactose intolerant, nut allergies, fruitarian and those people who just don’t like fish – and suddenly you are not a Ballroom serving 220 guests, you are a restaurant serving 220 different covers….our menu is extensive, most dishes are interchangeable, and all allow for the flexibility to meet client needs. A confident chef, and a confident events manager, then instills confidence in a client that allows for your guidance to be taken on board.