FlairFnB – The Next Best Thing in Hotels

I’ve been at the IHIF, in Berlin today. I am here for the duration, enjoying the buzz of The International Hotel investment Forum. Lots of suits, lots of stands and lots and lots of serious people.

Our company, has a brilliant Hotels and Hospitality business which we are all rightly very proud of. They are the market leaders in the business of buying and selling assets, transacting and negotiating, valuing and financing and many other areas of the Hotel and Lodging industry. They are some of the most impressive people we deal with and we enjoy our relationship with them.

As the Foodservice Consulting business in JLL, we also joined our H&H team in Berlin this year, to support, to learn and to understand what the industry is doing, how it is preparing for the changes that are occurring and how ready and willing it is to embrace what is about to happen. I was surprised at how peaceful it is, given the Tsunami of change that is going to sweep through the hotel industry shortly.

I make no apologies for the title of this article, as I have spoken about, reported on and commented regularly on the changes we are now seeing. I like to think we have helped lead some of these. First of all, let’s just look at the definition of the work “Flair”

It means:

1:  a skill or ability to make good use of something

2:  a uniquely attractive quality

And so the phrase, “FlairFnB” was created (by me), but the world has yet to understand its significance. Yes, it has a striking resemblance to airbnb, and in many ways is having the same impact on the Hotels and Lodging industry. That is deliberate on my part, in the name.

As a consultancy, we have got busy in hotels, and in many cases it is because the investors, operators and owners cannot and will not accept poor Food and Beverage performance any more. They want returns, results and performance. But they aren’t important. Honestly, if you are doing it for them, then you are largely missing the point. The really important people are the guests, the ones with the money, the time and the inclination to enjoy themselves. They are the ones that are increasingly seeking out the “Flair” in the food and beverage offers of hotels. No Flair, No Fun, No Funds!

Hotel guests used to accept what they were given, because there was no choice, no local competition, no internet, no means of finding out what was great in the city, except through the Concierge, who offered a slightly biased view of the locality, if you were lucky, or directed you to the shabby and expensive, for an appropriate consideration.

Now travellers cross the globe as food tourists, they know more about the offerings locally then the Hotel food and beverage department, who sadly still don’t “get out much” and they are armed with every internet enabled device under the sun to find those great places, OUTSIDE the hotel. Buffet or “blown away” – your choice. Keeping the guest in the hotel when there is so much competition is increasingly difficult, challenging and disconcerting. But there is a ray of hope that is “FlairFnB”.

For those hotel operators that can make good use of what they have got, or make their offer uniquely attractive, they are onto a winner. This doesn’t mean only expensive, exclusive or Michelin, it can mean social, affordable and desirable, but it takes a whole lot more thinking and execution to get it right.

“FlairFnB” means you know who your guest is and you give them what they want, you play to your strengths, your attractive qualities and your “brand personality”, not just place the same old foodservice offering in the same location, with the same results time and time again.

Depending on who you talk to in the industry at this time, from the giants to the upstarts, you will get a different perspective, but they are all aligned on one thing, foodservice is changing and F&B in hotels is never going back to where it came from. We love history, we adore recalling our past and our experiences and we also easily forget. Our guests of today, especially the Millennials, starkly remind us daily about our propositions and roundly scold us when we get it wrong.

Those companies with an eye towards innovation, to change and to offering the market their “unique qualities” are now common place. 25hours Hotels, Mama Shelter, Moxy, Mi Hotel and many more, from the large groups to the smaller start-ups could turn some of the challenges into opportunities in the coming year, by showcasing their uniquely attractive qualities. Changes in the economy around the world,  constantly “always on” innovation, and more complex consumer demands have changed and adjusted the travel landscape, and this is not going to stop.

Hoteliers must sustain growth and more importantly revenue growth, and “added value” as online private accommodation aggregators spread across the marketplace with new locations, rooms and offers. Hotels can fight back, but they have to provide so much more than just food and beverage, they need “FlairFnB”, put another way “places for People”.

Ultimately, businesses are driven by customer demand. But customers’ values, preferences, and expectations are not fixed, nor are they universal. We call them guests, because to call them customers or consumers in the “experience” world that we now live in is ludicrous. They no longer transact, they “enjoy”, they don’t “buy” they “immerse”. As a result they seek out, want, desire and demand (and expect) a personalized experience tailored to meet their needs. This has many travel brands excited, all aspiring to meet the high expectations set by others who are giving guests what they want. Some will succeed, many will fail.

Guests want authenticity, personalization, ease of use and understanding, on-demand functionality, familiarisation and style like never before. Tech is important, but “easy-tech” is essential. No long logins, no complex lighting, no stumbling round the room in the dark, just a quick “browse and begin” approach.

The rapid growth of industry disruptors in hotels and lodging and in foodservice generally is encouraging companies to capitalize on products and offers that would normally be outside of their traditional offerings. Cool bars, great lounges, open area receptions and foodservice offers that truly differentiate are all signs of “FlairFnB”.

Creating great places to enjoy, work and meet, brilliant public spaces in hotels and customized food and drink locations and products is where the smart money is going in my view. The guests are already at your property and some of them have even booked because of your Flair, rather than your lack of it.

The travel and hotel industry along with retail and restaurants is likely to see a very high level of collaborative activity in 2017, as we all begin to understand who best to work with, to finally make good use of what we have got, and to demonstrate our uniqueness.

Flair, it would appear, is here to stay. Good, I say.