Food is more than just a necessity for survival. It is also a source of pleasure, culture, identity and connection. For many travelers, food is one of the main reasons to explore new destinations and experience different cultures. According to a survey by Booking.com, 51 percent of global travelers said that they choose a destination for its great food and drink.
But what makes a culinary experience memorable and satisfying? How can hospitality businesses create food and beverage (F&B) offerings that appeal to the senses and soul of their guests? Here are some tips and examples to inspire you.
One of the key factors that influence guests’ satisfaction with their culinary experiences is authenticity. Guests want to taste the flavors and ingredients that are unique and representative of the destination they are visiting. They also want to learn about the history, traditions and stories behind the dishes they are eating.
For example, the Banyan Tree Bangkok offers a Saffron Cruise, which takes guests on a journey along the Chao Phraya River while serving authentic Thai cuisine and cultural performances. The cruise showcases the rich heritage and diversity of Thai food, as well as the scenic views of Bangkok’s landmarks.
Another example is the Fairmont Mount Kenya Safari Club, which offers a Tusker Barbecue, a traditional Kenyan feast prepared over an open fire. The barbecue features local meats such as goat, beef and chicken, as well as fresh vegetables, salads and breads. The barbecue is accompanied by live music and entertainment, as well as a bonfire and star-gazing session.
Another factor that influences guest satisfaction is personalization. Guests have different preferences and needs when it comes to F&B such as dietary restrictions, allergies, health goals, ethical values and cultural backgrounds. Hospitality businesses should be able to accommodate and cater to these diverse needs, as well as offer options to suit different occasions, moods and budgets.
A fantastic reference point would be The Ritz-Carlton, St. Thomas, which offers a unique spin on the classic picnic-in-the-park experience. The picnic in the park features a rustic picnic backpack ideal for hiking filled with gourmet sandwiches, salads, fruits, cheeses, desserts and beverages, as well as a picnic blanket and sun umbrella. The head chef will sit with the guests to tailor the food in the basket according to each guests’ own preferences and requirements, creating a personalized unique experience that will be part of their memories after they check out. The picnic in the national park is a perfect option for guests who are looking for an elevated take on hiking, as they enjoy the beaches, coral reefs and petroglyph rock carvings that the Virgin Islands National Park has to offer.
A final factor that influences guests’ satisfaction with their culinary experiences is sustainability. Guests are becoming more aware and concerned about the environmental and social impact of their F&B choices. They are looking for hospitality businesses that are committed to reducing their carbon footprint, minimizing food waste, supporting local communities and promoting fair trade.
For example, the Six Senses Zighy Bay offers a farm-to-table experience, which is a sustainable and organic way to enjoy the freshest produce from the resort’s own farm. The farm-to-table experience features a guided tour of the Dibba farm, where guests can learn about the farming methods and practices, as well as pick their own fruits and vegetables. It also features a cooking class, where guests can learn how to prepare delicious dishes using the produce they have harvested.
Another example is the Shangri-La Hotel, Dubai, which offers a rooted-in-nature initiative, a social and environmental responsibility program that supports local farmers, fishermen and producers. The rooted-in-nature initiative features a range of dishes and beverages that are made with locally sourced, organic and ethically produced ingredients. It also features a QR code on the menu that guests can scan to learn more about the origin and story of the ingredients they are consuming.
Creating culinary experiences that appeal to the senses and the soul is not only a way to delight and satisfy guests, but also a way to differentiate and elevate your hospitality business. By offering authentic, local, personalized, sustainable and socially responsible F&B options, you can create memorable and meaningful culinary experiences that will make your guests come back for more.
Varaul Bhatia is a research scholar with the HFTP Middle East Research Center and student at the Emirates Academy of Hospitality Management in Dubai, UAE.