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by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

US Senate Fails to Replenish the RRF

US Senate Fails to Replenish the RRF

by David Klemt

United States Capitol Building exterior and blue sky

After conflicting reports and speculation, the US Senate has finally voted this week on replenishing the Restaurant Revitalization Fund.

Last week, multiple sources reported that the Senate would hold their RRF vote this week. Just days ago, several outlets sounded the alarm, reporting that the vote would be pushed to next week. The reason, these sources provided, was the Senate’s scramble to repackage and hold another vote on aid for Ukraine.

Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) blocked the bill that would provide $40 billion in defense and humanitarian aid. Unsurprisingly, it was also Sen. Paul who objected to $43 billion in emergency funding last August, killing that RRF replenishment effort.

Today, on the Senate floor, Sen. Paul repeatedly derided the replenishment of the RRF as a “bailout.” Additionally, he asked, “Where’s the emergency?”

So, one can infer that the impending closure of an estimated 50 percent of RRF applicants—88,500—isn’t an emergency to the Kentucky senator. Simple math shows that if each of those applicants has just ten employees, that’s a loss of 885,000 jobs.

Rightfully so, people throughout the industry have been more than a little concerned that the bill would receive at least 60 “yea” votes today.

At issue is where the funds would come from. While Democrats view replenishing the RRF as emergency funding, Republicans prefer to reallocate existing funds.

Senate Fails to Replenish RRF

Today’s vote was a long time coming. In fact, it’s just days shy of one year since the RRF application portal closed.

Now, after a 223 to 203 vote in the House to replenish RRF, our senators have failed us. The resulting vote was 52 to 43, falling short of the 60 “yeas” necessary

I’m not despondent over this news. Honestly, I think I’ve made it rather clear that our politicians failing us wouldn’t at all surprise me. Yet I still find myself incredibly disappointed.

Disappointed in how the RRF was handled, disappointed in the grant approval process, disappointed in how emergency funding was blocked, and disappointed in how we were left out of the Biden administration’s Build Back Better and March omnibus bills.

And gravely disillusioned now that I’ve finally learned how little many of our senators care about us. Hospitality is an industry that employed nearly 17 million people in 2019. In terms of revenue, we’re projected by the National Restaurant Association to generate almost $900 billion in sales.

Not enough, it’s clear, for a majority of senators to vote to replenish the RRF.

However, I’m mostly dismayed for the owners and operators who have waited a year just to have this lifeline yanked from their fingertips. Today’s failure in the Senate puts millions of jobs at risk.

Underfunded from the Start

For those who found themselves in RRF limbo, the wait for this vote has been agonizing.

The RRF application portal opened May 3, 2021. Initially, the process looked promising. For the first 21 days, the Small Business Administration announced, priority would be granted to small businesses with a minimum of 51 percent ownership by women, veterans or socially disadvantaged people.

However, the SBA closed the portal immediately after processing only about 101,000 priority applications, or one-third of applicants. So, ever since May 24 of last year, “non-priority” applicants have been left wondering if they’d ever receive an RRF grant.

In addition to the premature closure of the application process, the RRF was woefully underfunded. Clearly, that point was driven home when $75 billion in applications were submitted to a fund with just $28.6 billion.

So, the quick closure and unrealistic funding meant that out of the over 362,000 initial applicants, around 177,000 have been watching and waiting.

A Year-long Wait

Shortly after the RRF portal was closed, a number of Republican members of Congress sent a letter to the SBA. Per the contents of the letter, non-priority applicants wouldn’t receive grants or have the opportunity to apply for grants.

Indeed, those applicants stuck in RRF limbo have been waiting for relief for just days shy of a year. And that’s only counting the days since the portal closed. Operators across the industry, not just those who applied for RRF grants, have been scratching and clawing to stave off insolvency and closures.

Advocates such as the Independent Restaurant Coalition have been sounding the alarm. RRF applicants could be just days away from bankruptcy and needed the government to act. To be brutally honest, relief may still come too late for many applicants.

Congress has certainly had the time to vote on and replenish the RRF. In June 2021, Sens. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) and Roger Wicker (R-MS), and Reps. Earl Blumenauer (D-PA) and Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) introduced the RRF Replenishment Act bill. In July, Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R-MO) introduced an alternative bill, the ENTREE Act.

Of course, as we well know, an attempt in August to replenish the RRF with $43 billion in emergency funding was blocked by Sen. Paul. In November, Build Back Better was passed. Obviously, the RRF and our industry were left out the $1.7 trillion dollar bill. Likewise, we weren’t included in March’s $1.5 trillion omnibus spending bill.

Left Out In the Cold

So, of $3.2 trillion dollars in massive bills passed, zero were earmarked for us.

Today, our senators voted 86 to 11 for $40 billion in aid for Ukraine. However, they voted 52 to 43 to provide $40 billion in aid to American restaurants and bars.

Last month, eleven months after the portal closed, the House voted to replenish the RRF. That left the final push to the Senate.

And today, at least 43 senators made their low opinion of us known.

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by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Drinks for Your World Whisky Day Menu

Drinks for Your World Whisky Day Menu

by David Klemt

Whiskey in Fine & Rare NYC glass

This Saturday is the eleventh annual celebration of World Whisky Day, the perfect day to highlight your whisky and cocktail menus.

One revenue-generating method of drawing in guests is a promotion showcasing popular, lesser-known, or rare whiskies. Operators can also create a whisky and beer combo promotion.

Of course, there’s also the specialty cocktail menu. There are a few different approaches to this promotion.

An operator and their bar team can focus on one specific cocktail, offering three or four “takes” on it. Another way to make this work is to take the same cocktail and feature a different whisky in each one.

A different approach is to create a World Whisky Day menu consisting of three or more of the most popular whisky cocktails. To help you identify which drinks to feature we looked into the top whisky drinks. Check them out below.

Old Fashioned

C’mon—you knew this was going to be on the list before you read past the title of this article. Drinks Digest ranked the Old Fashioned the number-one cocktail of 2021.

VinePair‘s list didn’t rank their most-popular cocktails overtly but this classic got its expected mention.

Manhattan

Just like the Old Fashioned, you expected this drink to make this list. While it can certainly be made with bourbon or an array of single malt American whiskies, the Manhattan shines when made with rye.

Whisky Sour

As Drinks International points out, the Whisky Sour may not be the top drink in most bars. In fact, it may not make it into their top three.

However, the simple but refreshing Whisky Sour is at least in the top ten of several bars, making it a solid choice for your specialty menu.

Boulevardier

Want to get some of the cocktail aficionados among your guests to flip out? Tell them loudly and confidently that the Boulevardier is better than the Negroni. That’ll certainly get them talking.

Or, hey, don’t do that. Just perfect this bourbon cocktail, a cousin of the Negroni, and highlight your build for World Whisky Day.

Mint Julep

The Kentucky Derby may be over but summer is just around the corner. People are still craving this centuries-old cocktail and VinePair called it “essential” last year.

Sazerac

Like many classics, the Sazerac was “medicinal” when it was first created in the 1830s. In 2008, this drink was made the official cocktail of New Orleans by the Louisiana state legislature.

The Sazerac is another cocktail recipe that VinePair said was an essential one for bars in 2021.

Vieux Carré

It’s difficult to overstate the important role New Orleans has played and continues to play in American cocktail culture.

The recipe, created about 100 years after the Sazerac, combines American whisky (rye, traditionally), Cognac, Bénédictine, sweet vermouth, and Peychaud’s bitters.

Penicillin

Created by Sam Ross when he was behind the stick at Milk & Honey, this is my favorite whisky cocktail. The recipe was one of Punch’s most popular last year, and it was on Drinks International’s top 50 list for 2021.

On a personal note, this is one of my all-time favorite whisky cocktails. In fact, the Penicillin is one of my favorite cocktails in general.

Honorable Mentions

These may not be top sellers for most bars (if any) but they’re worth consideration for World Whisky Day.

The Chauncey is a 1:1:1:1 combination of rye whisky, Cognac, gin, and sweet vermouth plus two dashes of orange bitters, served up.

Of course, there’s also the Mule, which lends itself to an incredible number of riffs. Select a whisky or two to come up with specialty Mules of your own.

Irish whisky stands out in an Irish coffee, which can be served iced/frozen when it’s hot outside.

And then we have the Rob Roy. If you want to be glib about it, this is a Manhattan made with Scotch rather than rye whisky.

Your Own Data

There’s an excellent resource for determining what drinks to feature at your restaurant or bar. It’s quite literally at your fingertips: your POS.

If you want to know what your guests are drinking and what they want, run a report.

How deep you get into the data is up to you, of course. Monthly, quarterly, seasonally, annually… There are myriad methods to determine your World Whisky Day’s best options.

Sure, you can probably safely assume that your top whisky cocktails are the same as those above. But why not be absolutely certain with your own data? You invest money and time into your POS—wring everything you can out of it.

Also, your bar team and servers. Ask them what whiskies guests have been asking for that you don’t have.

Use your POS to identify the whiskies gathering dust in your stockroom, then find a way to move them quickly (a well-priced LTO should work) and replace them with what guests want.

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by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Top Whisky-centric Bar Hacks Episodes

Top Whisky-centric Bar Hacks Episodes

by David Klemt

Golden podcast microphone

We’ve had the privilege of speaking with dozens of industry experts on the Bar Hacks podcast, including whisky distillers, brand reps, and bartenders.

So, to inspire you to pull out all the stops for your World Whisky Day promotion, we’ve rounded up twelve whisky-centric Bar Hacks episodes for your listening delight.

Cheers!

Episode 12

Co-host David Klemt (that’s me) of the Bar Hacks podcast chats with Jared Boller, Canadian National Whiskey Ambassador at Proximo Spirits. Tending bar gave him the opportunity to live, work and travel around the world.

At the time of this podcast, Boller represented brands like Bushmills and Proper No. Twelve at Proximo Spirits in Canada. On episode 12, Jared discusses his journey through the world of hospitality and how operators can benefit more from working with brand ambassadors.

Episode 25

One of our favorite people in the industry—and in life in general—popped by to speak with Bar Hacks. Megan Breier is one of the most engaging, entertaining and knowledgeable educators in the hospitality and spirits industries.

In this episode, Megan explains what sets Maker’s Mark apart from other bourbons, some of the amazing activations she’s executed, Private Selection, Maker’s 101, Margie Samuels’ contributions to the brand and industry, and more. Listen now!

Episode 28

Lyre’s Spirits crafts alcohol-free spirits that masterfully mimic their full-proof counterparts. Bar Hacks co-host David Klemt sits down with Lyre’s brand ambassador, bartender and buddy Tim Rita to chat about the brand.

On episode 28 you’ll learn about one of the fastest-growing brands in one of the fastest-growing beverage categories. How is an alcohol-free brand relevant on World Whisky Day? Lyre’s makes American Malt, a zero-proof take on bourbon.

Episode 31

Ted Fleming, entrepreneur and CEO and founder of Partake Brewing, stops by to discuss the founding of the alcohol-free beer brand, the importance and growth of the non-alcohol beer category, how operators can succeed with non-alc, advice for entrepreneurs, and more.

Given the importance of low- and no-proof drink options to bar operations, Partake Brewing pairs well with brands like Lyre’s to make sober-friendly Boilermakers. Listen to this episode here.

Episode 32

Woodford Reserve brand ambassador Michael Toscano stops by to talk about the Kentucky Derby, crafting the perfect Mint Julep, maximizing the operator-brand-rep relationship, and more. Check it out now!

Episode 39

Anthony “Terry” Bohlinger, national brand ambassador for new William Grant & Sons whiskey brand Fistful of Bourbon, drops by Bar Hacks. Terry talks about launching a brand during a pandemic, representing an irreverent brand that doesn’t take itself too seriously, the hilarious videos Fistful of Bourbon created to introduce the brand, lessons learned during his journey in hospitality, and more. Listen here!

Episode 50

In our 50th episode, Travis explains the difference between a dive bar and a neighborhood bar, and notes that both Nickel City locations are “anytime bars” that welcome everyone. He also shares his hospitality journey, which saw him go from Buffalo, NY, to Florida, Las Vegas, and ultimately Texas; tips for staying on brand; hiring and retaining team members; how the hospitality industry is the entertainment industry; supporting the community during a crazy winter storm; location scouting; how there’s no better time to open a bar or restaurant than right now; and much more.

Nickel City is known for an incredible range of whiskeys, monthly whiskey specials, and specialty Boilermaker combinations. Listen to episode 50 now.

Episode 52

Lynn House, national spirits specialist and portfolio mixologist for Heaven Hill, drops by Bar Hacks to speak with host David Klemt about the second annual Old Fashioned Week.

Lynn and David also discuss bourbon, rye, hospitality, building balanced cocktails, and how trust plays a role in educating guests so you and your team can introduce them to new drinks and experiences. Listen now!

Episode 59

Whiskey expert, spirits judge, and sommelier Theo Rutherford stops by the Bar Hacks podcast to talk about Bib & Tucker Small Batch Bourbon, a prominent addition to the Deutsch Family of wine and spirits. Rutherford shares the Bib & Tucker brand story, what sets the brand apart from other bourbons, and why the 6 Year expression appeals to all categories of whiskey drinkers. He also shares tips for tasting bourbon, including how easily Bib & Tucker wins over non-whiskey drinkers.

Listen now to learn why Theo wants you to smell everything and stop swirling your whiskey at tastings.

Episode 63

David Vitale, founder of Starward Whisky, shares his journey into whisky distillation and how craft beer brewing plays a significant role. The two also discuss Australian whisky, making inroads throughout North America, and why Starward expressions work so well with food and food programs.

In this episode you’ll also find out which Starward whisky David Vitale calls the “Swiss Army knife of whiskies,” which makes the perfect Manhattan, Starward Solera, and more.

Episode 71

Glendalough Distillery co-founder, national brand ambassador, and bottlewasher Donal O’Gallachoir comes on the podcast to explain what makes the distillery’s whiskey and gin “remarkably different.” Ever since they opened their doors, Glendalough has been on a mission to honor Irish distilling heritage and returning Irish whiskey and gin to the top of their respective spirits categories.

Donal also shares the details of Glendalough’s newest release: batch number one of 7 Years Mizunara Finish. Listen now!

Episode 74

David Vitale, founder of Starward Whisky, returns from Australia and returns to the Bar Hacks podcast! The Australian whisky producer took home an incredible amount of medals from the 2022 San Francisco World Spirits Competition. David tells host David Klemt what it was like to see the final award tally, how the Starward team reacted, and dove into the mission and vision of Starward Whisky.

The two also discuss the award-winning expressions that are either already available in the US or on their way to American shores. David shares the details of the Fortis, Octave Barrels, Unexpeated, and Dolce expressions. And for the single-barrel lovers out there, David also dives into the magic behind single barrel bottlings Nos. 684, 3278, and 4539. It’s exciting to learn about the expressions joining Two-Fold, Nova, Solera, and Ginger Beer Cask #6. Listen to episode 74 here!

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by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

How Big Brands Can Help Small Brands

How Big Hotel Brands Can Help Small Hospitality Brands

by David Klemt

Upward perspective shot of skyscrapers

The intriguing topic of big hotel brands helping smaller hospitality businesses grow came up during HD Expo 2022.

Several speakers spoke about serving and improving local communities. However, established brands can also help local business communities.

Job creation can take place outside of a big brand’s four walls, for example. But going even further, smaller independent brands can also receive a lift from big brands.

As we all grapple with what business can be moving forward, some in hospitality are proposing operating with a purpose.

Conversations Help

Everyone with several years of experience in this industry has seen some things. That’s putting it lightly, most likely.

That is to say, hospitality professionals gain metric tons of useful experience working in this industry. As we know, experience and knowledge are incredibly valuable in business.

Great mentors help others by sharing their knowledge with others. They gain that knowledge—at least in part—through experience. That means that time is truly invaluable.

So, when’s the last time you shared your knowledge with someone outside your business’ four walls?

Damon Lawrence is the co-founder of Homage Hospitality, the first Black-owned hotel brand. As he said during HD Expo 2022, honoring and engaging a given community requires time and effort. This includes engaging with the community’s business owners.

According to Lawrence, just mentoring people and providing what you’ve learned in this industry for free can help small businesses.

Now, it may sound too simple to say that sharing information is enough to help a small operator. However, what seems like a small nudge in the right direction can be powerful.

It may seem inconsequential to an established, large brand operator or executive. But you may be holding the piece of the puzzle that will show a smaller operator their next step.

Giving someone a few moments of valuable time can lead to a flourishing local business community, which in turn helps the community at large thrive.

Active Development

The managing director of Horwath HTL, Todd Wynne-Parry, pointed out the old hotel and resort model during HD Expo 2022. For decades, the approach was to keep each guest on property for as much of their stay as possible.

Now, as Wynne-Parry says, the aim is to encourage guests to explore the areas surrounding hotels and resorts.

With that in mind, hotel groups and designers are seeking to create destination properties. Almost by default, that requires the community to become a destination as well.

As far as Crystal Vinisse Thomas, a VP at Hyatt Hotels, is concerned, that means global hospitality brands need learn to work with small businesses.

If a hotel brand really wants to engage the community, featuring local brands is a powerful strategy. Doing so not only resonates with locals, it provides a more authentic experience for travelers.

However, meeting the demands of a hotel can prove daunting for a small business. So, while it may seem like a great idea to design a space for a local coffee shop to operate out of, they may not be able to afford the initial outlay.

Vinisse Thomas recommends big hotel brands lower the cost of entry for small businesses to work with them.

Larger brands can also actively help accelerate the growth of small businesses. If a big hotel brand isn’t interested or capable of acting as an incubator, they can still help entrepreneurs.

Again, removing barriers to entry or lowering the costs of entry is a great start. Hotel brands can also create grant programs to develop smaller hospitality businesses.

There was a lot of talk about community during HD Expo 2022. Global brands need to take the next steps to ensure it wasn’t all talk.

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Is Your Brand Engaging the Community?

Is Your Brand Engaging the Community?

by David Klemt

Sign on wall that reads, "We like you too"

Many speakers at HD Expo 2022 are focusing on an important element of design and the hospitality industry: the people we serve.

In other words, designers, their collaborative partners, and their clients want to engage communities.

Now, it’s true that HD Expo 2022 speakers were mainly talking about the hotel side of hospitality design. However, much of what they have to say on the subject of community relates to restaurant and bar projects as well.

Below are helpful insights into engaging the community your business operates in and serves.

Valuing the Community

Crystal Vinisse Thomas, vide president and global brand leader of lifestyle and luxury brands for Hyatt Hotels is bringing Caption by Hyatt to life.

A core element of Caption is community engagement. Yes, travelers are crucial to the success of a hotel brand. However, so are the locals.

After all, hotels, restaurants, and bars employ people from the community. Engaging the community leads to the creation of a loyal guests. During slower times, those loyal locals keep those registers ringing.

As Vinisse Thomas says, operators need to focus on locals as much as travelers. Further, she defines her approach to community as creating a space that’s open to everyone.

One way that Caption is staying true to Vinisse Thomas and Hyatt’s vision for the brand is the Talk Shop. As the name suggests, this is a hangout space. Talk Shop is a communal workspace, a a restaurant, a coffee shop… It’s a hangout for everyone, hotel guest or community guest.

However, Vinisse Thomas does admit that there are challenges when designing and operating for community engagement. One of those challenges is scalability.

Then there’s another big challenge. Designing and operating with the community in mind looks great on paper. But there’s no guarantee that this approach will give an operator an edge of the competition.

To that point, Vinisse Thomas suggests it may be best to speak with one’s competitors to partner on community engagement efforts.

Honoring the Community

An additional challenge when attempting to engage a community is authenticity. It’s a great buzzword, as Vinisse Thomas says, but it needs to be more than that.

Dyonne Fashina, principal of Denizens of Design, has some thoughts on community engagement and authenticity.

Putting it bluntly, Fashina says that honoring a community requires more than a Google search. Rather, designers and operators need to spend time in a given community. They need to get to know the people, the culture, and the vibe.

At KRG Hospitality, we agree. One of our services is site selection. We conduct intensive research to identify the best site for a concept.

However, operator clients need to ensure they know the location. Not just the ZIP code, not just the address, not just the cross streets—the community.

After KRG identifies ideal sites, the client should spend time in those communities, speaking with the people who live and work in them.

Fashina also has another excellent piece of advice for operators. The project, as we often say at KRG, isn’t over after the grand opening. Fashina’s advice speaks to that point.

If an element of an operator’s business isn’t working for the community, she says, they need to be flexible enough to fix it. For owners who perhaps don’t spend every day inside their business or businesses, Fashina recommends visiting to analyze community engagement.

Hospitality is about service, and service requires commitment to being a responsible host and steward. To that end, operators should ensure their concepts improve communities rather than exploit them.

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by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

What’s Next in the F&B Design Space?

What’s Next in the F&B Design Space?

by David Klemt

Interior of world's first crypto bar

Design driven by a story and narrative, technological innovation, and people’s desire to socialize are what’s next in hospitality design.

The influences above are factoring into the current approach to design in the F&B space. Be it a hotel or restaurant, the F&B landscape is going to look different for several reasons.

Five leading industry experts addressed this topic during HD Expo 2022‘s “F&B Trends: What’s Next?” panel.

Technology

Well, let’s start with arguably the biggest “trend” in F&B. Our industry is finally making major advancements in the area of technology.

It may not seem like it to some, but speaking generally, hospitality hasn’t always found itself on tech’s bleeding edge. That’s changing.

In fact, some industry experts feel we may be moving too quickly. For example, an interesting prediction from Restaurant Leadership Conference 2022 is a more deliberate approach to developing and implementing hospitality-specific tech.

Now, that doesn’t mean we’ll see a significant slowdown in tech innovation. Rather, innovators may take a more calculated approach to truly relieve hospitality pain points.

For example, Adam Crocini, senior vice president and global head of food and beverage brands for Hilton, points to a few innovations now common throughout the industry. Digital order, digital pay, and the ability to deliver food essentially anywhere within a hotel, resort or casino property are tech solutions driving efficiency.

However, Crocini sees one segment in need of a specific solution. In the luxury segment, guests prefer in-person engagement with staff and tactile engagement with physical menus.

Ari Kastrati, chief hospitality officer for MGM Resorts International, seems to agree. Tech, says Kastrati, shouldn’t replace human connections. Rather, technology needs to enable and enhance.

The Experience

When it comes to design, much of the focus is on the impact it will have on the guest or consumer. However, the end user is hardly the starting point.

For Kastrati, a successful project begins with the development of a relationship. That relationship is between the designer, the operator, and the concept. If care isn’t taken to nurture that relationship, it will likely show in the final product.

In Crocini’s eyes, that relationship informs the development of the operator’s concept. How? Through the development of a story and narrative.

If the designer and operator can develop a story, the design can be grounded in said story. Further, every element of a design can be held up against that story to see if it “fits.” If it does, the design will deliver a holistic experience and engage the guest or consumer.

In terms of F&B, Kastrati and Crocini make similar points. Both feel knowing the guest and anticipating their needs is crucial.

Addressing design elements that impact the experience, Crocini believes design should start with lighting. A design without proper lighting, Crocini says, is like a Scorsese film without the score.

Alexis Readinger, founder of Preen, is focusing in part on unique floorplan design. In particular, Readinger likes features that encourage interaction between guests, such as communal loveseats. However, “protecting the introverts” is also important for some guests’ comfort levels.

It’s safe to say that Caroline Landry Farouki, partner at Farouki Farouki, agrees with Readinger and Crocini. Seating, says Landry Farouki, can create different levels of intimacy to engage extroverts and introverts, and lighting designers are crucial and can really tell the story.

F&B Trends

In terms of consumer trends, Kastrati points to something specific he’s seeing in Las Vegas. People are seeking out specialty restaurants and luxury retail. At least anecdotally, this confirms what many reports and experts have been saying for the past few years: Consumers are showing increased interest in luxury.

However, Kastrati’s focus in the F&B space isn’t solely on guests and consumers. Rather, he suggests that the next step is bringing people back to the workforce. As Kastrati says, there’s no hospitality without people. Kastrati believes all of us in the industry need to encourage people to pursue hospitality careers.

Switching gears, Jessica Gidari, director of design and concept development for Union Square Hospitality Group, points to an effective pivot as a possible industry trend.

At least one concept in the Union Square portfolio has pivoted from a restaurant to a cocktail bar. A menu with shareable plates leverages guest desire to socialize and share. Gidari also says doing away with some traditional two- and four-top tables and replacing them with communal seating can “rebrand” a space as a “convivial” lounge.

Landry Farouki thinks operators can count on two compelling trends in the F&B space. One is the return of the restaurant as “the bar.” As someone who lives and works in Las Vegas, I can attest to treating restaurants more as bars myself.

Another possible trend Landry Farouki predicts is “mature dining” replacing fine dining. Explaining mature dining, Landry Farouki says such a concept is chef-driven but doesn’t focus solely on the chef.

Trend predictions must be taken with a grain of salt. However, I only see upside for design that helps operators engage guests more from the start.

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by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

TOTC 2022 Agenda and Tickets Now Live

Tales of the Cocktail 2022 Conference Agenda and Tickets Now Available

by David Klemt

Greetings from NOLA artwork

The time is now to grab your Tales of the Cocktail tickets and plan your trip to New Orleans for the last week of July.

Not only are tickets available for purchase via this link right now, you can also check out the schedule here.

Of particular note is the amount of complimentary programming available to 20th anniversary TOTC attendees.

Free to Attend

Attendees will have access to several activations and workshops that are free to attend.

Beginning Sunday, complimentary programming is available throughout the week. For example, the Day of Service on Sunday, July 24 is free attend and a way to give back.

Also on Sunday, the 11th annual Pig & Punch Volunteer Day of Service. This is another opportunity for those in the industry to do some good in the NOLA community.

The return of Pig & Punch was mentioned by an excited Lola Thomas on episode 72 of the Bar Hacks podcast.

On Monday, all attendees can attend the keynote address; Diversity Distilled Career Fair; the Welcome to Wellness! therapeutic stretch and self-massage session; and “#FromTheBarToTheFarm” sustainability workshop.

There are several more workshops—such as “Safe Bars: Crafting a New Culture of Safety and Respect” and the immersive “Mind Full” experience—that are free to attend on Tuesday and Wednesday.

Incredible Activations

More reasons to plan your trip around an action-packed Sunday? Speed Rack Redemption, the National Tequila Day Pool Party at the Royal Sonesta, and Ode to the Bowl.

The rest of the week is absolutely packed. From workshops to seminars, cocktail tours to tasting rooms, and all manner of activations, parties, and events in between, the 20th anniversary celebration of Tales of the Cocktail will be an experience to remember.

On the subject of cocktail tours, there are eight such experiences available during this year’s Tales. For example, attendees can register and secure tickets for Hunting Down the Sazerac, Downriver: Bars Beyond the French Quarter, the Big Gay Bar Tour, and Bourbon Street and How it Got that Way.

Learn More

To be honest, there’s simply too much going on at this year’s TOTC to list here. The sheer number of workshops, seminars, and activations must be checked out online.

And that’s to say nothing of the industry icons that will be presenting seminars and workshops, and hosting activations and special events.

Simply put, there’s programming for everyone. Health and wellness? Yes. Furthering your career? Absolutely. Perfecting technique and tasting new products? Of course. Business, culture, advocacy, diversity, inclusion, equity… Check, check, check, check, check, check!

We hope to see you at Tales of the Cocktail 2022! Be sure to check out the agenda and grab your tickets today.

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by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

Designing with Anxiety in Mind

Designing with Anxiety in Mind

by David Klemt

Blurry image of people in a nightclub or bar

Interior design has the power to remove a person’s anxiety, improving the guest experience by making them feel more comfortable.

Lionel Ohayon, founder and CEO of ICRAVE, addressed design and anxiety at HD Expo 2022 in Las Vegas. While anxiety wasn’t the entire focus of this intimate discussion, what Ohayon had to say was powerful.

When some operators consider their space, they probably aren’t thinking about guest anxiety. Ohayon, who designs with compassion and empathy in mind, believes designers can address anxiety through the design process.

Why the respected designer think designers can accomplish this feat? He does it himself.

Innovative Design

For the benefit of those unfamiliar with Ohayon and ICRAVE, some background.

Specializing in interiors and lighting, ICRAVE is an award-winning design firm. Founded by Ohayon, the firm’s approach to design includes a focus on the experiential and the client’s brand strategy.

One may assume that ICRAVE works solely in the hospitality space. To that point, the firm’s portfolio includes some of the world’s most impressive restaurants, bars, lounges, nightclubs, hotels, and spas.

However, the company is well known for work in the healthcare, wellness, entertainment, residential, workplace, mixed-use, and airport spaces.

After two decades, ICRAVE has honed their vision, approach, and strategy. A key pillar is “experience design.” In fact, the firm believes that “the experience is the brand.”

It would be impossible to live and deliver on that core tenet without understanding a client’s business. For ICRAVE, the final product must engage all those who use the space they’ve designed and their client is operating.

Reducing Anxiety

Consider this scenario. It’s not one that we’ve all found ourselves in. However, it is a situation that those who experience anxiety live with every day.

Let’s say someone has agreed to meet friends at a nightclub. They’re not meeting somewhere outside of the club so they can enter as a group.

This person arrives, enters, and is seeking out their friends. Unfortunately for them and their anxiety, they’re the first to get there. Anxiety (and even panic) sets in. Now, the last place this guest wants to be is in this nightclub.

Obviously, this is a terrible guest experience. And now this guest may associate the venue, fairly or not, with feelings of anxiety. They may never want to return.

Throughout Ohayon’s career, he has designed for this exact situation. During his HD Expo session—which was much more an intimate conversation inside the DesignWell Pavilion—Ohayon explained that he has incorporated “perches” in a number of his designs.

A perch, in this context, is a space a person can access that makes them feel comfortable while they wait for others in their party to arrive. The way I understand it, a perch is like a “hideaway,” a space someone feeling anxiety in public can use so they don’t feel like everyone’s eyes—and judgment—are upon them.

Designing and planning for longevity requires designers and their clients to think differently. Health and wellness must be more than buzzwords—they must be authentic to a brand.

Anything less is disingenuous. Today’s consumer is perceptive when it comes to sensing the inauthentic, and they don’t like it.

Takeaway

Now, some operators may feel as though addressing a guest’s anxiety isn’t their problem. And we’re not always sensitive to the fact that someone is feeling anxious.

Some people may even feel defensive about their venue right now. Their space, they may be thinking, isn’t causing anyone anxiety.

At risk of putting too fine a point on it or stating the obvious, a key element of hospitality is guest comfort. If a guest’s comfort and sense of safety isn’t important to someone, they really shouldn’t be in hospitality.

To clarify, Ohayon’s comments on anxiety are first and foremost for designers. He wants designers to consider how they can incorporate elements that may help reduce a person’s anxiety.

On the client side, though, an operator can and should ask about such elements during the design process of their space. There’s no reason to be defensive—this is about mindfulness, wellness, and compassion.

Removing anxiety through design pays off during day-to-day operations. If a space can reduce a guest’s anxiety, that guest can be present and engaged. That engagement leads to a positive, memorable experience. And that type of experience evolves into repeat visits from loyal guests.

Image: Maurício Mascaro

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

The 2022 Hospitality Design Forecast

The 2022 Hospitality Design Forecast

by David Klemt

Perspective shot of neon hotel sign

Four 2022 HD Expo panelists are focusing on very specific design elements and considerations informing the future of hospitality design.

It should come as no surprise that their industry forecasts embody the themes of this year’s hospitality design show.

In fact, each panelist appears to be embracing the overall theme: Community. For these experts, designers must be mindful of their impact on communities.

Sustainable Practices

Enrique Vela, director of interiors at Olson Kundig, prefers the term “performance building” to sustainability. At Olson Kundig, performance building informs every stage of each project.

Further, the firm doesn’t focus solely on their approach to sustainable design, construction, and operation. According to Vela, Olson Kundig wants to know how their vendors approach sustainability as well.

And going even further, Vela and the firm want to see a commitment in sustainability (or performance building) from their clients. On that front, Olson Kundig’s are showing more interest in sustainability.

The firm’s desire to see commitment from their clients makes sense. After all, getting close to net zero during a build is difficult in the best of conditions. If a client has a laissez-faire attitude toward a core design tenet, the project isn’t off to a great start.

Andrew Lieberman, design director at AvroKO, seems to take a similar view as Vela and Olson Kundig.

As Lieberman sees it, “the entire ecosystem is impacted by a project.” Therefore, social consciousness needs to be a core element of a project.

Per Lieberman, he and AvroKO are seeing an increase in interest in sustainability from clients.

Focus on Wellness

Meghann Day, partner at Hirsch Bedner Associates, is seeing the interest in wellness proliferating beyond the hospitality space. HBA’s multi-family projects are incorporating wellness amenities into design in increasingly prominent ways.

For instance, clients are showing interest in infrared saunas and other cutting-edge wellness features in their homes. Per Day, wellness is quickly steering away from taking up a corner in a space and driving toward inhabiting entire floors.

Why should hospitality designers care about what’s going on in residential design? Simple: Hotels and resorts are homes away from home. In fact, they’re also becoming offices away from home offices.

What people want in their homes (and workspaces) they also want—and expect—from the hotels and resorts they visit.

For now, HBA is seeing the growth in wellness through traditional amenities. However, new elements will become more common in the near future.

Lieberman and AvroKO are also experiencing increasing interest in wellness design features. This interest is coming from the firm’s clients, meaning guests and residents are seeking out wellness amenities.

Community Engagement

Interestingly, the panelists have a clear interest in off-premises service. And no, I’m not referring to F&B delivery or offering guests local experiences.

Rather, today’s designers are enthusiastically designing for the communities in which they and their clients are building.

As Vela sees it, designers must consider the community. For him, engaging the community is crucial to a project’s success. The reasoning is simple: A project is inarguably tapping into the build site’s culture, heritage, history, and people.

For Lieberman, wellness and sustainability in the hospitality space combine feeling good, doing good, and impacting the community. A community is its own ecosystem, and that ecosystem is impacted by a designer and their client’s project.

Another way of viewing a hotel or resort is that it’s a portal into the community, per Lieberman.

He and Vela believe a project will be far more engaging if the community and its culture are honored through its design. As Vela says, we create the best memories when all of our sense are engaged.

F&B Memberships

While not a large focus of this HD Expo 2022 panel, food and beverage did come up. However, it didn’t focus just on people’s desire to return to restaurants.

For example, Lieberman is seeing interest in F&B memberships. In his version, a membership space lives within the main restaurant. For these spaces, designers and operators can go overt or covert.

In one example, the members-only space is accessed via the main dining room. That means guests without memberships can see the members going to their exclusive space. In turn, that should generate interest in memberships.

On the opposite end, a membership space could be kept secret. Loyal guests may not know about these memberships and spaces for months or years.

Either way, the key to executing these spaces is creative, multi-faceted design, according to Lieberman.

Another way to use F&B spaces comes from Day. This downtime solution is simple and can generate much-needed revenue.

As Day explains, the approach is similar to that of a WeWork space. The operator creates a WeWork-like membership. During slow hours, these members have access to the restaurant.

Their membership entitles them to WiFI and menu access. Members would still pay for F&B items, but at a discount.

Technology

When it comes to technology, Ken Patel and EV Hotel are taking things as far as possible without turning off guests.

Patel is the founder and CEO of EV Hotel, and he has nearly three decades in the industry. Three years ago he had the vision for what is now EV Hotel.

Putting his view of hotel design and tech bluntly, he says that the only innovation in this space has been replacing small TVs with bigger versions. That may seem harsh, but consider what Patel is really saying: Hospitality, in his opinion, isn’t innovating fast enough.

Well, that’s certainly not the case with EV Hotel.

EV has launched the world’s first crypto rewards program. They’re the first hotel group to enter the metaverse fully built, and they operate the first-ever crypto trade floor. What’s more, Patel predicts that the metaverse will be an $8 trillion industry in a mere six years.

According to Patel, each EV Hotel room contains between 15 and 18 brand-specific tech developments. And while they may not have a dedicated fitness center, EV features an interactive exercise bike studio.

Now, it may seem at first glance that EV is developing and implementing tech innovations simply for the sake of doing so. However, Patel would argue against that perception of his brand.

“We have to match innovation to technology,” he says. That means reducing the amount of tasks employees take on that have nothing to do with serving guests directly.

Automating backend tasks allows EV team members—they all carry the title experience employee—to focus much more on the hospitality experience for guests. And a greater focus on hospitality means a greater focus on personalized experiences.

Takeaway

Thoughtful design that combines wellness, sustainability, and technology will not only serve communities, it will build them as well.

There’s the community in which a hotel or resort operates and which it must take care to honor and serve. There’s the community of employees serving guests and the community at large. And there’s the community of guests that frequent the property.

The future of hospitality design is looking bright, indeed.

Image: Francesco Ungaro

by David Klemt David Klemt No Comments

SevenRooms Reveals Hotel Guest Study

SevenRooms Reveals Hotel Guest Study Results

by David Klemt

Male passenger with suitcase at airport

Americans eager to get back to normal and make up for lost time are traveling in droves, and hotels will have to adapt in order to earn their business.

To give hotel and resort operators an edge, SevenRooms today reveals the results of their latest study.

“Booking Behaviors: Exploring Hotel Guest Loyalty,” contains datapoints all hotel operators should know.

The report, a collaboration with YouGov, focuses on two types of travelers.

Competitive Incentives

Before I address the who, let’s take a look at data that highlights the what.

According to the SevenRooms and YouGov report, nearly half of consumers say that loyalty programs are important. Per SevenRooms, loyalty programs influence hotel choice for 44 percent of guests.

Regarding American hotel guests specifically, 34 percent of guests will consider rebooking if their loyalty status receives recognition upon check-in.

However, loyalty status recognition isn’t enough for guests to book a hotel again. To understand what will influence that decision we need to take a look at SevenRooms’ traveler types.

Leisure

SevenRooms and YouGov look at two travelers for their report. There’s the Personal Patron and the Business Traveler.

Let’s focus on the former first. Per SevenRooms, to say the Personal Patron is eager to return to travel is an understatement.

The Personal Patron is a leisure traveler who has been climbing their walls for more than two years. They’re planning to travel “with a vengeance” this summer.

Diving deeper, the Personal Patron is most probably a female over the age of 35.

While recognizing this traveler for their loyalty program membership is smart, it’s not enough to influence a rebook. Rather, the Personal Patron places greater value on:

  • receiving more loyalty program points in exchange for dining and drinking at property-operated restaurants and bars;
  • enhanced credit card rewards; and
  • earning dining credits upon reaching a new loyalty program tier.

However, there’s a problem inherent to the Personal Patron and loyalty programs. Just 45 percent—so nearly half—of this traveler type are loyalty program members.

The reason for that low program buy-in? Almost 60 percent don’t think they travel enough to benefit from hotel loyalty programs.

Per SevenRooms, there’s a rather simple solution: local benefits. Tempt Personal Patrons with staycations and access to amenities at hotels in their home markets. Another idea is to offer points exclusively for dining that this traveler can use where they live.

Business

Obviously, the business traveler is now different. In fact, SevenRooms considers two versions of the Business Traveler.

On the one hand, there’s the extended-stay version traveling all over the country. And on the second hand, there’s the long-distance Business Traveler who’s seeking a midweek “home base” hotel.

Either way, the Business Traveler is most likely a male aged 18 to 34.

Per SevenRooms—and as most hotel operators likely know—this traveler probably doesn’t have time (or interest) in exploring off property. Therefore, the Business Traveler can be influenced to rebook through incentives that make their stays better.

These include:

  • receiving more loyalty program points in exchange for dining and drinking at property-operated restaurants and bars (like the Personal Patron);
  • receiving recognition for being a loyalty program member; and
  • getting a complimentary drink on check-in; or
  • being given a choice of an F&B amenity on arrival.

Unsurprisingly, the Business Traveler is more likely than the Personal Patron to join a hotel loyalty program. Per SevenRooms, 55 percent of Business Travelers say that the ability to participate in such a program influences their hotel choice.

Focusing on perks that “reward” the Business Traveler for their hard work can convert a Business Traveler to become a loyal guest for a particular hotel or hotel group.

SevenRooms suggests priority reservations for the lunch daypart at restaurants on property. Also, providing their favorite drink (wine, cocktail, beer, etc.) with their room service orders can be influential.

Takeaway

Travel is gaining steam, restaurants and bars are seeing an influx of reservations, and hotel operators need to prepare for summer travelers.

As a reservation, guest experience, and guest retention platform, SevenRooms can ensure operators can easily collect guest data. Guest data, for example, like F&B and room preferences.

More importantly, the platform makes it simple to use that data responsibly, effectively, and simply.

To learn more about SevenRooms, click here.

Image: JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

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