Half-board rates are killing kitchen creativity.
In a panel session moderated by Mark Patten, vice president, culinary, Atlantis, The Palm which investigated the real costs and opportunities in the UAE food industry, members of the F&B industry expressed their dissent at half-board rates being offered by hotels.
"Half-board used to be a summer special. It was the main thing that brought everyone to the UAE, now it's become an all-year-round thing," stated Danny Kattar, executive chef, InterContinental Hotel, Abu Dhabi. "We all know half board is killing your percentage however we are trying to maintain it," he added.
He added that the rate for half board was limiting chef creativity, which was supported by Frank Noack, executive chef, Hilton Jumeirah Beach, who told Caterer : "If we got the money, it wouldn't be an issue. Often half of what is charged goes to the room."
The problem however, was the footfall being created by advertising half-board rates, leaving hoteliers in a situation where they felt forced to offer it."It's our bread and butter - we need half-board and can't do without it," added Noack.
Romuald Marie, executive chef at the Ramada Plaza Jumeirah Beach Residence added that in an area like the JBR strip where the hotel F&B outlets were competing with the standalone outlets, offering half board was not as much an option as it was compulsory. "It might mean we can't be as creative with the offering but it is essential as it drives custom for us," he said.
Patten however, remained unconvinced that pushing half-board was the right way to go.
"It drives volume but does it drive a better overall experience for the customer?" he asked.
"We're trying to promote Dubai being a destination where we are driving a better quality product but we are sort of starved through the half-board offer - we struggle to offer a 'product'," he said, adding that it was important to make sure the balance between offering half-board, and offering quality cuisine was managed.
David Miras, executive chef and F&B manager of Al Maha Desert Resort, which operates a no half-board policy, addressed concerns from the audience that half board rates would eventually become full board offers.
"If you offer half-board or full-board to fill up the hotel, you have to make sure the allowance is given to the kitchen to produce great food. If you push your marketing to say 'come to our hotel lunch is included', then lunch has to be very good otherwise you'll get a lot of angry guests and negative feedback.
"We believe if you are in charge of lunch and dinner and you do it well, you'll have satisfied customers."
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