Richard Garcia is Senior Vice President of Food and Beverage at Remington Hotels – which has 116 hotels across the United States. Before that, he served in the military with distinction, and then held a variety of roles with increasing recognition, winning the Starchefs.com “Rising Star Chef” award, hosting the prestigious James Beard House dinners seven times, and being recognized as one of the top 40 under 40 food service professionals in the United States.
We recently spoke about trends he’s seeing in food and beverage today.
Richard sees consumers voting with their values more than ever before.
“I think the pandemic made a lot of people rethink their values, and sustainability is not just a program but all-encompassing.”
Trend: plant-based food
This was everywhere at the National Restaurant Association‘s recent convention and is something that continues to build momentum.
“Remington jumped on this last year with plant-based options across our core menu platform. As an example, we introduced a vegan pasta Bolognese – not as an option but as the core offering. We’ve replicated the meat version so closely that we’ve actually had vegans where we had to physically show them the box of ingredients because they’ve been pissed off thinking they’ve eaten meat. We’ve tested it, and it works, and it’s not going away.”
It’s no longer enough to offer vegan options on demand. Leading with plant-based vegan food is more important than ever.
Richard has always been a big fan of streamlining menus, as a way to improve efficiency and reduce waste.
It’s a core part of his “no excuses” policy.
Trend: fun with flavors
This requires constant innovation to do things no one else is doing. “Coming up with new ways to have fun with flavors is a key focus area for us.”
Richard shared examples from two of Remington’s properties to illustrate this.
“Tequila continues to dominate the market. We have taken tequila from the bar to the kitchen in our restaurant at La Posada de Santa Fe and put it into a recipe in the dining room: a fun Roasted Shishito pepper, served with a tequila lime vinaigrette.”
“At Lucy’s Restaurant & Bar, our fine dining restaurant in Napa Valley, our Roasted Carrot & Sweet Potato Soup has hints of Thai flavors and some heat. Red Curry Toasted Pnutz is my favorite part of this dish.”
Trend: boozy desserts
One of Remington’s biggest successes recently has been boozy ice cream.
“We’re trying to take nostalgic things you remember as a kid and make an adult version. We’re doing things like Capri Sun for adults. Cocktails in pouches. We’re doing freeze pops, partnering with Truly. We’re trying to have fun putting an exciting spin on comfort stuff to the lighter guess and build some buzz.”
Trend: low-ABV cocktails
Richard sees room for innovation on the other end of the spectrum as well – with low-ABV cocktails – and there’s a really interesting profitability play here.
“In the past, if you wanted a mocktail, you’re probably just going to get a juice or a soda or something like that. You were probably paying two or three dollars and not thinking a lot about it. But by shifting our strategy to creating beverages that are just like cocktails without the alcohol, we can charge $10-15 for a mocktail with profit margins that are skyrocketing.”
This allows them to cater to the wellness traveler and still provide an exciting experience.
Trend: starting the experience digitally
While the product and service operation is key, the digital engagement strategy plays a big role in the success of Richard’s food and beverage program.
“The first shot we have a developing relationship is no longer the guest walking in my front door. It’s a second they pick up their phone and go online and look at who we are. If we can’t deliver on our digital experience, they’re not making a reservation in our hotel or at a restaurant. It’s very important for us to understand that we do not control the first impression anymore. My digital strategy team does that – so we need to work hand-in-hand with them to ensure we’re sending the right message before the guest even walks in our door.”
Richard is a big believer in digital experience because if a company doesn’t excel there, they’re losing potential new guests. “I think that is the biggest trend taking hold in F&B today. Hospitality companies that don’t embrace technology right now aren’t going to make it.”
What technology does for Richard and his teams is make the on-premise experience even more important.
“If we’ve done a good job engaging them digitally, they’ve arrived – and now it’s our opportunity to make that special and make sure nothing the digital team did goes to waste.”
Read the rest of Richard’s story here: No excuses: Why Richard Garcia won’t cut corners on guest experience