In the words of W Somerset Maugham, the English playwright and novelist, ‘if you refuse to accept anything but the best, you very often get it.’
It’s a saying directly applicable to hotels and hospitality. Employees are continually reminded of the need to uphold the highest standards of product and service. Discerning hotel guests and restaurant customers expect nothing less.
As customers increasingly seek out new trends and the best of experiences, in my opinion we will continue to see Scotland’s hotel and hospitality sector continue to drive up standards and embrace innovative practices.
Chefs have long recognised that customers expect tasty, creative dishes prepared with fresh and, ideally, locally-sourced ingredients.
It’s a recognition that constantly fuels innovation in the kitchen, underpinned by the realisation that a growing number of customers wish to associate with environmentally sustainable food practices and perhaps support outlets that in some way embrace social good.
Even the humble burger has been transformed with the opportunity to enjoy vegan burgers or a form that reflects quality cuts of meat blended with plant-based alternative ingredients.
Kids’ menus too are under scrutiny with parents keen to ensure their offspring are offered menus that are both nutritious and appealing to young tummies. From serving more creative mocktails to offering more dishes and products with natural/organic ingredients, restaurants and hotels aim to satisfy the tastes of an ever more discerning customer.
Of course, the increase in specialism of food offerings also requires the industry to ensure kitchen personnel possess the skill-sets and chefing techniques to effectively produce flavoursome dishes that reflect the best of regional and/or in-trend cuisine.
Fortunately, aspiring chefs can learn and hone skills, for example in the selection and preparation of quality produce like cuts of meat, through college courses, in-house training and through coveted HIT Scotland scholarships. As Cluster GM of Radisson Collection Hotel Edinburgh, Scotland’s leading boutique hotel, I know only too well the importance of working with high quality suppliers to meet the expectations of discerning guests.
If innovation is a key element of the industry, so too are numbers to ensure new ideas have sustainable appeal and make financial sense. In Scotland’s capital city, hotels and restaurants need no reminder of the importance of ensuring their offerings align with the visitor appetite to enjoy authentic local culinary experiences that promise ‘the best’ and a taste of the latest trends in food and drink.
Convention Edinburgh notes that in addition to a population of around 500,000, the city also annually attracts more than four million visitors.
On the one hand that presents a fantastic opportunity for the food and drink industry to serve up its creative best. However, Edinburgh also has more restaurants per head of population than any other UK city outside of London and has more than 20,000 bed spaces available to visitors in and around the city centre.
Such statistics underline that, while it’s important to embrace innovative food and drink practices, hotels and restaurants can ill-afford to under-estimate the competitiveness of their marketplace. Indeed, from a hotel perspective there has long been cognisance that a luxurious bedroom offering can have further guest appeal when complemented by a high quality dining experience within its walls. As just one example, consider the independent two Michelin-starred Andrew Fairlie Restaurant at Gleneagles.
Equally, The Ned (London) with eight plus restaurants in one location reflects a willingness to invest in serving up tastes from around the world.
Closer to home, in the ever-evolving world that is Scotland’s restaurant sector I’d suggest the only certainty is that the market will continue to embrace further innovation.
Whatever the service format and menus I am certain Edinburgh’s restaurant scene will see further exciting developments in the months ahead.
Richard Mayne is cluster general manager for Edinburgh Collection Hotel Royal Mile Edinburgh and Radisson Blu Edinburgh.