• Lebua tastes right for Steigenberger

German hotel group Steigenberger has agreed a deal with Asian group Lebua Hotels and Resorts, to bring an Asian feel to its hotels.

The move is the latest in a growing European trend that is seeing hotel groups seek associations with food brands and celebrity chefs, to enhance their food offerings and turn the hotel restaurant into a profit centre of its own.

The move chimes with a larger shift with hotel design turning ground floors into more attractive spaces, while bedrooms are tending to shrink. Technological and social changes mean the restaurant and bar areas are increasingly places where not only guests, but local residents and business people, will want to spend time online, meeting or relaxing.

At Steigenberger, the strategic association will see Lebua delivering a “whole new culinary experience” when the company takes over the restaurant at Steigenberger’s Frankfurter Hof hotel. The Breeze by Lebua restaurant is scheduled for opening next year.

Bangkok-based Lebua operates hotels, restaurants and bars in Thailand, India and New Zealand. Its Breeze restaurant on the 52nd floor of its Bangkok hotel has garnered substantial accolades including being named as one of the country’s best restaurants for the last three years by Thailand Tatler, and being included in USA Today’s latest “World’s top ten cutting edge restaurants” ranking.

Lebua chief executive Deepak Ohri said: “I am thrilled to bring to Frankfurt this new dining experience, with extraordinary presentations of authentic Asian cuisine prepared by the region’s master chefs.”

“Dining is an essential component of our guest experience,” said Puneet Chhatwal, CEO of Steigenberger. “We’re thrilled to draw on Lebua’s internationally acclaimed food and beverage expertise to further elevate the experience of Steigenberger’s guests.”

In Scandinavia, hotelier Scandic recently announced a deal that will see celebrity chef Jamie Oliver’s restaurant brand Jamie’s Italian debut in its Stockholm hotel this coming autumn. The chef has worked with Scandic since 2009, when he started providing input into the group’s menus.

“Our ambition is always to expand our offering and provide extraordinary experiences for our guests,” said Scandic CEO Frank Fiskers as the joint venture was announced. “As part of this ambition, we also want to focus more on our restaurants and bars, creating more inspiring experiences.”

The first Jamie’s Italian opened in 2008 in the UK, and the brand has spread to several countries including Australia, Russia, Singapore and Turkey. Scandic aims to expand the chain across the Nordic region.

And UK hotel management group Sanguine Hospitality recently signed a master franchise agreement with chef Marco Pierre White, to jointly open 50 restaurants together across the UK over the next five years. Two concepts, a steakhouse bar and grill, or alternatively a New York Italian, are being rolled out.

In this instance, the Marco Pierre brand is not tied to a single hotel brand, but is being installed in a variety of hotel restaurants. The company’s website promises the franchise will help hotels attract more restaurant customers, delivering more third party and weekend guests.

Several Marco Pierre branded restaurants are already successfully in operation in hotel settings, including a DoubleTree in Chester, and Hotel Indigos in Birmingham, Liverpool and Newcastle. The chef, who has appeared on several TV shows, clearly has commercial impact: Sanguine reports that in Birmingham, where the branded restaurant launched in 2011, the venue beat target by 157% in its first year.

New openings include a forthcoming restaurant at a Hilton in west London; while a Manchester restaurant in the ground floor of a new Hotel Indigo will be the first location signed under the new master franchise deal.

 

HA Perspective [by Katherine Doggrell]: Telling a hotelier they don’t know how to do something is usually something that should be done with adherence to minimum safe distance guidelines. And then, from behind bulletproof glass.

But no-one can be a jack of all trades and there are many, many skills involved in running a good hotel. Right up there is knowing when to call the experts in. This can go wrong, when the restaurant gets a higher profile than the hotel and your celebrity chef is caught serving horse, but in the main, adding a favoured brand to your own compounds the attraction.

For Steigenberger, the company has clearly been looking at the example of Scandic. It has also clearly been looking at the oft-quoted UNWTO figures on outbound tourism from China in particular, but Asia in general. It is not alone – witness InterContinental Hotel Group’s Hualuxe brand and efforts by other global brands to install Chinese speakers and tea services.

By focusing on authentic Asian cuisine (with a high-end brand travellers recognise), but not going as far as to convert whole hotels to their impression of what an Asian traveller wants (the company does not have enough hotels to do this, even if it fancied an Asian overhaul), Steigenberger is offering travellers familiarity, but also, with the rest of the hotel, what most travellers want – a taste of the exotic. By trying to make hotels too much of a home-from-home for the anticipated outbound millions, other operators may be missing the point of travel.
 

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