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More than 130 top hoteliers, restaurateurs and leading hospitality figures gathered at the Evolution of Hotels Conference in London last week to debate and share insight on a number of industry trends and changes in the hotel sector.

Hosted by leading communicator in progressive thinking and business opinion, EP Business in Hospitality, in partnership with Bird & Bird, HVS and EHMA, the event welcomed an impressive line-up of 18 industry leaders and expert speakers who each presented on a variety of topics from the state of the hospitality sector, to the economic impact of Brexit, the rising changes to service levels and consumer demand, the challenge of the wellness agenda and more.

The Conference, which took place at Bird & Bird’s global headquarters, was designed to unite the hotel industry in looking at new ways of working more effectively together across Europe as well as addressing current and future consumer expectations.

With an agenda that raised a number of thought provoking trends, experts argued that UK hotels need to embrace change alongside current statistics, which reveal 48% of people believe hotel food is unappealing and too expensive and that 67% of millennials are more likely to book hotels that accept external food deliveries (*research conducted by HGEM).

James Robson, Restaurateur, Mews at Mayfair, who spoke at the Conference was keen to highlight the impact that third party delivery services are having on the hotel sector today, while urging hotels to make greater strides forward. He said, “The way that the external food delivery sector is coming into hotels today means that the industry has to step up its game.

'The key message here is about providing more choice and in some cases that might mean a 24-hour service too. The days of having one restaurant in a hotel simply doesn’t cut it any more.”

Russell Kett, Chairman at HVS reflected on the opportunity for the global hospitality sector looking at key performance trends, saying that despite the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, that hotel acquisitions and transactions within London have risen by 31%; he did however suggest that regionally, the sector has suffered.

Chris Sheppardson, CEO at EP Business in Hospitality shared his thoughts in line with the service challenge, he said, “There is a growing expectation surrounding hotel service levels and these are continually changing. If only 5% of guests choose a hotel based on its restaurant, there is something clearly amiss.

'We know that quality of hotel food is an issue and we know that people are looking to other services to fill that void, so there is a big opportunity here too.

'So-called ‘Dark kitchens’ are becoming a very popular solution for hotels in line with the increasing demand for delivered-in food and beverage, yet interestingly only one hotelier, out of 130 said their hotel was currently accepting externally delivered-in foods. It begs the question, as a sector are we really embracing the need for change?”

The topic of wellness and education was another key topic debated during the Conference as Michael Gray, National Delegate UK & Ireland, EHMA explained: “Hospitality education is on tricky ground right now and we need to do much more to encourage people to come into our industry and to look at hospitality as a very viable, progressive career option for the future.”

Other key insight highlights included:
• Only 5% of guests select a hotel based on its restaurant.
• Italy has the most number of hotel beds in Europe.
• Dark kitchens are becoming very popular as a solution to the increasing demand for delivered in F&B.
• All restaurants need to ensure at least half of their menu is suitable for vegetarians and vegans.
• Friends of the Earth claim that in total over 30% of total GHG emissions are related to the food and drink sector.
• Hydration – there has been a 1% drop in hydration, which is equal to a 12% drop in productivity.
• The Purple Pound needs to be embraced and hotels, architects, designers and staff need to aspire to higher standards to accommodate people with disabilities.
• Service excellence is paramount in hospitality - it needs careful planning, execution and regular review.
• Trust and culture still sits at the core of any good business.
• Visible leadership is paramount and needs to be actively reintroduced - the General Manager ‘walking the floor’ and engaging with staff and guests is essential for good business and impacts on guest loyalty, staff engagement and retention.

(source: EP Business in Hospitality, image: pexels)