Food trends influence food selection, food service and food presentation and therefore form an important aspect of event catering. The concept of identifying food trends in due time is closely linked to the management process of marketing, which identifies, anticipates and supplies customer requirements efficiently and profitably. By doing so, management is able to satisfy customer needs, wants and values ultimately effectuating customer (and brand) loyalty.
By applying the case study method the management issues surrounding food trends have been brought to light retaining holistic and meaningful characteristics of organizational and managerial processes. Researching the topic by using the Radisson SAS Hotel London Stansted Airport as a basis has allowed access to internal procedures transforming theory into practice.
The ascertained food trends of corporate events embrace foods that are locally produced and preferably exotic in produce and flavour. Indian has been identified as the most desired regional cuisine followed closely by Japanese and Latino cuisine. Overall however food should primarily be tasty and delicious as well as good value for money. The implications food trends hold for management lie in the decision of featuring them on the menu. Feasibility and profitability of the food item have to be determined carefully by management affecting areas such as food production, F&B service as well as purchasing.
To keep abreast of food trends it is important to have one’s finger firmly on the pulse. Shifting and mixing the responsibilities of corresponding research activities would result in utilizing work teams who have greater resources and that are already closer to the point of action. This sees the responsibility shifting away from a hotel’s F&B department to its marketing and sales department.
This events management project has been conducted in the field of business event catering. The main focus of the project is directed towards researching and identifying food trends that influence UK corporate events now and possibly in the future.
The concept of identifying food trends in due time is closely linked to the management process of marketing, which identifies, anticipates and supplies customer requirements efficiently and profitably. The project highlights the very heart of the marketing concept by analyzing the satisfaction of consumer needs, wants and values (Evans & Moutinho, 1992:6-7). With consumer likes and tastes changing on a regular basis, it is vital for management to be proactive and sensitive towards this issue. Keeping current with the latest food craze or dining trend can be the key factor in satisfying consumers, which can ultimately lead to customer (and brand) loyalty (Goliath online, 2008).
Accordingly this report will address the question: “What are the main food trends of UK corporate events, and what are the implications for management?” The report is structured to ensure in-depth analysis of the research findings as well as the literature that helped achieve these. At first the report will provide insight as to which research techniques were used along with a clear rationale as to why that particular data collection method was chosen. This will be followed by a concise and up-to-date literature review, analyzing, appraising and evaluating key material used throughout the project. The main part of the report will focus on the discussion of the research findings. This includes exploring the research question, presenting the findings in an appropriate manner, analyzing and discussing the findings in detail as well as evaluating the outcomes. The report will be concluded by presenting an adequate answer to the research question as well as a list of recommendations useful to the reader of this report.
The goal of this management project is to find out what types of food are available at corporate events and if customers are satisfied with what is offered. The project aims to identify food trends of corporate events and aims to investigate the accompanying implications for management. A further aim is to show how management identifies food trends in practice and how food trends affect different departments in a hotel. As a result the main research objective is to create a list of recommendations for managers that reflect customers’ wishes concerning food at corporate events. By incorporating essential consumer and marketing theory as well as addressing hospitality and catering management issues the project intends to demonstrate what management should be aware of in terms of food trends.
This project is largely based on primary research as the topic requires new and up-to- date data as well as insight into organizational and managerial processes. The chosen research strategy throughout the project is the case study, which has been a common research strategy in psychology, sociology, political science, business and even economics, in which the structure of a given industry may be investigated. The case study method allows investigators to retain the holistic and meaningful characteristics of real life events such as individual life cycles as well as organizational and managerial processes (Yin, 2003:1-2). This project uses the Radisson SAS Hotel London Stansted Airport (RDSAS) as its case study in order to demonstrate how the hotel applies marketing theory in practice consequently showing the hotel’s pursued method of keeping up with changing food trends.
The key data collection method within the case study is a personal interview with the Meetings and Events (M&E) Manager of the hotel, Mr. Christian Ahlke. The interview has been structured to obtain specified information on what type of food is available at corporate events, if customers are satisfied with what is offered and how the hotel reacts to changing consumer tastes. In addition the interview allows insight to managerial approaches taken to ensure customer loyalty. Moreover a small-scale, simple questionnaire has been designed in order to investigate food preferences and prospective food wishes of the hotel’s clients. Targeting already existent corporate clients of the hotel sees the selection of the sample being as representative as possible at this stage (Bell, 1993:83).
4. Revised literature review
Information for this project has been drawn from a vast selection of different literature. The concept of food trends has been analyzed from a managerial perspective emphasizing the management process of marketing. Identifying food trends in order to satisfy customer needs, want and values is closely linked to marketing, which identifies, anticipates and supplies customer requirements efficiently and profitably.
As a result the first part of the research was dedicated to marketing theory, utilizing books that were focused on hospitality marketing in particular as the case study proceeds in the hospitality environment. The most useful book proved to be Marketing for Hospitality Industry (1993), which recognizes the need for the effective identification of customer needs as the first stage in the marketing activity cycle. The book continues to explain the marketing activity cycle encompassing concepts such as market position and segmentation theory. Segmentation theory groups individuals with certain common needs or buying behaviour together with segmentation strategy referring to the sales and marketing activities operators undertake in order to reach these groups. At best, segmentation provides approximate indicators of potential buying behaviour (1993:65). Dealing with marketing strategy the book goes on to discuss the selection of the target market and the creation of a marketing mix. The marketing mix will identify the most attractive package for the customer, and provide the hospitality operator with guidelines of how to achieve increased sales (1993:26). Also by analyzing competitors, identifying potential demand and by seeking out the type of demand, hospitality operators can more effectively change product ranges and create new ones (1993:18).
A similar and also very useful book, Applied Consumer Behaviour by Evans et al (1996), deals with consumer behaviour in a marketing environment, outlining the marketing process and demonstrating the position and implications of consumer behaviour within this. This forms the theory that is needed for the project and emphasizes the importance of customer orientation and the associated roles of market research. As Tull and Hawkins (1993:15) state, “marketing research is a formalized means of obtaining information to be used in making marketing decisions”. Examples of market research include identifying customer requirements, studying customer groupings and market segmentation studies, measuring size and potential markets and examining competitive positions and market share analysis (Evans & Moutinho, 1992:6-7). The book Applied Consumer Behaviour also analyzes the satisfaction of consumer needs, wants and values as well as consumer motivation theory, highlighting the very heart of the marketing concept.
For a deeper understanding of consumer behaviour the book Understanding the Hospitality Consumer (2002) proved to be particularly helpful. The book deals with the theory and research of consumer behaviour and consumption, which according to Swarbrook and Horner (1999:3), is “key to the understanding of all marketing activity, which is carried out to develop, promote and sell hospitality products”. In addition it also elaborates on marketing environments stating that the whole marketing process is influenced and affected by changes in economic, technological and societal factors (1996:11). This includes changed lifestyles that are indirect implications for the marketing response.
This directly leads to the actual topic of food trends as these can be seen as societal factors having indirect implications for the marketing response. Obtaining literature that solely focuses on food trends proves to be challenging. Food, People and Society: a European perspective of consumers ’ food choices (2001) is one of the few books tapping into the area of food trends. However the book primarily deals with food and social science, which proves to be the case with all other similar books as well. As a consequence the key tool for obtaining information on food trends is the World Wide Web. The Market Research Portal (http://www.marketresearchworld.net/) offers a host of online resources and research related articles being highly relevant to market research buyers, researchers, newcomers to the industry, students and individuals with an interest in the market research industry. This website provides information about current issues in the market as well as recent food trends shaping the industry. Obesity in the UK is at an all time high with sales of ready meals, convenience foods and take-aways increasing. On the other hand however unprecedented levels of consumer interest in the market for celebrity chefs and dieting demonstrates a consumer desire for healthier, better food, which is all part of the global consumer trend towards wellness. A further excellent website is represented by Caterersearch (http://www.caterersearch.com/), which is the complete information source for hospitality online. Various articles about past, present and future food and eating trends provide further insight into the project area.
Nevertheless it is difficult to find articles on UK food trends alone especially compared to the plethora of articles to be found on US food trends. Moreover it seems no research has been undertaken concerning food trends of corporate events in particular. All findings have been established as global, general food trends directly affecting the food and restaurant industry. Although it is assumed that food trends affect corporate events (e.g. meetings and conferences) in the same way it is not a proven fact and perhaps reason for further research undertaken by others. The presence of finger food could alter food trends of corporate events in particular, however, the exact extent of this still needs to be investigated which could be done on another occasion.
To acquire general knowledge concerning the conference industry information was taken from The Business of Conferences (1998). The book elaborates that conferences exist as a means of exchanging information and as a forum for many inter-related activities, with a major input to the conference business being the need for catering. The range of services on offer is essentially built around five main refreshment opportunities: breakfast, morning coffee, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner (1998:78). Refreshment breaks not only provide opportunities for delegates to deal with their personal needs but are also the chief mechanism by which conference delegates’ network and socialize. Refreshment breaks and meals are significant factors in determining the quality of the venue and delegate’s perception of it, and a major issue in ensuring repeat business (Kotas and Jayawardena, 1994:26). According to Bowdin et al (2006:402) the hospitality experience is of particular importance at corporate events with Goldblatt (2005:12) acknowledging that hotels throughout the world are expanding their business interests from merely renting rooms and selling food and beverages to actually planning events. A large proportion of these events are business related, most commonly including corporate events such as meetings and conferences.
The implications of food trends for management are best explored by reading texts on hotel and catering management. As the RDSAS is located and directly linked to the airport, the hotel demands for in-house catering. In-house catering is defined as guest- related foodservice functions associated with business meetings, conferences and/or corporate events. Hotel catering services usually attract a wide base of customers with a broad range of requests, however needs of regular business event customers are often easy to identify and provide for as they are familiar with the catering services and staff of the hotel (Scanlon, 1992:36). The menu is focal point in regard to food trends with emphasis therefore to be put on catering menu management. Catering menus should create market-oriented presentations, taking into account cuisine, entertainment and concept trends (Scanlon, 1992:209). Furthermore the book The menu, food and profit (1991) details the importance of the menu analyzing accompanying management issues such as key planning considerations that need to be taken. Profitable Food & Beverage Management (1994) additionally covers a wide variety of relevant topics such as profitability, service concepts, pricing and control.
The above mentioned secondary research helps define the focus and scope of primary research needed for this project. As this project is based on the method of case study analysis the conducted survey’s target sample consists of the hotel’s already existent corporate clients. The survey has been created in order to find out if the hotel’s clients are satisfied with the offered food and what foods they wish to see more of in the future. The questions are designed incorporating current and future food trends in order to identify the most desired trend also affecting corporate events. Moreover the survey focuses on finding out how important new food trends actually are for clients and if they would be willing to pay a higher price for foods encompassing new trends. The survey is backed up by a personal interview with the M&E Manager of the hotel, Mr. Christian Ahlke. The interview has been created to see the relative importance that food trends hold at the hotel and to see what exactly has been done to accommodate to them. Moreover the interview is designed to reveal how the hotel applies marketing theory and manages food trends in practice.