By: Marie-Ève Larin
Concierge, American Express Centurion
One of the very exciting parts of the Banff 2019 National Congress was the educational day. We welcomed diverse types of speakers who engaged, elevated and educated us on various topics. The afternoon was a panel discussion on “Exploring the Changing Culinary Landscape”, mediated by Ms. Dawn Chubai. Among the distinguished speakers were John Jackson and Connie DeSousa, the co-owners and chefs at the Char Group in Calgary.
On the new Canadian Food Guide, and the importance of eating green, Ms. DeSousa advised they will be reworking the menus at their restaurants. They are already changing seasonally and locally sourced with an emphasis on a balanced menu. Their new, upcoming venue, set to open in May 2019 in Calgary, AB, will be 40% plant based. They champion living a healthy lifestyle, but indulging in great tasting food. (Plant based does not mean bland tasting, au contraire!)
On the topic of relationships with concierges, Mr. Jackson mentioned that previously, hotel restaurants were the place to be, and where everyone wanted to go. Times changed and hotel decisions were made more towards room management versus restaurants, which led to the declining popularity of the venues. Coming from a hotel restaurant background, and as the flagship property of the group, Charcut Roast House, is located in Le Germain hotel Calgary (although operated independently) they do value the relationship with the hotels. Ms. DeSousa added that they cherish the relationship with concierges, and even went to visit every desk personally to deliver handmade cookies when they first opened Charcut. The goal was to meet all the concierges in Calgary, invite them to the restaurant and start fostering that special relationship. In a more proactive action from the concierge group, Mr. Jackson would love for the concierges to come to the restaurant to introduce themselves, as they will be warmly welcomed to create this relationship which is mutually beneficial.
The topic moved on to phone reservations vs online; the Char Group venues work about 50/50, as the technology is important to a younger demographic, however they want to keep the relationship with the concierges, therefore do not want to move to an exclusively digital platform.
One of the trends on the upwards trajectory is requiring a credit card to hold reservations. The Char Group only requires it for large parties or special occasions at the moment, such as Valentine’s Day. They need to find a model to avoid so many cancellations, as they hurt the business, and can be upwards 30% per night. No perfect system has been found yet…
Whomever mentions technology cannot avoid social media. What is the importance of it for the business? Who is the best representative to manage the restaurants’ accounts? Mr. Jackson invited us to follow their social media accounts (below). He and Ms. DeSousa both manage the accounts personally, and believe there is incredible value in social media. They see it as a gift, because they know when guests are dining with them, connect easier and go meet them personally in the dining room when they are at the restaurant. It continues the relationship and elevates the brand.
Social media is not the only way to track who dines where; how can we track the percentage of tourists, regulars and concierge guests? Ms. DeSousa confided the restaurants track reservations through the Opentable system. All the information about future diners is stored there, which means they can elevate and create a bespoke experience for each person. The privileged relationship with concierges also means they have even more information beforehand, such as dietary restrictions, special occasions, where the guest is from, if they are regular diners, etc. Regardless, every guest is always treated like a VIP.
On a parting word of advice on how relationships could be improved between restaurants and concierges, both restaurateurs mentioned it is important and valuable to break the ice and continue the relationship for the great dining experiences to continue for our guests. Don’t be afraid to contact chefs and restaurants, even through social media. It is easier than it may feel, and will cement a successful relationship.
American Express Centurion Concierge
In service through friendship
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