The hotel industry is undergoing a transformation. With technology continuously redefining the day to day lives of the guest, so too is the guest experience. The modern-day guest expects the same level of connectivity and accessibility in their hotel experience as they would in any other stretch of their lives. So how does a hotel group respond?
As one of the most established hotel and property companies in Asia-Pacific with 40 properties operated under its Pan Pacific and PARKROYAL brands, Pan Pacific Hotels Group recognises this ever evolving, ever challenging space as it continues to expand its footprint.
A particular challenge, one that is representative of a changing industry, is food and hygiene. For Golden Whitehead, Vice President, Food & Beverage at Pan Pacific Hotels Group, one of his first tasks upon joining the company was to work on and implement a global food safety programme across all of the company’s operations.
“Singapore, where we are based, has always been very focused on food hygiene with high standards in place. There will be significant changes to its current system in the next couple of years and we have to be prepared for that,” he says. “Pan Pacific Hotels Group has always done very well on adhering to the highest standards and we are now ready to take sustainability to the next level. The traceability of the produce we buy and the amount of waste that’s generated from our hotels are two areas which I am particularly passionate about tackling for a start.”
Whitehead brings a wealth of experience across the global food and beverage sector, having worked for companies such as the Shangri-La, Hilton Group in the UK, Hyatt in Australia and even opened up a number of restaurants in the Middle East with the Jumeirah Group.
This international experience, gleaned from working in kitchens across the world for hotel groups, has provided Whitehead with the skills and capabilities required to establish a new system across a global operations.
“Hygiene and sustainability has become much more of a focus in recent years, and hotels and suppliers need to work much harder than before to stay at the top of the game. Sustainability efforts require not just commitment but also an investment of resources, and that often needs to be balanced with operating costs,” says Whitehead.
“When I came on board, we partnered with a company called Diversey and together launched a global programme on food safety management which was rolled out in the first half of 2018.”
Fast forward to today and Whitehead can point to a complete implementation of the food safety management system across all of the company’s Pan Pacific and PARKROYAL hotels, which incorporates regular audits and gap assessments for continuous improvement.
But of course, implementing a system across an entire global operation that spans 40 hotels, resorts and serviced suites across Asia, Oceania, North America and Europe was not without its challenges.
Whitehead acknowledges that there is a need for a more standardised approach to food safety and hygiene in Europe and Australia. In Asia, he notes, there are often more complex food preparation processes.
“There’s the whole training element to consider,” Whitehead says. “You’re asking chefs who’ve been cooking a certain way their entire lives to completely re-think the way they have been doing things for years and learn a new system, so training and retraining is absolutely critical.
“This extends to the suppliers and purchasers we work with, and some degree of education is necessary with suppliers who may not be familiar with the new demands of the system. As part of our new process, we now audit our suppliers to ensure they recognise the specific products and are able to meet the new requirements.”
Pan Pacific has seven properties across Singapore, which is the main hub of its Asia-Pacific footprint. Having multiple properties across the city enables a far more collaborative approach across its supplier base, not only in the training of these suppliers but also on the auditing side.
Pan Pacific looks at its leading suppliers and issues a guideline that it measures the supplier performance against.
“You really need to know the whole chain,” says Whitehead. “Where everything comes from, how we receive it and then how we store, clean, cook and serve the product.”
The company also works with hygienists to look further at the supplier performance, analysing storage facilities, fridges, cleanliness and packaging of products.
“We work with the suppliers to help them to enhance their operations,” says Whitehead. “This is where we train them and when they improve we sign longer term agreements with them.”
These inspections also provide an opportunity to streamline the supply base and generate cost efficiencies where possible. Through the auditing process, Pan Pacific looks at what other products certain suppliers sell and as opposed to purchasing from 10 different suppliers, there will be one or two key suppliers that both sell the required products but also comply with the food safety management standards.
The second task that Whitehead was tasked with was the development of a design guideline for all the hotel F&B operations across the brands. One of the major driving forces of this guideline has been the question of in house production versus outsourcing, which again is testament to the modern guest expectation.
“It’s all about keeping the guest in house and staying with us,” says Whitehead. “Guest experience is crucial and outsourcing is key to enabling greater guest experience.”
With that in mind, Whitehead set out a guideline to redesign a far more efficient and freestanding kitchen concept. This wouldn’t remove the kitchen services, but tailor to the technology enabled guest who would prefer to order into the hotel through third party delivery services.
“All our new hotels still have breakfast, lunch and dinner services, but we offer smaller order dining,” he says. “The hotels don’t have numerous F&B outlets as compared to older hotels, instead, they come with an all-day dining room and maybe one bar or lounge.
“With so much choice in the wider market, we’ve had to think differently.”
Thinking differently in this instance is exemplified by a separate postcode onsite, one that guests can order delivery services to the hotel, therefore keeping the guest within the hotel but catering to the modern day experience they expect.
All these changes are in line with Pan Pacific Hotels Group’s brand refresh, which strategy is about making impactful changes with eyes on the future. Besides unveiling bold marketing initiatives, the Group is investing in its people and customers by developing programmes which are built on its DNA of being “Sincerely Yours” – which makes sure that whatever the Group does comes from the heart. In always putting their interests and needs first, the Group keeps the trust of its customers.
As with any transformation, or implementation of change, the journey never really ends. As the industry continues to evolve, so too must the industry players and Whitehead is aware of this and recognises the company must continuously strive for improvement.
“These guidelines are working documents. We must constantly improve the product going forward,” he says.
“Right now, I’m temperature checking all of our properties to see where we are along this journey and I’m happy to say that there are sure signs of improvement right across the board. They are scoring better with our food health and safety management systems and delivering a consistently high-quality product across both our Pan Pacific and PARKROYAL brands.”
Over the next five years, Pan Pacific Hotels Group will look to add more hotel properties across Asia-Pacific and Europe and widening its global operations. Interestingly, as the footprint gets bigger, Whitehead believes the food and beverage offering will get smaller.
The reason for this, he feels, is the rise of third-party food delivery companies.
“You can now eat whatever you want, whenever you want it,” he says. “Hotels in the future will design smaller F&B offerings, which are super-focused on what the consumer wants from their dining – and not necessarily hotel -- experience.”
“There will always be demand for F&B. A good hotel, or a good restaurant, will rebuild their concept for today’s market with an eye on tomorrow’s. Then they will innovate and redefine it again.”