Industry Q&A: The Food Factor
Industry insiders discuss the growing importance of gaming destination foodservice operations
July 9, 2018
As Canadian gaming facilities continue to expand their amenities and customer-service options, food and beverage offerings have taken on an increasingly important role in casinos across the country. Canadian Gaming Business recently asked senior F&B executives from leading Canadian gaming facilities about the growing importance of food and beverage in the customer experience. Here is what they had to say…
Andrei Kun, Vice President, Resort Operations, Niagara Casinos
Jon McCartney, RSE, Regional Manager, Corporate Food & Beverage, Western Canada, Gateway Casinos
Joseph Moore, Director, Food and Beverage, Caesars Windsor
What are some of the biggest challenges facing casinos and gaming organizations when it comes to food and beverage amenities and how is your organization positioning itself to best deal with these challenges?
Andrei Kun: The landscape of food and beverage has seen tremendous changes which are requiring unique solutions. With increases in competition, in both quantity of restaurants and quality of service, there is a shortage of culinary labour across Canada. We are continuously looking at ways to offer unique solutions and create greater incentives for joining our team. Additionally, to compete with the growth of the restaurant industry over recent years, we must have unique and exclusive offerings that will set us apart. At Niagara Casinos, we are always looking for the opportunity to showcase new and innovative solutions that push the limits. This allows us to stay ahead of the curve and continue to create the “wow” experience that customers will always remember and return for.
Jon McCartney: Our ultimate goal is to meet or exceed every guest’s expectations during each visit. The challenge can be perceived value (or lack thereof). With so many entertainment and dining options competing for consumers discretionary funds, expectations are very high when they do decide to open their wallets and disappointing experiences are seldom tolerated. Gateway has invested and will continue to invest in their facilities, quality offerings and most importantly their people. The food and beverage industry traditionally has higher turnover in comparison to gaming operations, so investing in recruitment, training and retention efforts is key to delivering consistent and excellent customer experiences.
Joseph Moore: One of the biggest challenges facing food and beverage in casinos is the ability to be profitable. There is an ongoing struggle to define the actual purpose of F&B operations: Are they an amenity or are they revenue-generating services to be profitable? This is a true balancing act we face daily. To meet these challenges, you have to ensure you are listening to the customer to ensure you are providing the products they are looking for and at the level of service they expect. As trends change we do our utmost to adapt to the changes while maintaining the service levels expected of our brand. To be successful the entire team needs to understand standards and guest expectations and to consistently provide it each and every time.
Where do you see the greatest growth opportunities for F&B operations in casinos in 2018 and beyond?
AK: Consumer demands for health-conscious and sustainable dining options at casinos are often not met. This is an area that we have been making headway in several different ways. We have added features to menus that include locally sourced food and beverage options, realistic portion sizes and options for a variety of dietary needs. This past year we began a journey with OceanWise to offer sustainable seafood choices in several of our restaurants. Options like these show our customers that we are dedicated to providing the best possible experience.
JMc: Breaking the stigma that Canadian casinos are not great options for dining, outside of “fueling stations.” Staying ahead of and even setting the trends will be paramount to establishing an individual identity for our F&B offerings. Instead of being food that is served at the casino, we need to be amazing food that happens to only be available at the casino
JM: The future growth opportunities are with the non-gaming customer who comes for the entertainment factor. By providing new experiences — whether being the place to try all things local or just the place to see or be seen, and doing this with quality products and service — not only will this market grow, it will bring new customers with them. Experiences need to be more organic in nature and not come across as overbearing. This will migrate naturally into the staple offerings within the casino footprint.