How must gaming organizations continue to evolve in order to address the needs and preferences of customers along with changing demographics?
SC: Our newest restaurant is an Italian restaurant. You could say that Italian restaurants are always going to be popular but the reason we chose to open this one in Niagara Falls is that we have a very large Italian population here and in nearby Toronto. Our Chinese restaurant was built for our biggest and fastest-growing market in the Asian sector. We built an authentic Asian restaurant (where most of the patrons speak Cantonese, for example) but we’re hoping our non-Asian guests will also want to come in and enjoy the authentic Asian cuisine. But our initial goal was to build an Asian restaurant where our Asian customers would feel comfortable in their own cultural environment.
AD: Much of the information available regarding Millennials indicates this group is looking for experiential opportunities. Casino operations that develop a hybrid of multi-media, interactive game play and chic food and beverage offerings stand a better chance of attracting Millennials. Pop-up floor bars with entertainment, pop-up restaurants and mobile ordering and payment apps all appeal to new and younger customers. In the meantime, operators can’t lose sight of their current customer. Taking a holistic look at your entire F&B offering within the casino environment and measuring as a single unit and on its own merits should yield valuable information.
GVS: The proliferation of iGaming and social gaming has widened the generational gap we’re facing and reaching the Gen X’ers and Millennials through such a competitive environment has made attracting new loyal players a much more difficult task for our industry. So ultimately, the key task, whichever medium or format that we’re using to deliver our message, is to ensure a consistent wide range of offers and communication to our audiences. Gaming-oriented messages aren’t going to cut it; we need to appeal to an entire food, beverage and entertainment experience through our differentiated offerings.
What kind of an impact will social media/mobile technology and the Internet and have on the growth and development of F&B offerings?
AD: All of these are having a profound impact on F&B. Have a bad experience in today’s market and the old adage of someone “telling” 10 others does not apply any more. A poor experience can go viral on social media platforms. On the flip side, F&B is a door to communicating outside a casino’s four walls. Dedicating resources to social media, to respond, promote and tantalize guests with F&B offers is a smart move for casino operators. Embracing technology such as mobile with QR codes for ordering, payment apps and upgrading culinary operations with more efficient equipment are all ways to more effectively interact with our customers.
KP: The impact is already being felt throughout the industry, from timely posts of reviews of your operations – including lots of pictures — to the ability to reserve seating in your restaurants on their smartphone. As operators, we look at what can do to speed up service to guests. Technology can play a role, but you need to do your research to ensure that you are not being sold on the glitz of something shiny and new. Every property should have a social media strategy and a plan to engage the F&B operations as an important part of it. Driving cover counts through social media can have a positive impact on your gaming revenue.
GVS: I see the biggest opportunity in the introduction of mobile apps. Extending the guest’s relationship past their visit to our bricks and mortar locations, we can allow guests to continue earning and redeeming rewards, to check their point balances, and to keep up-to-date on new developments and events or have F&B offers and coupons pushed out to their devices. Staying connected with our guests allows us to keep them in the action.
What general F&B trends can casino operators leverage to increase traffic to both their foodservice operations and the gaming floor?
SC: First and foremost, you have to listen to your customer. For example, the hottest trend over the last few years has been gluten-free food and other health-related concerns. We try to be everything to everyone so we have healthier choices on our menus — organic, gluten-free, vegan options. Even though we have a steakhouse, a Chinese restaurant and an Italian restaurant with many indulgent foods, we also have listened to our customers and provide healthy options as well.
AD: The popularity of “apps” is starting to make headway in foodservice operations. Everything from making reservations, ordering menu items and taking payments are now commonplace in trendy restaurants. On the gaming floor, whether food and beverage leverages player windows to accomplish what apps would do, or utilizing QR codes on gaming devices to pull up menus and place orders, it is only a matter of time when this will be commonplace. Local, sustainably sourced product offerings continue to gain popularity. In our operation we have committed to purchasing 25 per cent of our food products that are local and sustainably sourced.
KP: It really depends on your property and your market. More than ever, guests are looking for value. By this I do not mean discount, but quality products and services for their money. Creating quality F&B operations, focusing on the best products available for set price points will drive guest visits. Also, using locally sourced products, organic and small batch-made items. It is important to note that today’s consumers are more active when it comes to learning about food and beverage choices and sources which in return requires appropriate preparation and ability to address the guests’ needs.
Which other non-gaming amenities can be combined with F&B operations to create a more satisfying casino experience for customers and how can this be accomplished?
SC: Packaging seems to be creating some new opportunities. For example, we have a Yuk Yuk’s Comedy Club and even though we’ve been here for 19 years now, we’ve never really combined the dinner-show options before and we’re starting to do a little more of that. We’re also working together to do more with our spa facilities and F&B. Food and beverage is an old business while gaming is relatively young, just 20 odd years in Canada, so we’re always looking at new ways of combining entertainment, retail, spa and other non-gaming amenities with our F&B options.
KP: The example we can always look to when it comes to creating a wholesome casino experience is live entertainment. If we look at the case of Las Vegas, we can see that live entertainment has allowed casinos to increase guest visits and also attract new clientele. Live entertainment can be presented in many different ways: music, comedy, sporting events, magic, theatrical, etc. Entertainment can work well and it can also be a detriment. You must have a clear understanding of your marketplace, what is the goal of presenting particular entertainment options, how to capitalize and properly entertain guests who are experiencing the property because of that particular offering and what is the best way to utilize the venue.
GVS: We utilize free, live entertainment in most of our properties as another way to attract guests to our properties. We work very closely with our marketing team to ensure that we are focused on the kinds of bands and sporting events that our guests are expecting. They reward us based on their patronage each and every weekend. We have positioned ourselves as the place to be on the weekends as we combine compelling food and drink specials on the weekends to “peak the peak.” This approach has been a clear driver of guest satisfaction and loyalty here at PURE and we expect to continue these types of offers in the future.