SINGAPORE - What will the Asian food and hotel scene be like in the near future? According to a recent report, investment in the Asia Pacific hotel market was US$3.3 billion in the first half in 2014. In those first six months, Southeast Asian investors completed 38 per cent of all deals in Asia. These trends point to a promising future in the region for the food and hotel industries.
FHA2016 (Food&HotelAsia2016) spoke to Mr. Otto Weibel, Director of Ottscott, WACs Approved Judge and Overall Chief Judge at the FHA Culinary Challenge 2016, to get his insights into the factors that will affect the food and hospitality sector in Singapore and the region.
Millennials - the fickle consumer
The Millennials, consumers aged between 15 and 35, continue to be one of the main target groups for F&B companies. Now accounting for about a third of the global population, they are tech savvy and socially engaged. The Millennials are also well informed, keen to try something different and are generally less brand loyal than older consumers. Mr. Weibel believes that most consumers, not just the Millennials, are spoilt for choice and this is a worldwide trend, not just in Asia.
Otto: People have so many choices. They want to try everything until they like something. It is like, any new restaurant, any new form of entertainment, people are going to check it out. Particularly for an expensive restaurant, you see all the same people.
Personally, I don't think there is much loyalty to restaurants. There are some who say, "That is my restaurant, I am going to go there as many times as possible" but their choices are often dependent on their colleagues, friends or family. I don't hear them saying, "Oh, I only go to this restaurant".
There are a few restaurants that I prefer and patronise more than others. When I hear there is a new restaurant opening and has earned some good reviews, I will definitely want to try it out. This is not only in Asia but worldwide. People want to experience new things and it is not limited to the food, it is the atmosphere, layout of the restaurant and so on. People love to go to restaurants that have beautiful surroundings and where you feel comfortable and good.
The impact of marketing
Otto: In New York, many people talk about restaurants because of aggressive marketing and advertising. There are restaurants in London and New York that are not great, but their marketing is so strong. I don't think Asian food establishments have put in the same level of publicity, something which is lacking particularly for world-class establishments. I believe our (Singapore) food is as good as in many of the world-class cities, and we surpass in the wide variety of food choices available here.
Singapore has one of the best three national teams in international competitions. After the team returns from winning a world cup, there is little coverage of the achievement in local newspapers. When Switzerland or Norway wins, they receive pages of coverage, they throw parties, and they are received by the President. In comparison, when Singapore comes in second or first, there is hardly any fanfare.
Another example, Thai food is already world-class and can be found all over the world. But when you look in 2014's S. Pellegrino's World's Best 50 Restaurants there are few listings from Thailand, although the number one spot for Best Restaurant in Asia which is also No. 13 on the World's Best 50 actually went to Thailand.
More needs to be done to raise the awareness and educate the locals. How many know that Singapore is world champion in cooking? Believe me, not many. But when you go to Norway, the whole of Norway knows. They are superstar chefs - this is the difference.
Future of Asia's food scene
Otto: In other parts of Southeast Asia, Indonesia and Vietnam are considered now up and coming. Locals are becoming more affluent and sophisticated and are willing to spend more on good food. Many F&B players are entering the market and in three or four years, there will be an even bigger scene for restaurants. I was in Jakarta recently and I saw a lot of new restaurants coming up already. It will take time but they will catch up with their peers in the region.
In ten years from now, I believe Asian cuisine will be one of the best in the world. I have been in Asia for twenty five years and I have witnessed its development. Now, everyone wants to be in Asia. We have many good Asian chefs as they have in New York and Melbourne. Definitely in terms of variation, we are far out and now already the best. In terms of quality, we are good but there is room to become better.
Strong support for Food&HotelAsia
Otto: FHA is very important because it brings people from the world together, as well as the newest techniques available globally. It is particularly useful for the chefs to network - they can go around and check out the latest equipment on the market and they can engage directly with the equipment maker or distributor.
Chefs can also browse from a wide range of food ingredients from all over the world. We get to see, touch and try it out. FHA brings the world much closer together and I think this is what makes the event great. Without this trade exhibition, we will be far from what we are today. I love FHA as I get to see so many new things under one roof, and meet a lot of old and new friends. FHA and chefs like me work in unison - it is fantastic as we share a common vision to create more awareness of, and promote the food and hospitality industries in the region.
Event at a glance:
Encompassing: Bakery&Pastry, FoodAsia, HotelAsia, HospitalityStyleAsia, HospitalityTechnology and SpecialityCoffee&Tea (co-located with ProWine Asia 2016)
Date: 12 - 15 April 2016 (Tuesday - Friday)
Venue: Singapore Expo, Halls 1 - 10
Opening Hours: 10am - 6pm (12 - 14 April 2016, Tuesday - Thursday), 10am - 4pm (15 April 2016, Friday)
Admission: Business and trade professionals
About Singapore Exhibition Services (SES)
Singapore Exhibitions Services organises a portfolio of international tradeshows serving the Communications, Engineering, Machinery and Lifestyle industries. Our events consistently attract a high level of overseas participation with foreign exhibitors accounting for almost 80% of the show floor. We are a member of Allworld Exhibitions Alliance, a global network with over 50 offices worldwide. For more information, please visit www.sesallworld.com.