Bart Buiring, Marriott International’s chef operations services officer, Asia-Pacific, breaks down the brand’s local approach to food, and unveils its plans for the future
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This year, dining trends in the hospitality industry have continued to push towards a heavy reliance on local produce and traditional cooking techniques. The days of hotels stocked with nothing but expensive imported ingredients are over. Instead, Asia’s top hospitality brands are investing in culinary experiences that create connections between cooks and consumers—serving up heartmade local dishes and supporting domestic agriculture.
Bart Buiring, Marriott International’s chef operations services officer in Asia-Pacific, spends a lot of time thinking about dining trends. After all, he’s responsible for ensuring the brand’s approach to food aligns with its larger goals, like engaging local consumers as much as tourists. During a recent trip to Bangkok, Buiring delved into Marriott’s approach to building restaurants as well as the brand’s long-term plans for growth.
Across our properties, we want to establish ourselves as a place where locals love to meet, eat and drink. We build all of our restaurants with local guests in mind, focusing on flavors that are important domestically. That idea is very simple in principle, but there is more complexity to it than you would think. We have about 2,500 restaurants and bars in Asia today, and that is quite a large number considering how competitive the market is right now. That’s why, when we decide to build a restaurant anywhere, we need to make sure it is just as relevant to locals as it is our foreign guests. It’s the only way to build a sustainable restaurant.
We try to find local cooks who are exceptional at cooking individual dishes. For example, in Thailand, we’ll find a chef who makes amazing pad Thai or khao soi, and we hire them to make those dishes specifically. One of the co-pillars of our brand is to go local as much as possible, that means both in terms of talent and ingredients. We want the food to be the best it can possibly be in every market we operate.
As a company, we have 30 different brands in Asia alone, so even differentiating between our own properties is very important and somewhat challenging. We strive to make each of them feel distinctive—for instance, the difference between a W Hotel and a Marriott—and F&B is one of the best areas to make this distinction by creating concepts unique to each brand and relevant to their domestic markets. No matter where we go, we do a lot of research and try to find something that is truly compelling in each location.
It’s a very exciting new loyalty dining program used to create financial benefits for our devoted customers. Members will have access to special events, facilities across our properties, dining promotions and exclusive booking codes to make reservations and receive complimentary room benefits.
Right now, we are working on a really cool rooftop restaurant in TK, which will be opening shortly. The view from up there is absolutely amazing. There seems to be a lot of excitement behind it, which is a really good sign.
We are more or less looking to double the amount of properties we have in the Asia-Pacific region over the next 45 years. If we can manage that it will be phenomenal. Growth in the hospitality industry is looking very strong right now, and we are continuing to look for more opportunities to grow our brands and business. There are a few new brands making their way to Thailand very soon, including Moxy—2-3 star properties with funky, modern designs targeted at younger travelers—which I think will work very well in Thailand.
Thailand has been an extremely important market to us for a long time. It’s one of the leading capital cities in all of Asia and one of the world’s top destinations for food, entertainment and shopping. For us, having a strong presence here is vitally important. We’re happy to be here.
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