For years, hotels have been trying to outdo each other by building bigger rooms, more facilities and better customer service. Now, however, it seems that there is one particular area that hotels should really be focusing on, and that is the dining experience.

It is no secret that Singaporeans love food. Besides being dubbed worldwide as a “food paradise”, there have been many reports that show exactly how much of a foodie we are, with 93 per cent of Singaporeans declaring in a 2014 survey their love for food. The statistics does not end here. In 2013, it was reported that our food and beverage (F&B) industry operating receipts had grown from $5.6 billion in 2009, to a whooping $8.3 billion in 2013.

All these figures goes to show one thing- that there is a lot of money to be made in the food industry. And hotels are slowly catching on to that. Last year, the Dow Hotel Company reported that “between 25 per cent and 45 per cent of a hotel’s revenue can come from its food and beverage sales.” Take Shangri-La Hotels and Resorts for instance. The world’s fastest growing luxury hotel, with over 90 hotels and resorts in cities all around the world reported in 2014 that their food and beverages revenues accounted for around 43 per cent of their total revenue.

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This looks set to grow. Hotel Jen, a four-star lifestyle hotel chain and the latest offering from the Shangri-La group, recently celebrated her first birthday by hosting nine parties in nine cities. In Singapore, Jen celebrated her birthday in true Singapore style- by having a “hawker” themed buffet, on top of its usual international buffet.

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The buffet, which was held at its all-day dining restaurant, J65, had its usual selection of crabs, oysters, mussels and prawns, but more importantly, also featured pop-ups from local talents in the F&B industry, such as The Hungry Basterdz, with their famous Grilled Soy Garlic Chicken with Truffle Fries/ Nacho Fries, as well as Jerk Chicken and fries, Uncle G Handmade, with his signature crispy roast pork, and Kaffles, a specialty waffle shop that offers hungry customers a choice of Buttermilk and Thai milk tea waffles with maple syrup, mini cone and icing sugar.

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Clifford Weiner, General Manager at Hotel Jen Tanglin Singapore and Herve Duboscq, General Manager at Hotel Jen Orchardgateway Singapore said that they would be celebrating by

“Highlighting local talent, flavours and culture in both our Singapore hotels”.

Clifford added:

“We are passionate about supporting local entrepreneurs at our hotel, such as Nomad the Gallant with their delicious artisan roasted coffees.”

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Ever since its inception, Hotel Jen has always been committed to supporting local startups in the F&B industry. From contracting a group of Singapore artisans to contribute to designing the fabric for the hotel, to hiring local baristas Nomad the Gallant to provide artisanal roasted coffee for her guests, Hotel Jen has been actively encouraging entrepreneurship, and even going so far as to integrate it as part of the hotel’s brand identity.

This move affirms her support of the small and local businesses in Singapore, and more importantly, shows its commitment to improving her guests’ dining experience. This comes after a report which said that Singapore food businesses have been increasingly attracting private equity money, and that three out of the top four private equity-backed buyout deals here this year were in the restaurant sector.

News of major companies turning their eye to the Singapore F&B industry is not isolated. Even though the food industry may seem increasingly crowded and highly competitive, and the Singapore labour market is facing shortages, reports have shown that the food industry has grown rapidly over the past five years, and is set to grow more. Hotels would do well to follow Hotel Jen’s lead, and start improving their dining experience, or risk losing guests who are increasingly demanding for better quality, and value for money food options during their stay, rather than merely having bigger rooms and more amenities.

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