As wine and cocktail consumption continue to shift to greater consumption at home—and at select restaurants and bars—during the Covid pandemic hotel executives are keeping their ears to the ground to stay ahead of trends. A move to healthier eating and greater exploration of the wine-producing world are both on the map for the year ahead.
I had a chance to remotely sit down with Scott Gingerich, senior vice president of restaurants and bars, Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants. The San Francisco-based Hotel chain has more than 60 hotels and 80 restaurants, bars and lounges. All of his responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.
Liza B. Zimmerman (L.B.Z.): What are the key ways in which people are eating and drinking differently during Covid?
Scott Gingerich (S.G.): We know that diners’ needs have changed during the pandemic, bringing out the at-home chef and amateur bartender in many of us. At the start of the pandemic, we saw diners heavily lean into comfort foods that brought a sense of nostalgia, familiarity and simplicity during troubling times. Once we were a few months into quarantine, there was an increased interest in cooking new foods at home, drawing inspiration from global cuisine to draw a sense of togetherness and connection during unprecedented times.
(L.B.Z.): What is shifting in terms of food and drink trends as we move into winter?
S.G.: As we move into winter and look toward 2021, we are seeing a shift in consumer preferences from comfort food back to more health-conscious options. However, we are seeing the occasional elevated indulgence when consumers have the chance to eat out at restaurants, as wellness becomes a renewed focus area and priority for many consumers at the start of the New Year. We’re also seeing consumers seek out more fresh, homegrown ingredients: think garden pesto, homemade oat milk and fresh herbs and veggies in every dish.
Across all of our bars and restaurants, we’re also seeing a shift that will continue in the New Year to simplify and streamline menus. This helps avoid food waste and gives restaurants the chance to try out new seasonal daily specials.
(L.B.Z.): Why do you think people are moving from comfort food to
healthier choices? Covid-induced weight gain?
S.G.: While some consumers may be trying to get back to the wellness routines they established pre-COVID, we are seeing a larger lifestyle shift back to healthier choices as consumers come to terms that this is the new normal and are therefore approaching 2021 with a different mindset. While 2020 may have been a year full of uncertainty where we had little control, diners are slowly starting to reset their wellness goals with clearer plans and more stability in 2021. Plus, many people are learning more about what goes into certain dishes with the rise of cooking at home, and expect the same level