Industry estimates have F&B accounting for about a third of all revenues generated from guests, making it a vital part of the overall entertainment package and the bottom line of wagering operations.
To keep F&B not only profitable but an attraction that can bring customers through the door, casino resorts offer a wide variety of onsite foodservice venues. These
include sit-down restaurants of assorted cuisines that range from the very pricey to the very affordable. Food courts offering a choice of several different cuisines serve those guests who want a quick bite between the gaming floor and some other amenity on premises. And in addition to the standard bars serving beer and cocktails, casinos have added wine bars and untralounges offering music and dancing with trendy cocktails.
To keep F&B offerings up to date, casino resorts pay very close attention to the latest trends. And these can vary by region and even individual properties.
“Each casino has a unique clientele, so F&B offerings are tailored to meet their preferences,” said Mark Healey, senior vice president at Ovations Food Services, Lutz, Fla.
Only a few years ago, the hot cuisines were Mediterranean and East Indian. But according to Derrick Hull, an executive with the National Restaurant Association (NRA), the hot ethnic cuisines are currently Peruvian and Korean. Gluten-free menu items also are rising in demand.
Michael Doocey, Arizona regional director for Ovations, said Vietnamese street food has become popular at casino-resorts in his area. Customers are lining up for Thit Heo Quay (crisp roasted pork), Khao Mok Gui (spicy chicken and rice) and Pho Bo (beef noodle soup).
Some casino-resorts are leasing space in food courts to popular fast food chains, such as Fatburger, which is located in three Arizona casinos.
Also on the rise are hip places built around the small plate concept, where guests can sample several exotic dishes in small quantities.
For dessert, chocolate still predominates as a customer favorite. But some, like the Wild Horse Pass Casino, Chandler, Ariz., have a bakery on premises that daily produces fresh éclairs, brownies and French pastries, Doocey said.
On the beverage side, beer remains the most ordered alcoholic drink, though popular mainstream brands like Budweiser, Miller Lite and Blue Moon are getting strong competition from craft beers. For guests there is excitement in trying out a locally produced craft beer that they cannot buy at home, Healey said.
Among harder drinks, men prefer anything that includes bourbon as an ingredient while women prefer cocktails. In this latter category, skinny drinks, low-calorie cocktails made with freshly squeezed juices, are growing in popularity, Healey noted.
But no alcohol passes through the lips of serious poker players—at least during a game. According to Doocey, these players order bottled water, some of which are infused with fruit or cucumber flavorings.
“Guests have come to see food and beverage at casino-resorts as a reward, so they expect the best—be it a humble hamburger or a fine aged steak,” Doocey said.
And they expect the service at F&B venues to be equally good, without any inconveniences.
WHAT’S THE BUZZ
Keeping restaurants running smoothly and maximizing table space can be a challenge on casino properties where customers have many temptations, especially from the gaming floor.
A past solution offered by Long Range Systems (LRS), Addison, Tex., involved a system where customers seeking to dine are issued pagers that will alert them a few minutes before their table is ready, thus allowing them to use the interim time on the gaming floor instead of waiting around. Within the past year, LRS has upgraded the system so guests can get their electronic dinner bell over their own cellphones.
With the T7450 and 77500 transmitters, the hostess can enter a guest’s cellphone number into the system. A few minutes before the table will be ready, it sends a customized voice message letting them know, and will leave a voicemail message if they don’t answer. Guests can then notify the hostess they are on their way or (if the slot machine is paying off) delay their reservation, explained Jim Livingstrom, LRS operations vice president.
Technology for almost any casino F&B operation—including inventory and procurement, point-of-sale and mobile point-of-sale—is offered by Agilysys, headquartered in Alpharetta, Ga.
Agilysys Eatec is a full-featured inventory and procurement solution designed specifically for the hospitality industry. Along with its core purchasing, inventory, recipe, forecasting, production and sales analysis functions, the system also offers modules for buffet management, catering, nutrition, retail management and cycle planning. The modular structure enables customers to construct the exact set of features they need, and the solution also offers more than 400 standard reports, which enable purchasing staff to make more informed and intelligent business solutions.
Agilysys InfoGenesis POS is a comprehensive point-of-sale software solution that combines powerful reporting and configuration capabilities in the back office with an easy-to-use touchscreen terminal application. Designed for multi-unit operations common in hospitality environments, the system can manage any combination of dining, bar service and retail operations. InfoGenesis POS features real-time reporting capabilities, packages and prix fixe menus, signature capture, multi-language capability and advanced sorting, filtering and grouping options. It interfaces with a wide range of host systems, such as gift card and guest management solution providers, and is available as an on-premise solution or as a software-as-a-service (SaaS) application.
Agilysys InfoGenesis Mobile is a full-featured mobile point-of-sale solution that seamlessly integrates with Agilysys InfoGenesis POS software. Built on Android, one of the world’s most popular mobile platforms, the application is reliable and easy to learn, with a user interface that’s simple to configure and use. Servers can tap, drag or swipe using an intuitive multi-touch interface to select table number, cover count and check type. Orders are automatically sent to the kitchen, enabling faster service and increased table turns.
In October 2012, the company introduced Agilysys Elevate, a web-based, single-pass POS solution that operates in the cloud for ease of deployment and remote updates. Users can access data in real time from any location, employing an intuitive modern interface. With offline capabilities, a flexible hierarchy and role-base security, Elevate is an ideal choice for simpler service outlets that don’t want the expense of traditional on-premise POS software.
“Casinos that want to remain competitive must implement technology that improves efficiency and productivity, particularly in the food and beverage area,” said Maris Berzins, vice president of development for applications at Agilysys. “Our software solutions for inventory and procurement and point-of-sale are designed to streamline the entire F&B operation, enabling casinos to maximize customer wallet share and boost profitability while delivering a superior guest experience.”
The latest Simphony enterprise POS system from MICROS Systems, Columbia, Md., enables many different services to be managed from a central location. The
|Agilysys InfoGenesis terminal and iPhone with MICROS app|
cloud-based system can be used to make real-time changes in menu items, pricing, promotions, product descriptions and images on workstations, menu boards, websites, kiosks and mobile ordering systems across a property. And the system’s mobile reporting app has the capability to leverage Simphony data and allow managers to easily explore key performance indicators to make decisions that positively impact the foodservice operation from a MICROS iPhone, said Nick Abruzere, MICROS director of casino and resorts.
This new system also interfaces seamlessly with other computerized systems, including those keeping track of liquor dispensing, video surveillance and stored-value cards to create an overall great experience for customers, Abruzere added.
MICROS also offers mymenu, an interactive menu and marketing interface that works with the Apple iPad and other tablet-based devices. Besides enabling customers to order food and beverages directly from tabletop, it also promotes upcoming events and other amenities in the casino, and lets customers pay for meals using credit cards at the table.
A LA CART
Some customers like it posh and upscale serving carts can add just such a memorable touch that separates a restaurant from lesser eateries where the wait
|PigOut Roaster from Hingston Metal Fabricators|
staff still carry out trays on the shoulders or use those institutional-style metal carts. Upscale carts from the Geneva Designs unit of Lakeside Manufacturing, West Milwaukee, Wisc., are made of genuine wood and sport a furniture look. At a lower price, upscale carts have wood-grain laminates on the shelves and sides. All are designed with sturdy casters to maneuver between tables to deliver meals tableside and provide others services to guests, said Bill Scallon, marketing coordinator at Geneva.
Included in the Geneva line are flambé carts that provide demonstration cooking right at tableside, Scallon said. Guests can watch the chef grill their steak, cook seafood or a pasta dish, or simply prepare hot oeuvres; or prepare flaming desserts such as Bananas Foster or Cherries Jubilee.
“Dessert carts can boost restaurant income,” Scallon said. “If the wait staffer simply walks up to a table after the guests have finished the main course and asks ‘Who wants dessert?’ most will decline, saying they are full. But roll up a dessert trolley loaded with tasty dessert options, and you put temptation in front of them. Many will select a dessert that intrigues them, even if it is to be shared with another person at the table.”
Foodservice at casinos need not be limited to restaurants and food courts. It can also be offered at certain hours on open-air patios and at poolside.
To facilitate such temporary dining areas, Evo America, Beaverton, Ore., offers a line of portable outdoor cooking appliances that can be easily moved out at dinner hours and back into storage afterwards. These products include gas-fired cooktops, tabletop cookers, a service table and a wheeled cart. The latter comes with a stainless steel hood that creates a sealed area for baking, steaming and smoking. The casino provides a chef who can interact with diners as he cooks.
For special event outdoor cooking, the PigOut Roaster outdoor rotisserie marketed by Hingston Metal Fabricators, St. Chatherines, Ont., cooks whole pigs and large game. This portable unit rolls out on its own tires to a patio or to special events catered far outside the premises to provide a luau experience of seeing an entire pig roasted on a rotating pole. The unit comes with rods for cooking pork roasts, baskets for whole chicken and turkeys to chicken pieces, ribs, sausages, vegetables, corn on the cob and stuffed peppers. The product also has room for two steam pans and can accommodate a smoker box. Cooking heat is provided by propane through 57,000-btu burners.
IF THE SHOE FITS…
Happy customers often result from happy employees. And happy employees often result from wearing comfortable shoes while they spend all day on their feet
|Crocs’ Mario Batali Clog|
serving customers. Niwot, Colo.-based Crocs offers a complete line of shoes that in styles to fit all foodservice employees from kitchen workers to wait staffers. The shoes, part of the Crocs@Work line, are made of the company’s proprietary Croslite material that caresses the foot without tightness, assuring comfort, said Patric Rich, Crocs public relations manager. Several styles come with Crocs Lock technology that maximizes slip resistance. These shoes are also odor resistant and easy to clean with soap and water event after the messiest jobs, Rich added.
One special concern involves footwear for cocktail waitresses. Some customers, as Chicago Tribune columnist John Kass alluded to recently, feel they have not had the full Las Vegas experience unless they’ve been served their drinks by a waitress in a jazzy costume with high-heel pumps. Crocs maintain the shoe allusion with its Grace Heel that maintains the comfort of its regular foodservice line with a 1¼-inch heel designed to provide the lift without causing ankle pain as regular pumps do.
Tossing food that has spoiled because it wasn’t used in a timely manner can be costly for casinos and other restaurants. To assure foods are cooked for guests before spoiling, Ecolab, St. Paul, Minn., offers two systems that queue foods for use in the order they are purchased.
Prep-n-Print is Ecolab’s automated food labeling program that features web-based menu management, and an intelligent direct-thermal printer (no ink). The unit is portable, lightweight, water resistant and features a multilingual adjustable LCD screen. Benefits include the ability to print food rotation labels on demand in less time than handwriting them. By noting when foods were placed in the larder, they can be used in the order of purchase, thus reducing food waste.
|The Prep-n-Print from Ecolab|
Less sophisticated but just as effective are Universal Daydots, a manual food labeling system consisting of stickers for each day of the week with room for adding critical information necessary to identify and rotate foods. Users can choose the appropriate adhesive for the intended application. Product features include large, easy-to-read fields that make food rotation simple. Days of the week are listed out to ensure food is used or discarded by the proper date.
Casinos can look to the future by making their restaurants and other operations a destination for owners of electric cars by installing in their parking areas the Power Xpress electric vehicle charging stations marketed by SPX Corp., Warren, Mich.
Offered in three styles (hard-wired wall-mount, plug-in wall-mount, and stand-alone Bollard poles that can be installed throughout the parking lot), these stations deliver 24-amps of charging power that can bring an electric vehicle to full charge in less time than it takes to order and consume a dinner. Features include flexible connector cords that remain pliable even in sub-zero temperatures, and one-touch operation. Bollards come in designer colors of granite, electric red, brown, and forest green.
“Sales of hybrid electric/gasoline cars like the Chevrolet Volt and the Cadillac ELR are growing and all-electric vehicles like the Chevrolet Spark will become available soon,” said Meghan Chamberlain, marketing and sales coordinator at SPX. “As all-electric vehicles will initially have a limited range of up to 100 miles per charge, having plug-in power assures that they will not run out of juice on the way home. For this reason, such owners may choose your restaurant over a competitor.”
And then hit the slot machines or table game floor while they are on the premises.