GET TO KNOW: Anton De Villiers, Executive Chef, Country Club Johannesburg
Anton de Villiers is a panelist on the first day of The Hospitality Leadership Forum 2018 for the afternoon session: F&B Strategy: Back to basics from the street to the top hotels.
The panel will be discussing what tomorrow’s visitor will expect from your restaurant and bar. Anton appears alongside top chefs and restauranteurs look at new opportunities and trends. Moderated by: Martin Kobald, Vice president, World Association of Chefs Societies.
H&R Magazine: Anton what do you believe has been the key change in the hospitality sector over the past five years?
ADV: In the Club environment it has been the decline of golf around the world forcing clubs to change their outlooks. Clubs now welcome kids and families, have relaxed dress codes and will to just about anything to retain and recruit members. This has resulted in the need for family orientated outlets and restaurants with a very casual dining environment. Gone are the days of stuffy men only areas serving heavy old school menus. Casual dining is in, coupled to some perennial favourites.
H&R Magazine:Where do you see the three key challenges in the industry over the next five years?
ADV: There are three key areas to address:
Sourcing and retaining great staff.
Despite the extensive TV coverage of “Celebrity Chefs” and their popularity, people coming into the business can be soon put off by the long, hard hours. Add that to an unpleasant work environment and sometimes poor salaries and it’s a recipe for making people leave the hospitality business. Employers will need to make the necessary adjustments to ensure that they are able to attract and keep the right staff
Locally, an uncertain political climate.
When people are unsure about the future they tend to become hoarders rather than spenders. This impacts on club membership and hospitality. “Let’s cancel my membership and not go on that expensive holiday so that we can put some money away, you never know what might happen” An unstable political climate, even if it’s only a perception, also impacts upon our ability to attract foreign tourists.
Keeping abreast of trends without offering all things to all people.
We all have to keep up with whatever is trending to keep our menus up to date and relevant to our customer. At the same time one must be wary of following every, or too many trends, your restaurant, hotel or outlet has an identity, a character, it has a soul. Be to true to that, do what it is that you do extremely well, you cannot offer all things to all people (vegetarian, gluten-free, wheat-free, banting, lactose intolerant etc.) You can’t offer open fire steaks, mezze platters to share, sushi, poke, organic produce, home grown veggies etc. without confusing your brand.
As the public become more knowledgeable about food they become more demanding, you cannot be pulled in every direction. Do what will attract the most customers to you, try and avoid being swayed by a vocal minority. Embrace the trends that suit your establishments and add value to your brand.
H&R Magazine: Anton, you are a panelist at this year’s Hospitality Leadership Forum, what are you most looking forward to discussing?
ADV: Whatever comes up, all discussions can be fruitful, but I’m particularly looking forward hearing what other people see as to what the future holds specifically around food offerings and food environments.
H&R Magazine: The hospitality sector is undergoing huge change. What are the three tips you would give for success in the coming five years.
ADV: The most obvious answer to that is to embrace change but that’s sometimes easier said than done.
It is important that one keeps up with change and that can mean re-inventing yourself every few years to keep current with what is required. Chef’s now need more than adequate IT skills for example and are expected to be costings experts, chefs of yesterday weren’t necessarily equipped to deal with that. In the future chefs will need different skill sets, it is imperative that chef’s identify where they are lacking and take the necessary action.
Moving forward I think that more and more focus will be placed on efficiency. Businesses tend to become streamlined if they are to stay in existence, kitchens will be no different. As things advance certain practical kitchen skills will not be required and will be easily replaced by often superior externally sourced products. Small multi-skilled efficient teams are replacing large expensive brigades.
As mentioned previously, and linked to the above, working conditions and remuneration will need to overhauled. Efficiency in the kitchens can mean that fewer employees can all earn more and still cost less than before. Shift work will probably never disappear but other tangible benefits will come into play. Taking your break sitting on an upturned beer crate staring vacantly at the loading bay versus taking your break in a specifically built pause area with endless coffee and endless wi-fi will be one of the influencers in where staff choose to work.
H&R Magazine: Are there any specific areas in the (sub-Saharan) African hospitality market that you believe are unique?
ADV:We have many countries in the sub-Sahara market each with their own unique offerings. As these countries achieve political stability and open up to the international business market so the need for hotels etc. will be created. It is vitally important that the tourism market is capitalised on so that we can showcase our countries attractions to all and create more employment and entrepreneurial opportunities.
Food-wise I look forward to the day that African cuisine takes its place on the world stage. No longer do I want to see French dishes on African countries menus but rather regionalised African dishes on menus in France and across the globe.
H&R Magazine: Which type of people do you believe would gain the most form attending your session this year?
ADV: Anyone if the food industry. Even if the topic doesn’t directly relate to you right now it could do in the not too distant future. It is important to participate in discussions about your industry so that you can form and hold well-informed opinions. Customers’ needs and wants influence food trends (or do food trends influence customers’ needs and wants) which in turn influences service environments, staffing, suppliers etc. It’s all inter-related and no part of the hospitality business operates independently of the other.
The Hospitality Leadership Forum runs from June 24-26 2018 at The Gallagher Convention Centre, Johannesburg
2.45pm DAY 1 F&B Strategy: Back to basics from the street to the top hotelsA look at what tomorrow’s visitor will expect from your restaurant and bar. Guests want more and in-house hotel restaurants, bars and lounges are changing across the world. The market is worth USD $49 billion worldwide, so how can you take a bigger slice? In this session top chefs and restauranteurs look at new opportunities and trends.