Interview: Radisson Blu Kuwait's exec chef
David Harnois talks about how to transform all day dining
David Harnois, executive chef of the recently renovated Radisson Blu Kuwait, explains how the hotel’s new all-day-dining restaurant is an indicator of the changes taking place across Radisson’s Middle East F&B portfolio
This isn’t your first time at the Radisson in Kuwait, so when did you come back on board?
You’re right, I was at this hotel before, from 2001 to 2005, and then went on to open a couple of Radisson properties for Rezidor. Then I got a call asking me to come back here and help to re-open this property after its big refurbishment. You could say that my speciality is to open properties, get them up to standard, understand what our clientele enjoy and ensure we deliver that.
When renovating, how important is it to reinvent the F&B?
Well, outlets that work and are already popular, we don’t change. Yes we may change the style a little, for example, an all day dining restaurant must always be evolving, and needs to follow trends.
However, if your speciality restaurant is working then we do not touch it because if the customers are used to a special or popular dish and I change the presentation even in a small way, then it will no longer be the same for them.
However, the outlet in a hotel that does require constant innovation is the all-day dining restaurant. All-day dining works mainly with buffets, and you may have a smaller à la carte menu. However, a buffet must evolve to match customer needs.
Today, everyone is health conscious, they want smaller items, more choice and fresher products. People have changed and we must make sure we not only change with them but ahead of them and set the trends.
How will your changes reflect trends across the Radisson brand?
Radisson is currently in the process of a complete rebranding of its F&B operation, into a concept we instead like to call Food & Drink. F&D is a way for us to alter our culinary offering to tie into our whole MICE and events catering business, with our all -day dining restaurant here being a prime example of that.
The all-day dining restaurant has always been the heart of a hotel. It’s where guests have their breakfast, which is one of the most important parts of the guest experience. However, after breakfast, once your guests have started to leave, all-day dining outlets have struggled to maintain that level of business.
We try to ensure that our all-day dining remains busy throughout the day because we also use it as a part of our banqueting service. Our hotel has a lot of conference rooms, and we use the all-day dining as the venue for each group’s lunch offering. To tie in with our MICE business, we are also offering special fast meals, which are small things which guests can pick up quickly and easily and even take with them back into the meeting room.
What else have you got planned?
Even when the space is not being used for breakfast, or for conference catering, our all-day dining is now also an integral part of a new take-away concept we are planning to introduce soon.
We are about to launch a ‘take-away tray’ item which will allow the local community to cater for small parties and events very easily. There will be a selection of trays suitable for different events, which will hopefully become another revenue source that taps into a market which previously wasn’t worthwhile for us to include in our outside catering service.
Top three F&B renovations at Radisson Blu Kuwait
1. The kitchen areas of the Radisson Blue Kuwait are an amazing improvement on what they were like before, and they are now up to the standards that are necessary for a modern business hotel.
2. The meeting space is now very practical, and combines really well with our operation in the all-day dining restaurant.
3. The Sky Lounge at the top of the hotel is our new exclusive executive lounge that offers open air dining and some beautiful views over the ocean.