Well, that’s a good reason to learn more about Hilton`s restaurant and bar concepts. KTCHNrebel took the opportunity and spoke to Christian Gradnitzer, Senior Director of F&B Operations EMEA, Hilton.
From humble Austria to hospitable Asia
KTCHNrebel: Christian, we would like to introduce you to our readers. What is your background? And what is your current position at Hilton?
Christian Gradnitzer: I grew up in Austria. My culinary career began in 1993 when I started a three-year apprenticeship program at the Kurhotel Warmbaderhof in Carinthia. Coming from a humble home, where my mother ran a restaurant and my father a farm, now being run by my brother, I grew up knowing how important a real farm-to-table philosophy is, especially when it comes to sourcing ingredients and cooking. Since then, my career in the culinary business took me all over the world. I spent a lot of time working in Asia and in 2017 I joined Hilton as Senior Director for Food & Beverage Operations in EMEA.
KTCHNrebel: With all your international experience what kind of Chef are you – traditional, fancy, Nouvelle Cuisine…?
Christian Gradnitzer: My Austrian training has laid the foundations to everything I have learned in the culinary world, from French Cuisine to techniques such as baking, butchery and sausage making. After my first five years in the business, I embarked on my travels and that is when my love of Nouvelle Cuisine was born. I developed my own style by incorporating flavors from various ethnicities; the cultures I encountered during my travels have contributed greatly. Good food for me means the perfection of flavors and composition, developed with passion. I have been honored to work with incredible restaurants creating over 50 restaurant concepts, all of which have been developed for a specific market.
The Hilton secret: Passion and vision
KTCHNrebel: What is Hilton´s secret for success?
Christian Gradnitzer: Simply, it is a blend of passionate people driven by a strong dedication and vision in delivering consistently superior hospitality. That theme remains consistent across all Hilton brands.
KTCHNrebel: Has the expectation of your customers changed in the last years?
Christian Gradnitzer: In short, no. The purpose, for which they travel and the way they move has. We are also looking at a more diverse audience of travelers. This is why being proactive is the key to identifying and satisfying various tastes.
KTCHNrebel: How does customer experience management and F&B services contribute to Hilton´s success story?
Christian Gradnitzer: Our focus at Hilton is a dedication to a simple formula in executing our priorities. We are devoted to fresh thinking, essential to thriving in today’s competitive climate. We have rigorous standards. Keeping an eye on measurable results means we are able to achieve new heights of excellence. This is embedded in our culture and every member of the Hilton team strives towards this, ensuring best practice is adhered to across all our properties.
KTCHNrebel: Which F&B concepts do you offer to your customers?
Christian Gradnitzer: At Hilton F&B we believe that one size does not fit all. We focus greatly on planning and creating market relevant F&B concepts. In addition, we offer twelve great prototype models which are ready to be used especially for new developments and renovations.
KTCHNrebel: Which trends do you see in your industry concerning to F&B services and the operation?
Christian Gradnitzer: In recent years, the popularity of fast, casual restaurants has risen. They drive long term commercial success. At Hilton we are permanently working on trend development which looks three to five years ahead. Some of the trends prevailing are hyper local, chef driven casual concepts, focused on natural ingredients and clean menus. Food waste reduction, locally sourced produce and environmental sustainability are all areas of interest for Hilton. We are also developing a more efficient process where entire menus can be produced requiring minimal appliances.
The answer to current challenges: Minimal effort – ultimate productivity
KTCHNrebel: 100 years of success. Obviously, the services to your customers have changed. But what has happened in the back of house? What are milestones in the development within the F&B operation?
Christian Gradnitzer: Our team aims on maximizing work flow, space utilization and equipment selection as we work towards achieving ultimate productivity, energy conservation and labor planning. To overcome common challenges we believe in focused service, non-chef operated kitchens partnering with strong producers. As a worldwide chain, our requirements for each brand are different. It is key for us to deliver a consistent service as per brand standards, no matter where we operate. Therefore, we are cooperating with partners who share our innovative vision, partners who provide us with off the shelf concepts rather than just products.
KTCHNrebel: What is your idea of a digitalized kitchen?
Christian Gradnitzer Digitalization is the future and we just need to follow up. Restaurants and hotels are changing, they are even expanding menus with just one piece of cooking equipment. „How?“, I hear you ask. Using new equipment: a combination oven. Combi ovens encourage chefs to use their appliances in new, unconventional ways. They are a great asset to any kitchen; they provide versatility, convenience and the latest technologies within one unit. Appliances saving space whilst offering multi functions are the future and the best we can get.
KTCHNrebel: When you compare the kitchen solutions 20 years ago with today. What is the main difference?
Christian Gradnitzer: Kitchen and cooking solution providers today are for the culinary industry a one-stop-shop, as is Staples for the office industry. Currently most of them are manufacturers that try to incorporate technology. But it is imperative that they understand from a top-level what operators need. It should be the other way around: the technology of the equipment should drive the manufacturing process. Companies should pay attention to the user experience and as a whole, the hardware and software should provide a seamless and intuitive experience. Increased interaction between the culinary team and the technology-driven cooking system drives a more efficient operation.
KTCHNrebel: As chief developer of new F&B concepts you have experienced a lot of food trends. What could customers find on a restaurant menu 20 years ago and what are the „fashion dishes“ today?
Christian Gradnitzer: Despite the changing landscape of the culinary scene, in practice, very little has changed. Culinary and beverage offerings do go through trends. However, it all comes back to good old basics. Today, a „less is more“ approach is definitely popular, and we are seeing classics return to center stage. Farm-to-table and locally sourced ingredients are definitely a priority — as a result of environment awareness food philosophy and nutrition habits are changing.
KTCHNrebel: Thank you for taking the time — and enjoy the birthday celebrations!