When we had guests leaving our hotel in awful weather to get a meal, we knew we had a problem," says Amadeo Zarzosa, dir. of ITT Sheraton culinary services, North America Div.
Extensive market research led to the development and introduction of "Sheraton Cuisine," an innovative, healthful chef-designed menu which capitalizes on technology and branding.
A new 'brand': "Sheraton Cuisine" is the umbrella (and logo) under which all of ITT Sheraton's hotels in the North American Div. will operate under as a recognizable brand name.
Key to this branding effort is the development of "Cuisine of the Americas" (COTA) developed for product differentiation and in response to market research indications of customer interest in healthier menus.
COTA recipes were developed by Sheraton chefs in the field, then reviewed by an anthropologist, a nutritionist, a food stylist and a photographer. COTA will be in 120 Sheraton properties by the first of the year.
The COTA formula: COTA fundamentals include:
- 40% is food native to the Americas from Alaska to Argentina.
- Less focus on meat: 2/3 to 3/4 of each plate is grains, carbos, fruits and vegetables.
- 1,200 calories maximum in an entree.
- Maximum 30% fat (only 10% saturated), 500 mg. sodium/200 calories, 150 mg. cholesterol per serving.
- Colorful, appealing, nutritious.
- Fresh, natural ingredients.
- Must look "plentiful", not "petite" on the plate.
- Strict portion control to maintain integrity of the menu.
More menu information: Market research reveals that 90% of customers want to know what they're eating, so menus (including banquet menus) will list calories and fat grams. Since menus can be laser-printed hours before the meal is served, last minute changes can reflect good prices or availability of special foods, Zarzosa points out.
ITT Sheraton is currently negotiating with a major airline to provide Sheraton Cuisine in first class. (The partnership was pending announcement at presstime.)
Another ingredient in the branding program is the creation of vendor alliances with more than a dozen (to date) high-quality, widely-recognized name brand products such as Robert Mondavi Winery, Coca-Cola, Starbucks and Oscar Mayer.
High tech in the kitchen: ITT Sheraton has also invested $1 million in developing a CD-ROM version of COTA.
"It's a very powerful tool that people find fun to learn by," says Zarzosa. The goal: monitors with touch-screen capability on line in all hotel kitchens.
THE CD-ROM includes 250-plus COTA recipes, each with color illustration, nutrition facts, preparation and presentation tips, as well as the availability, cost and seasonality of items. This inter-active, multi-media software will be available in all hotel kitchens.
While it is DOS only at this point, there is some interest in making it Mac-compatible and the chain plans to produce the CD-ROM cookbook for consumers in 1996.
Will the CD-ROM turn chefs into assembly workers? Not according to pastry chef Michael Farley of the Sheraton San Diego. "COTA will comprise 20% of the menu. I still can do my own recipes, too. It's a great source of information."
In fact, ITT Sheraton is moving toward individual business units as profit centers, encouraging an entrepreneurial approach and individualism in its outlets.