NESTLE NESPRESSO INTERVIEW JULIEN MARIO Comments Off on NESTLE NESPRESSO INTERVIEW JULIEN MARIO 1899

Hospitality.mu had the pleasure to meet Nestle/Nespresso Middle East and Africa BDM Mr Julien Mario at the Culinary Festival of Bernard LOISEAU at Belle Mare Place Hotel together with his team and distribution partner Scott & Co Ltd.

Mr Mario shares with us the amazing product development and branding behind their great coffee that is Nespresso.

  1. Tell us about the Nespresso story

The Nespresso story started with a simple but revolutionary idea: enable everyone to create the prefect cup of coffee just like a barista. Since then, our relentless quest to produce the highest quality coffee using the most sustainable sourcing methods has redefined the way millions of people enjoy their coffee. With the touch of a button, we’ve brought the world’s best beans into homes, offices, hotels, restaurants and cafés, delivering the ultimate coffee experience to our customers, cup after cup. 

  1. How were the early days of Nespresso, and how it evolved?

Nespresso was founded in 1986. During the 1970’s, a Nestlé R&D team started developing a project to redefine the art of making espresso. The idea was simple yet revolutionary: to enable everyone, whether in their homes or work places, to make the perfect espresso coffee. In 1986, Nespresso SA is founded with a staff of five employees, four Grand Crus varieties and one machine.  The first Nespresso boutique is opened as a concept store in Paris in 2000. 

At the very beginning, we had only 4 coffees. Today, our original line offers 24 coffees for in-home enjoyments. We offer 15 coffees for out-of-home enjoyment. We also produce several limited editions coffees each year. 

The Essenza machine is launched in 2004, introducing the innovative top loading drop-in capsule concept that has influenced all subsequent Nespresso coffee machine designs.

Each year, we are bringing something new and innovative for all the coffee lovers both in our coffee range and in machine range

  1. Can you share a few figures with us?

Nespresso now has operations in 69 countries. There are more than 600 Nespresso boutiques in 372 cities in 63 countries around the world. At the end of 2016, Nespresso had more than 12,000 employees around the world, in 2000 we had just 331 employees. And more than 70% of employees in the markets are in direct contact with consumers. Nespresso operates 3 production centres based in Switzerland (Avenches, Orbe and Romont)

  1. What about Nespresso in Mauritius

Nespresso is distributed in Mauritius by Scott & Co Ltd since 2012 and the first point of sale, the Nespresso boutique at Bagatelle Mall of Mauritius opened in 2013. Moreover, we have other outlets in Grand Baie La Croisette, Ruisseau Creole, and at the Head Office of Scott & Co. Ltd in Riche Terre. Despite being a small country, Mauritius is a very promising market for the Nespresso brand. Mauritians are starting to know the value of a good coffee, and this is reflected with our presence in key regions of the island.

We also distribute Nespresso in the Hotels and over the years we have been able to partner with restaurants, cafés and hotels so as for them propose a better coffee experience to their customers. The Nespresso Café Gourmand is now present in the menu of many leading hotels and restaurants in Mauritius.

  1. You’ve mentioned Grand Cru earlier. How Nespresso creates this high-quality coffee?

We’ve involved in every aspect of the coffee value chain, so we can ensure the highest standards from coffee bean to coffee cup. Our range of exceptional blends and pure, singly origin coffees are crafted from the world’s best beans. They’re specially made to suit all kinds of tastes and to be at home in every environment – from kitchens and cafés to hotels and offices.

  1. Nespresso is also about the innovative coffee machines? Right?

From the capsule to the machine, we combine unique technology with quality, speed and smart design for an effortless, state-of-the-art experience. Our machines enhance coffee aroma, crema and flavour, pairing just the right amount of water and pressure for the perfect coffee every time. We develop new coffee varieties to meet consumer demand, design packaging for unrivalled freshness and constantly seek ways to improve our customers’ experience. Towards the end of 2017, we have launched two new ranges of machines in Mauritius: Essenza Mini and Expert. 

  1. How is the price of the Nespresso capsules perceived?

We are confident that our prices reflect the quality of our beans and the level of service we provide to our customers. Only a small proportion of the world’s coffee meets our standards in terms of quality and taste. This is why, year after year we return to the same farmers to purchase their beans investing the long-term viability and sustainability of their farms and pay premiums for superior coffee. Nespresso also invests in trained coffee specialists who provide customers advice on coffee selection.

  1. What is caffeine and how many coffee cups can one person consume a day?

Caffeine is a naturally occurring substance found in around 60 plant species, including coffee beans, tea leaves and cocoa beans. In 2015, a detailed study by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) on caffeine safety concluded that moderate caffeine intake of about 400 mg per day does not have any adverse effect on healthy adults. We believe that moderate consumption is between 3-5 cups per day, depending on the blend. While there is no evidence that more than five cups will negatively impact on a person’s health, everyone should be aware of their own caffeine consumption and define what’s best for them. 

  1. Last question. What else?

Haha! Well, George Clooney has been our brand ambassador since 2006. Not only has he helped to build a more human, and humorous side to the brand, but he has also strengthened Nespresso’s premium brand image and made it a very aspirational brand. Recently, he visited our AAA coffee farms in Costa Rica to experience and understand the sustainability initiatives of the Nespresso. He might certainly be our most famous Club Member, but like the rest of our brand community, he shares a delight in exceptional coffee.

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CHEF JORDI – “THE CHEF’S JOURNEY NEVER ENDS” 0 659

“Jordi Vila describes his journey from helping out in family restau- rants in Barcelona to becoming Executive Chef at Constance Le- muria, on the island of Praslin, Seychelles, where he has the free- dom to bring forth his experience and creativity to create unique dishes to tantalise the taste buds of the clientele.”

The position of Executive Chef at Constance Lemuria, on the north-western side of Praslin island, Seychelles, is one which Jordi Vila truly relishes. Constance Lemu- ria is one of two Constance Group luxury hotels in the Seychelles, which opened inDecember 1999. The five-star eco-friendly hotel is one of the Leading Hotels in theWorld, and it has five restaurants offering a range of different cuisines.

So what is it like working at the heart of the culinary operations of the hotel?

Jordi explains that “at Constance Lemuria the concept of “cooking” is about perfection and precise timing – everything has to be on time! Operating the timing of the restaurants, the time service of our restaurant and kitchen team, the timing of the dishes, how long does it take to prepare a dish and the pace of the guests according to their needs, therefore during the day I am busy with many timings! It is difficult to balance home and work as a Chef, considering as well that it is not easy in a small island like Praslin and I can say that my “normal” working day reflects many timings, many meetings and of course the passion for food.

PLANNING THE DAY

The life of an Executive Chef is certainly a busy one with many meetings and activities over the course of the day. “Every day I wake up at 7am! At 8am I have my first meeting over a coffee with my Executive Sous Chef, and at 8.30am I have my second meeting with all the heads of the departments where we all discuss the daily operations. At 11am, I have my third meeting with all the chefs de cuisine in my office and my last meeting is at 1pm, with the team from the ‘Diva’ restaurant where we always brainstorm new menus, new concepts and trends,” Jordi explains.

In terms of his evening routine, “at 6 pm I start to supervise all the restaurants: our main buffet restaurant ‘Legend’, our Creole restaurant ‘The Nest’, private and exclusive dinners and our fine dining ‘Diva’ restaurant, where I work until 10pm, and at 11.30pm I have my first glass of wine…”

DEVELOPING CREATIVE SKILLS

Jordi has been working for Constance Group for the last four years and at Lemuria since January 2018. Describing his move to the company, Jordi comments that “what attracted me mostly was the freedom that was given to me to run the culinary team. It has been a good opportunity for me as well because Constance Group is well known and popular for its passion for wine and culinary experience. I just knew, from the beginning, that the Constance Group was giving me the chance to develop my creative skills with high quality products. For a Chef it is priceless to work with the best products in the world! I can surely say that Constance Lemuria is an essential port of call for lovers of rejuvenated traditional gastronomy,” he adds.

He also highlights that Constance Lemuria has a focus on local products. “At ‘The Legend’ and ‘The Nest’ restaurants we offer a big variety of local cuisine using local products such as rice, fish, pork, pineapple, mango, okra, breadfruit, pumpkin, eggplant, cabbage, exotic fruits, watermelon, chili, curry leaves and, of course, a lot of coconut,” he says.

“The sea is a real source of inspiration which provides me power and creativity”

ROAD FROM BARCELONA

So how did Jordi end up as Executive Chef at Constance Lemuria? “Well, throughout my childhood and my teenage years, my family ran a few restaurants in Barcelona. I have always been very enthusiastic about the culinary arts, hence when I turned 15, I started helping out my family at the restaurants,” he explains.

From his early days, doing odd jobs around the kitchen, Jordi’s interest in the culinary field and Chefs continued to grow, which led him to undertake a traineeship as a pastry Chef. “However, with more maturity, I chose to develop my knowledge and get closer to the business area. Hence, I have diverted my skills from pastry to the hot kitchen side,” he comments.

At the age of 20, Jordi started travelling around the world as his ultimate goal was to attempt to learn more and broaden his horizons in this field, and finally he has worked all over the world.

PROJECTS IN THE PIPELINE

While Jordi has already come a long way from his starting point, he has a number of new projects in the pipeline. “I have in mind a first project at Constance Lemuria with our Sushi Bar. I am planning to elab- orate a very personal tasting menu called “By the Sea”. The idea is to combine Japanese and Spanish products and maximize the umami’s flavours by using only seasonal products. The concept is to create a different menu each morning which will be served at dinner time. Therefore, we will offer new dishes on the menu on a daily basis which means a lot of creativity, and there will be only 15 seats available,” he elaborates.
He has a second project in the offing which is to implement a special menu called “The Raw” which will be served at the counter of ‘Diva’ restaurant, which is the hotel’s fine dining restaurant. “This menu will be tailor-made with the best products and the concept will be simply based on applying less heat to the ingredients. By using this method, it will allow the product to be served in its purest form and to be the centre of the nutritious natural flavor,” he enthuses, with the seating capacity to be around 10 seats for this special experience.

SOURCES OF INSPIRATION

To sum up, what are the key sources of in- spiration for Jordi as he seeks to improve the experience for his customers? First of all, Jordi highlights that “the sea is a real source of inspiration which provides me power and creativity”.

Secondly, and more directly, Jordi ex-plains that his customers give him the drive towards constant improvement of his creativity, day by day. “I must admit that my way to cook is a real personal interpretation,” he admits. “Hence, with any comment or criticism a customer might mention to me, I usually take it to heart but always in a positive way. My only goal is their satisfaction and to make them happy with the dishes I create. When I receive any comment or encourage- ment from them, it provides me with the strength to do even better and try to go always higher.”

BRANDING TWO BRANDS, OR NOT TO BRAND, THAT IS THE QUESTION 0 451

“Luxury has become an exceptionally difficult territory in which to compete propositionally as well as to make adequate returns.”

Piers Schmidt, Founder of advisory firm Luxury Branding, based in London and Cape Town, explains why two local hotel groups which he has experience of working with have unveiled second brands within days and metres of each other

During September 2018 and within weeks, there were two significant announcements from The Lux Collective and Constance Hospitality Management: the two leading Mauritian hotel groups are to launch second brands – Salt and C Resorts respectively. Intriguingly, the inaugural properties of both debutant marques will be located less than a mile apart at Palmar on the East Coast of Mauritius.

What do these strikingly parallel developments tell us about the state of health and innovation capacity in the island’s hotel groups, a key player in the Travel and Tourism sector, which is forecast to contribute MUR34.7bn or 7.5% of GDP in 2018?

Judging by the recently launched website for the LUX* Collective, the success of LUX* Resorts & Hotels has emboldened Paul Jones to fabricate a house of brands, emulating the established stables managed by the global hospitality behemoths, including Hilton, Hyatt and IHG.

By adopting an opportunistic, multi-brand strategy, has Jones been inspired by the example of the merged Marriott/Starwood supergroup, which now boasts some 30 more or less discrete brands, addressing nine different segments? Or Accor surely the most innovative and dynamic of the big groups today which has overtaken Marriott, the world’s largest hotel group, with no fewer than 40 hospitality propositions of its own?

In addition to its eponymous marque, LUX*, which is now seven years old, and Salt, The Lux Collective will soon be managing two new hotel brands: Tamassa and Socio, about which we are still waiting for further detail. And that’s not to mention the Group’s successful Café LUX* franchise.

CONSOLIDATION VS. INNOVATION

What is going on here? Was it not only a few short years ago that local politicians and commentators were deeply pessimis- tic about the Mauritian tourism industry? In 2012, despite increasing supply, demand was more or less static, growing only 3.7% from 930,500 tourist arrivals in 2008 to 965,400 by the end of that year. A study conducted by the MTPA in 2012 in the is- land’s core market of France critically revealed that Mauritius was “losing its charm among French tourists.” Furthermore, the 2013 Global Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index saw Mauritius not only yield its number one position in the sub-Saharan regional ranking to Seychelles but fall from 53rd to 58th in the overall table.

In remedy, a rapid diversification from the EURO to BRIC tourists was pursued but even in combination with a welcome liberalisation of air access occupancies hovered stubbornly in the mid-60s. The giddy days of 76%, last enjoyed in 2007 before the Eurozone crisis, seemed like a distant dream. Throughout this period, however, the four largest hotel groups (NMH, Sun, LUX* and Constance) continued to represent around 50% of the entire industry, a consolidation that did little to foster innovation.

During 2011, while we were working together on the development of the LUX* Resorts & Hotels concept and branding, I remarked to Paul Jones that Mauritian hospitality seemed to have gone dormant since I was a regular visitor a decade earlier. In 2002, we had been planning the launch of One&Only Resorts from its mother ship Le Saint Géran and preparing the re-opening of Le Touessrok, two resorts imagined and managed by the legendary South African hotelier Sol Kerzner. Even then, we had to admit, innovation, in the form of Kerzner International, came from an external catalyst.

REDISCOVERING THE MOJO

Fast forward six years and Mauritius hoteliers seem to have rediscovered their mojo. Rates and occupancies are at record levels, debt is back under control and share prices are outperforming the market. Not only can their success be seen domestically as local operators have co-developed hotels and acquired management contracts both within the Indian Ocean (Seychelles, Réunion, Madagascar and Maldives) and further afield in France (Beachcomber andLUX*), Italy, Turkey, China, UAE, Vietnam (LUX*) and Tanzania (Constance).

Until the September announcements from Lux Collective and Constance Hospitality Management, this growth in properties, owned or operated by Mauritian hotel groups, had been derived from one of two models: either by expansion of the house brand (i.e. Beachcomber, LUX*, Constance etc.) or by managing hotels, which failed to meet the ‘luxury’ specifications of those brands as independent properties (e.g. Merville Beach and Tamassa by LUX*).

This was an approach we pioneered with Sugar Beach, La Pirogue and Coco Beach (now Long Beach), the Sun Resorts hotels that were ‘Managed by’ One&Only.

During strategy reviews at One&Only and LUX*, I recall vigorous debate about the most appropriate form of brand architecture to accommodate properties like Sugar Beach and Merville that fell short of the minimum luxury (hardware) standards that had been specified for the house brands.The issue became all the more vexatious given that the service and guest experience in these 3 and 4-star properties was often on a par with that enjoyed in their fancier and more illustrious siblings.

Given these circumstances, there was al- ways the potential to introduce a second tier brand or ‘diffusion line’ under which to house these poorer cousins. Indeed, there were plenty of precedents for this ap- proach: Courtyard by Marriott was an early pioneer of brand extension but from pure- play luxury operators, Evason (Soneva), Angsana (Banyan Tree) and Vivanta (Taj) are prominent examples.

TIME FOR CHANGE

In Mauritius, this strategy met resistance for a variety of reasons. Frequently, Board directors deemed the introduction of a second brand as an unwelcome distraction from management’s proper focus, which was to grow the luxury house brand. Whether this fear was grounded or not, with access to only two or three properties to flag with a second brand, its slight physical presence and modest marketing budget would make it difficult to gain traction. Additionally, we faced an inconvenient truth: Coco Beach and Sugar Beach or Tamassa and Merville Beach were as distinct from one another as they were different from the main lines One&Only or LUX*. Would it be possible to build a credible brand if it was stretched across resorts as diverse as Tamassa and Merville Beach? To this day, the evidence suggests not as LUX* Island Resorts will not only be managing the four brands of its Lux Collective but continues to market and operate Merville Beach and Hotel le Récif in Réunion Island as independent properties. Although I am sure it has little intention of rolling out either of these as a brand, the same assumption applied to Tamassa until recently.

SO, WHAT’S CHANGED? WELL, FOUR THINGS.

First, the increasing need for customer segmentation. In common with the supply side of most industries, the fundamentals of a hotel or resort offering are very similar. The basic accommodations, facilities, food & beverage outlets and those all important immersive experiences are largely the same.

When it comes to demand, however, it is all about horses for courses. There are at least 400 brands of wristwatch available today. Their products perform the same basic function and most of them keep the time as accurately as the next. And yet most of these brands will survive because one man’s Panerai is another’s poison. So, too, with hotels and resorts. There are Aman ‘junkies’ and Four Seasons devotees that would never be seen in the lobby of The Ritz-Carlton. While there is little perceptible difference under the hood between many of the 30 Marriott brands (e.g. The Ritz-Carlton vs. St. Regis), theirs is an exercise in badge engineering.

Closer to home, a loyal client of Prince Maurice would probably feel less comfort- able at LUX* Belle Mare whose own client feels more at home there than at the St. Regis Le Morne. So long as there are sufficient numbers of customers with distinctive tastes and different levels of spending power, producers will be able to slice and dice their offerings ever more thinly to meet the needs and aspirations of precisely defined and deeply understood market segments.

Second, most global hotel companies now employ an asset-light strategy pitching themselves against one another for the same lucrative management contracts. The leading Mauritian hotel groups are no exception. Rather than developing new assets for their own account, groups may even prefer to dispose of their bricks. LUX Island Resorts Limited, for example, off-loaded Tamassa to Grit on a sale and leaseback basis for US$40m in 2016. Going forward, Mauritian operators will also be seeking to grow the distribution of their brands via the acquisition of management contracts, a model that requires no capital outlay and produces attractive annuity income, which is much cherished by stock markets but deceptively difficult to execute.

Here’s the rub, though, and our third driver of change. Owned or not, luxury has become an exceptionally difficult territory inwhich to compete propositionally as well as to make adequate returns. The capital budgets it takes to develop at this level have escalated significantly and the long-term operating costs of luxury hotels are increasingly prohibitive. As a result, there are fewer promoters developing in the luxury segment than previously and yet there is an increasing number of asset-light management companies chasing the same deals.

This double whammy produces a buyers’ market for hotel owners and however at- tractive your Brand Concept, however powerful your sales, distribution and marketing and however impressive the results you are achieving with your owned properties, third-party owners are seeking bulletproof track records achieved on behalf of investors like themselves. They crave the reassurance of a management company that is able to demonstrate repeated and sustained success in relevant markets with equivalent projects. Of equal importance, so do the banks providing the debt portion of their project financing.

In a crowded market for scarce management contracts, small local players, such as those starting to emerge from Mauritius, may still catch the eye of an owners’ representatives and their advisors and this is one of the reasons why one should never discount the value of personal relationships. Nevertheless, as negotiations proceed, it quickly becomes difficult for an ascent and unproven management company to match the metrics and ratios of a Four Seasons (with its mono brand focus) or a Marriott with its reputable stable of thoroughbred brands, each boasting reams of performance data to lend credibility to its projections. And that’s before they even mention the secret sauce, which is their global loyalty programmes.

Fourth, in small destinations, there is market saturation to factor. How many Constance or LUX* resorts can an island sustain? LUX* has three in Mauritius but would it be able to gain Tour Operator support or find even more direct business and airline seats for a fourth in the South? Constance has two resorts in each of Mauritius, Seychelles and Maldives and I know they wouldn’t want yet more rooms in the Maldives, if for no other reason than to hedge their market exposure.

On the other hand, when it comes to risk management, where better to develop more product than in the destinations where you operate successfully already? On that basis, it makes total sense to develop depth in places where you know how to operate and where both consumer and trade trust your reputation in those markets.

It’s to address this quartet of challenges that the international groups have architected carefully, segmented and regulated multi-brand portfolios. And it’s for these same reasons that the Mauritian operators are following suit.

TOWARDS A NEW MODEL OF SISTER BRANDS?

Constance Hospitality Management an- nounced its intention to launch a sister brand to Constance Hotels & Resorts to the European trade in May 2017. The result of more than a year’s development work since then, C Resorts, has been thoughtfully positioned and conceptualised not to cannibalise the Group’s luxury brand. It will offer a distinct proposition designed to appeal to long-haul leisure travellers to largely package tour destinations like Mauritius and Seychelles.

While Salt is also opening its first proof of concept hotel in Mauritius, I believe it won’t be long before we find LUX*’s seasoned sibling sprinkled in less conventional, fly and flop destinations. Salt’s promise of “meaningful” travel experiences designed – in the brand’s own words – for “cultural purists, modern explorers and mindful travellers who travel to satisfy their curiosity and challenge their perception of the world” seems better matched to the more off the beaten track destinations favoured by younger and truly free, independent travellers.

These recent developments are clearly encouraging and we wish both the new ar- rivals every success. One word of caution, however, in closing. In recent months, we have been approached by two internation- al operators whose brand aspirations have got the better of them. These are independent hotel groups both of whom have reached around 20-25 properties open and under management with another 5-10 in their pipelines. Their issue? Too many propositions and too many brands for the number of properties with not enough clear water between them. The resulting confusion in the minds of the consumer and owner communities alike now needs to be undone and the portfolio both simplified and rationalised. Although it makes interesting work for us to untangle the mess, maybe Four Seasons have had it right all along – one brand.

ABOUT PIERS

Piers Schmidt is Founder of Luxury Branding, an advisory firm based in London and Cape Town which assists luxury organisations with elevating service and transforming experiences.