Marriott International Asia Pacific has launched a loyalty program that isn’t catered for its guest, instead, foodies. It’s called Club Marriott and ropes in 330 hotels across 17 countries in the region, so expect no shortage of cravings satisfied whether you’re in the locale or hoping around for business or pleasure. Essentially, the paid membership program offers distinct dining experiences that exceed just discounts, it aims to be personalised, exclusive and unique.
To start, we have 14 participating Marriott hotels in Malaysia, including The Westin Langkawi Resort & Spa and Le Méridien Kuala Lumpur. Upon signing up, members of Club Marriott are entitled to a complimentary one-night stay, benefits for dining and spa services, room discounts, upgrades, birthday offers and year-round savings on dining.
Prestige sat down with Petr Raba, Vice President, Food and Beverage, Asia-Pacific for Marriott International, to talk more about the unique dining scene Marriott has crafted for itself in Asia.
With Marriott hotel restaurants, we have a philosophy that is “where locals eat, meet and drink” and the approach that we take focuses on the restaurant itself, where we try to move away from the hotel. What we try to convey is that our restaurants happen to be in the hotel — they’re independent from the hotel in terms of the design, the way you enter the restaurant.
It starts with designing them from an independent perspective. When we’re building new restaurants or renovating existing ones, we look at the way customers access the restaurant. For instance, is it necessary for customers to enter through the hotel lobby, or can we design elevator access just for the restaurant?
Then there’s the creating a concept, where we look at the market to see what resonates with the local audience. Hiring local talent as much as possible is important to us, unless a restaurant requires a chef with a specific skillset, say for example, an Italian restaurant. But where we can, we find the best local talent in the market whether that’s a mixologist or a chef.
That’s our aim right now; to build a reputation as the number one food and beverage operator in Asia Pacific. We’re doing that by creating local experiences, as authentic as we can. An example is having chefs say at Prime at Le Méridien Kuala Lumpur, who have the talent to cook perfectly the steaks we bring in which is the second point; the product and ingredients need to be the best. With local experiences we want to ensure that we are part of the community by bringing in local produce and working with local talents, as I mentioned earlier.
Our key to success is to have a great concept, great food and beverage offerings and the best talent. You could have the most beautiful restaurant in the world but if you don’t have the right talent to operate it, or the right product, you wouldn’t be successful.
So it starts with the concept which is your unique selling point — what do you want to be famous for? From there we have different categories and we choose one to focus on. For instance, the restaurant can be chef-led, where the chef is the face of the restaurant; a signature dish; or even the ingredients that a particular destination is known for which allows us to tell a story. What it isn’t is a “one size fits all” approach our restaurants, it’s really about telling the right story.
We will be creating closed experiences that only our members will have exclusive access to, such as bringing down a sommelier, cooking classes with guest chefs, hosted dinners. The idea is to create unique experiences you wouldn’t be able to find anywhere else. Not even hotel guests would have access to some of these events.
Activities I’ve really enjoyed were seeing the fireflies in Kuala Selangor and the elephant sanctuary in Kuala Gandah — this is where I had one of the best meals in my life; we were in a village and while the other tourists went off for burgers, I went to a small store with just a tiny window and a lady selling chicken with chilli sauce. I still try to eat both in and out of hotels because I want to bring that locality to our restaurants, and it’s good for me to compare ensure we’re always offering the most authentic experiences at our Marriott hotel restaurants.