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In Focus: F&B@Sea

Panelists consider new bar concepts at F&B@Sea in Miami

L-R: Ed Eiswith, Charles Steadman, Zachary Sulkes and Scott Green at F&B@Sea on April 11
The ‘Raising the Bar: Bringing New Bar Concepts to Life’ panel at F&B@Sea provided an overview of consumer trends, new and expanded ingredients and unique preparation and presentation techniques.

The panel was moderated by Scott Green, director of content development experiences at MarkeTeam. He was joined by Ed Eiswith, senior director of beverage operations for Royal Caribbean International; Zachary Sulkes, associate VP of beverage operations for Carnival Cruise Line and Charles Steadman, director of food & beverage experience and strategic partnerships for Virgin Voyages. Each brought a unique flair to the topic of bar concepts on their respective cruise lines.

Steadman said, ‘We encourage our passengers to explore our bar concepts and build connective moments during the cruise as if they were at events with friends and family.’ 

Virgin has a ‘buy the bottle’ program where, for example, passengers can purchase a bottle of tequila and agave so ‘they can pour their own cocktails in the communal areas and create more of those connectivity experiences.’ 

When asked about alcoholic versus non-alcoholic beverages, Steadman said, ‘generational drinking has affected how we approach this, so we adjust the bars on the ship to accommodate the experience the passenger wants.’

At Carnival, Sulkes noted that ‘since 2019, that spirits are up more and have grown much faster than beer and wine and perhaps that is because during the pandemic, people were consuming more spirits at home.’ 

From a consumption perspective, comparing alcoholic to non-alcoholic preferences, Sulkes said, ‘We have seen people choosing to make their drink a double. The Royal Caribbean guest is there to have fun, so they are looking mostly still for alcoholic drinks.’ 

Eiswith said Royal Caribbean ‘conducted product development research looking at the entire process of what we created on board.’ For example, on Icon of the Seas they began incorporating non-alcoholic drinks into non-traditional shipboard areas like their Mommy and Me venue where mothers spend time with their children.

High-end options

They also developed a paired dining experience in their high-end Empire Room restaurant, ‘a concept development that took five years to complete,’ said Eiswith. ‘We assigned a whole team of mixologists for the different neighborhoods on Icon of the Seas intending for passengers to have a unique experience in each neighborhood.’ 

With the advent of the world’s largest cruise ship, the creation of neighborhoods helped create distinctive segments within the ship and avoid overcrowding in certain areas. Each bar fits the personality of its neighborhood ‘so by the second or third day of the cruise, passengers knew which bar was their favorite,’ he said.  

Social media

The conversation then turned to social media and Steadman provided an initial thought starter saying they are ‘exploring ways to socially prompt our passengers to post on social media to encourage and help with actual composition’ of their social media connections.

Addressing both the negative and positive sides, Sulkes shared his social media experiences at Carnival. ‘Our Alchemy Bar has over 50,000 followers and those followers oftentimes are more knowledgeable about our barware and cocktails than even our bartenders because they study what we do.’ 

There are, however, social media negatives, ‘because passengers constantly post on social media and that can sometimes have a negative influence. But overall, it does help the brands, all of them, grow,’ he noted.

With the final commentary on social media during the afternoon panel, Eiswith said that at Royal Caribbean social media is part of the conversation when developing cocktails. ‘When we develop a drink, we are immediately thinking, is it Instagrammable? This is certainly true of our bubble cocktail which we created as an homage to the bubble on our Icon of the Seas,’ he explained.

All three panelists have high expectations from their mixologists in that not only ‘does the drink have to be executable by the staff but it has to look cool and taste good.’ 

F&B@Sea, dedicated to the cruise food and beverage community, launched in 2023. This year it took place from April 10-11 at Miami’s Mana Wynwood Convention Center, held in tandem with Seatrade Cruise Global from April 8-11 at the Miami Beach Convention Center. 

Next year’s F&B@Sea will run from April 9-10, concurrent with Seatrade Cruise Global 2025 from April 7-10. The venues for the two events are unchanged.

TAGS: Event News
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