For the fifth year running Hilton Hotels has proved itself as the leading name in Australia’s hospitality industry after topping the list of nearly 100 of the world’s leading hotel brands in the BDRC Asia Pacific Business Hotel Guest Survey.

Winning “Number One Hotel Brand” and “Leading Choice Hotel Brand” in the BDRC brand ranking index, Hilton scored highest in the category of unaided brand awareness, with 56 per cent of those surveyed naming Hilton as the most well known hotel brand for business travellers in Australia.

Ashley Spencer

According to Hilton Hotels Australasia Vice President of Operations, Ashley Spencer, ongoing brand loyalty doesn’t come about by chance.

“We’re focusing on innovation, constantly responding to our customers changing needs, this is achieved through creative product development and championed by some of the most passionate and imaginative team members in the business,” Spencer says.

“We were the first international hotel brand in Australia and this can be a double-edged sword.  While we have a rich history we’ve got to remain relevant and fresh; we can’t be perceived as an ‘old’ brand.  Creativity and innovation are essential,” he says.

Spencer says core investments in the Hilton portfolio in Australia are transforming the company’s brand.

“The revamped Hilton Sydney changed the perception of Hilton across Australia; renovations at Hilton Cairns, Hilton Brisbane, Hilton Adelaide and Hilton on the Park, Melbourne have boosted the brand; and the opening of Hilton Melbourne South Wharf is a real milestone,” Spencer says.

Hilton Melbourne South Wharf

Opened in April 2009, Hilton Melbourne South Wharf kicked off development at the $1.4 billion South Wharf precinct that borders Docklands and Southbank and sits alongside the new Melbourne Convention Centre.

“The property lives up to all that’s expected of a Hilton brand, yet is also a showcase development in an area that will help continue Melbourne’s growth as a waterfront city,” Spencer says.

Celebrity Inspired Events Menus

This focus on creative catering has continued throughout 2009. In September, Hilton launched “Celebrity Inspired Events Menus” created by award winning chefs Luke Mangan, Simon Bryant and Ramon Freixa.

Luke Mangan says the menus are sumptuous, seamless and seasonal.

“We’re showcasing sustainable and healthy produce and display these in unique e-menus for event organisers,” Mangan says.  “We’ll update the menus with each season using the freshest local produce.

“Each menu reflects our own unique style of cooking.  Mine is simple and elegant using classic French techniques.  Simon’s menu reflects his passion for local produce. Ramon brings Catalan inspired cuisine to the offering,” he says.

Why Creative Catering?

Spencer says Hilton is the only hotel brand in Australia to use celebrity chefs as the creative force behind its event menus.

“We wanted a product that gives our clients the best opportunity to create outstanding events… and realised we were overlooking something unique in our own backyard,” he says.

“Our three celebrity chefs offer fabulous diversity – most hotel catering food is generic, too scared to be anything not within the “hotel box”.  Our catering isn’t like that.”

Mangan adds: “We’re leading the way food and beverage wise.  There is no other hotel chain doing something like Nuevo 37 with Ramon at South Wharf, for example.  Hilton is the market leader.”

Creative people: Simon Bryant

Simon Bryant is Executive Chef at Hilton Adelaide and star of ABC’s ‘The Cook and the Chef’. He is passionate about using local, sustainable produce.

“Hilton Adelaide is an environmental champion in the hospitality industry and helps enable positive environment development opportunities,” Bryant says.

“My job is to live and breathe the Hilton ethos of creative catering, and then deliver that by being an ambassador for South Australian produce, exclusively using locally sourced food and wine.

“This supports local industry and minimises carbon emissions.  Our Brassiere menu is printed on recycled paper, Fair Trade Coffee is served and suppliers are selected for their organic and sustainable farming methods,” he says.

Bryant and his team developed the Seriously South Australian restaurant concept.  In order to showcase the true essence of South Australian flavour, Simon Bryant and his team source the very best range of local produce available in South Australia, from the vineyards of the Barossa Valley and McLaren Vale to the olive groves and coastal regions of the Eyre Peninsula and Kangaroo Island.

“Seasonality is big for me,” Bryant says.  “I spend every weekend at a supplier or at a farmers market. It is a no brainer to cook seasonally. It is cost effective and it tastes better.

Hilton Adelaide was also the first South Australian business to be registered as an RSPCA Choose Wisely advocate and Bryant is an ambassador for Animals Asia, a role that sees him fighting for the ethical treatment of animals throughout Asia.

“For me it is logical extension of what I do.  I want to promote sustainable practices and the ethical treatment of animals is all part of ensuring future generations can continue to enjoy fresh, high quality, healthy produce,” he says.

The next five years: retaining brand strength

Spencer says the Hilton portfolio will continue to grow over the next five years.

“We’ll open a cutting edge product on the Gold Coast, the Hilton Surfers Paradise Hotel and Residences. This property will do for Queensland what Hilton Sydney did for NSW and what Hilton Melbourne South Wharf did for Victoria.  It will enforce where we are as a brand in that destination,” he says.

Spencer is also behind a strong drive to be innovative in the workplace.

“We’re not going to get to where we want to be without a team that is encouraged, creative and developed to their potential.  Many initiatives have been hatched from our teams – so to encourage creativity and innovation is vital,” he says.

“Hospitality is a competitive and fast-moving business; we’ve got to remain relevant and innovative in terms of service and products and the way we deliver our services and products,” Spencer says.

He says Hilton will continue to work with partners and suppliers and invest heavily in the region.

“We constantly have to look at new ideas, market driven ideas, more cost effective ideas, areas where we can pass on benefits to our customers – and where we can, we’ll continue to do this work with the team members we have and harness their creative power.”