Vincent Lombino is the American Food and Beverage (F&B) wunderkind in sunny Australia, known for transforming and developing hotel Food & Beverage concepts in the last ten-plus years down under. He was in charge of F&B for both Ovolo Hotels and QT Hotels and today runs his own restaurant group, aptly named FnB Collective. They launched mid-pandemic and are poised to open 12-15 restaurant and bar concepts in both Brisbane and Melbourne, Australia, including concepts from Italian to Latin to classic steakhouse.
Vincent and his team have been at the forefront of using technology to make their F&B operations more streamlined for both guests and staff, so we asked him to chat with us about his story, what he thinks about tech in F&B, and how COVID might have actually made F&B concepts stronger.
Vincent Lombino, Founder, FnB Collective
What initially brought you to Australia?
I was working at Noble House, a hotel group in the US that was well-known for its great F&B concepts. My work there caught the eye of the Managing Director of Amalgamated Holdings, a 100-year-old Australian company with many businesses under its umbrella including Rydges Hotels & Resorts, (and since rebranded as Event Hospitality & Entertainment Limited). When I joined the group, they had 50 hotels under the Rydges brand and we then developed a new designer hotel brand called QT Hotels & Resorts with the first hotel to open in Australia with great restaurants and bars located inside.
What did you do with QT Hotels & Resorts?
We started with QT Gold Coast, which had Bazaar, an interactive marketplace. The goal with QT Hotels was to drive F&B businesses in hotels to a new level with great chefs and teams. We opened Stingray Bar, which was a SoCal-inspired bar, and that really took off. In Australia, no one had seen cocktail waitresses, great DJs, and SoCal designs with American-style hospitality and service culture before. When I first arrived in Australia in 2008, some of the things we had been doing in the hotel F&B space in the United States hadn’t caught on yet, so there were a lot of insights to share.
That’s where tech comes in. We need to make it easy for the guest and easy for the staff. We have less people, but they need to be super-efficient. Baristas need to be able to fly and get out 100 coffees in an hour.
We grew quickly and brought in celebrity chefs. I brought over my whole crew from the US. Frankly, we changed the face and the stigma of restaurants in hotels in Australia. It was an incredible 7 years.
We want to build an ecosystem where a guest can buy wine at our wine shop, take the bottle directly to one of our restaurants for no corkage fee, and have it all charged to their room.
Later on, I became the Global Group F&B Director for Ovolo Hotels. Unfortunately, when the COVID lockdown began, they began standing everyone down and budgets were reduced for the same projects. I loved the gig, but just couldn’t make it work, so I went into a creative role with the group that gave me some freedom to start FnB Collective.
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