The New Wellness – Blurring the Lines between Health and Hospitality

9 October, 2019

It’s safe to say that the move towards health and wellness has been one of the biggest food industry trends of the past few years. From increasingly more people adopting vegetarian and vegan diets to the ideas of food as medicine and  ‘you are what you eat’, alongside a move away from mass-produced, mass processed foods towards more traceable fork-to-farm, artisanal and local eating, it’s a trend that’s most definitely here to stay.

Tied in with this we’re starting to see a blurring of the lines between hospitality and health and well-being, as hotels and spas extend their offerings to make the food being served equally as important as, and in balance with, their treatments, activities and in-house experiences. As such, places that are able to offer a fully inclusive and fully integrated wellness lifestyle are likely to become more commonplace as people look to invest in body health through not only nutrition, fitness and relaxation but also through the food they eat.

According to WATG, one of the world’s leading integrated design firms, wellness is now one of the fastest growing sub-sectors of the hospitality industry and it grew by 10.6 per cent between 2013 and 2015 and is still on the rise today. With the establishment of the ‘experience economy’, wellness travellers now demand innovative and interesting ways in which they can improve their health and WATG has predicted that the offer of a total sensory experience and provision of a truly personalised dietary regime will be major trends to watch. It also suggests that as the technology becomes available, the concept of nutrigenomics, that is, the study of how genes and food interact, will start to play an increasingly important role in how hotels and spas shape their food offerings, allowing them to recognise an individual’s nutritional profile and so provide dietary recommendations and personalised cuisine to each guest.

Similarly, the recently published Industry Report – Wellness-Themed vs. Wellness Hospitality Horwath HTL Health & Wellness, states that wellness is no longer solely about the wellness resort itself, but should now be seen as the impact the total experience has on a guest. As guests typically travel to a wellness resort for a specific purpose, creating an environment that is rooted in authenticity and with healthy dining options should be crucial elements for providing a genuine guest experience.

In these challenging economic times, and with people increasingly looking for fully rounded experiences (often driven by the seemingly unstoppable and all-pervasive power of social media) it is the hotels and spas that are willing and able to buy into this integrated business model where the concepts of hospitality and wellness go hand in hand, that are likely to see increasing profits and longevity.

Images courtesy of @equinoxhotels via Instagram

The newly opened Equinox Hotel in New York City’s Hudson Yards development is one such place that puts an equal emphasis on both its food and its health and fitness-focused offering. Alongside its in-house spa and fitness classes it also offers nutritional coaching and customised, nutrient-dense daily meals designed to provide guests with the highest-quality calories. Its main restaurant Electric Lemon also specialises in seasonal American cuisine that celebrates the farmers, growers, and artisans of the Mid-Atlantic and aims to deliver a dining experience for all of the senses and the menu here is unlike that found in most hotel restaurants. Breakfast includes chia seed bowls and buddha bowls and lots of wild grains and seeds in dishes such as the beauty bowl with beet, yoghurt, strawberry, raspberry, pistachio and bee pollen; wild hive grain mix with poached eggs and wild mushroom; and Balthazar spelt toast, buttermilk whipped butter and superfood jam. Lunch and dinner features plenty of raw dishes, interesting salads and vegetable-led plates. Some of the more interesting menu items include marinated razor clams with pickled carrot and cilantro broth; a badger flame beet and stone fruit salad with grated Dunbarton blue and black Urfa chilli; chickpea pasta, sungold tomatoes, blistered shishito peppers and basil; and whole roasted trout served with pickled shallots and green things from the garden.

Lunch bowl at Skylonda
Image courtesy of @skylondalodge via Instagram

On the other side of the country in California, Skylonda Lodge is an all-inclusive retreat which focuses on offering an holistic approach to body and mind health and wellness – an approach that carries over into its food. It believes in the importance of ‘you are what you eat’ and that it’s imperative to choose your food wisely, so the food it offers to guests is designed to be healthy for both the body and spirit and is sourced where possible from local farms and producers.

Image courtesy of @skylondalodge via Instagram

Leading UK wellness retreat Greyshott Health Spa employs the services of a nutritionist who works closely with the executive chef to create menus that complement its health treatments. It offers a menu of meals comprised of healthy, healing proteins, fats, pulses and a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables, seeds and nuts and all its foods are tailored to be restorative and aid digestion, so as guests can rest and heal. Such dishes commonly served here include black quinoa and goat’s cheese salad and red rice, beetroot and roasted red peppers and sea bass with green vegetables and broth.

Asparagus, poached eggs and a verde sauce at Grayshott
Image courtesy of @grayshottspa via Instagram

The Coniston Hotel Country Estate and Spa in North Yorkshire offers guests food at its Nourish Brasseries – which operates on the philosophy that body well-being can be encouraged with vibrant and healthy food. Its menu is packed with colourful, nutritionally rich, seasonal and locally sourced ingredients, and dishes such as Buddha bowls and open sandwiches and has been designed to reflect the overall ethos of the spa resort.

Home grown turmeric and scallop carpaccio at Gaia Retreat
Image courtesy of @gaiaretreat via Instagram

In Byron Bay, Australia, at Gaia Retreat and Spa, founded by none other than Olivia Newton-John, there is a firm focus on the food offering and its philosophy is that food should be as delicious and visually attractive as it is healthy. The on site restaurant has a menu that places an emphasis both on a balanced diet and a mix of  flavours which make use of the produce available from Gaia’s own organic garden as well as local produce from the farms, orchards, providores and plantations of the NSW Northern Rivers region. Some of the health-orientated dishes include brown rice congee with shiitake, ginger and tamari; fresh fig, lentil and pomegranate salad; miso with salmon and vegetables; and macadamia crusted snapper with warrigal greens, celeriac and lemon myrtle vinaigrette. In fact Gaia’s particular style of spa cuisine has proved so popular that it has published three cookbooks that cover many of the recipes used in its restaurant.

Japanese lunch bowl at Gaia
Image courtesy of @gaiaretreat via Instagram

The above are just a select example of a new-wave of progressive, forward-thinking wellness retreats, spas and hotels that are serving up healthy yet delicious food that complements their overall offering – its food that is not about going without, but rather about enhancing a guests overall experience while also playing a positive role in both their body and mental well-being.

It’s an interesting and long overdue overhaul of the food in this sector of the industry and leads to the question – what other sectors could benefit from a similar re-imagining? Well, we suggest it could be the turn of airport food and airline food, hospital and care home food and school food – all of which would definitely benefit from taking a more holistic approach to their food offerings.