InterContinental Saigon has been one of the leaders in terms of business hotels in Ho Chi Minh City. However, since the beginning of 2020, the hotel has switched to enhance its F&B services, especially the introduction of Magica 3D Experiential Dining from April 3, 2021.
The 3D dining experience has been quite popular with global travelers since the past few years but it was not until April that InterContinental Saigon could bring this new concept to its Purple Jade Cocktail Bar. Destination Review had a great talk with Mr. Daniel Solombrino, Hotel Manager – Hotel & Residences, InterContinental Saigon to know more about this decision from the hospitality giant.
It took us six months from the very beginning to the moment when we first opened Magica 3D Experiential Dining in April for our first guests in a media event. It was a complex scenario from finding the right partner, building up the concept, negotiating on the contracting side to eventually installing all the projectors and outlets. Then from a service perspective we pride ourselves on excellent staff training, plus selecting the beverages and food and finally coming to the food tasting. Overall, it was a six–month journey with lots of work but it was worth it for this new concept.
In every process lie challenges and our preparation for Magica was no exception. The first and biggest challenge we had to face is to find the right partner to do this concept. We were delighted to sign the partnership with UltraMaker for the awesome story they offer with Magica. Only then could we proceed to the next step, which was to engage all the stakeholders, the owners, the teams, especially our culinary team and our service team, with the partner.
We decided to choose our Purple Jade Cocktail Bar as the studio for the 3D dining experience. The bar lay on the first floor and in a private space, and we were looking to find a new niche market for it. With Magica 3D Experiential Dining, we were able to utilise the privacy and “hidden away” nature to be strength, and something unique for a fine-dining experience.
We installed a new line board and a number of projectors that reflect the image to every table to showcase what Magica is all about – giving the interactive journey to the guests. In terms of our partners, there was quite a heavy investment on the software, story development, and projector installation. Meanwhile, we were in charge of all the food and beverages and we had to link them to the story as much as we could. Thanks to our culinary team, led by our Culinary Director, Eric Fettke, who is a well-experienced and well-established chef in the market, we tailor-made the menu accordingly to the whole story that Magica delivered and we actually ended up with setting up a variety of set menus, all of which are fine-dining experiences for our customers, but for a whole range of guests from kids to adults.
With the introduction of Magica, we definitely stepped into a new F&B market. We have been in the market for 11 years with a variety of R&B concepts, like our Italian ‘Basilico’ restaurant or ‘Yu Chu’ Chinese restaurant or the all–day dining of Market 39, which are all very distinctive. Now we want to bring something to the table mainly for Vietnamese families, which was very exciting for us.
We have created a lot of interest in the market. As we analyzed the data from our social media like Facebook and Instagram, there were ten thousands of clicks, which meant that the number of people wondering about Magica through social media was enormous.
Around 95 percent of the guests coming to our Purple Jade for the 3D dining are not staying at the hotel, most of which are Vietnamese families who want to explore something new either as a wedded couple or with their kids. So far, we have had very good feedback as the food is exceptional and most of our customers really enjoy it. For the past two months, we have seen a lot of Vietnamese families with kids make reservations for Magica, which meant there were quite a number of kids enjoying our specially-tailor-made kid menus. I think that we did quite a successful job in making fine-dining menus for the children so that they can enjoy the whole experience with their parents to the fullest. Plus the interactive nature makes it a proper “show” even whilst dining which kids in particular adore.
It takes a bit of time with a new concept but quite quickly we saw an increase in booking with sold-out nights, or fully–booked private events. The current Covid-19 ‘fourth wave’ has of course impacted forward bookings but we are very much still open, operating and welcoming guests!
Also, from the very first day, we did ask the guests for their feedback at the end of the experience so that we can discuss, have an action plan accordingly and work with the suitable departments to adjust the show for the mass’ sentiment. As a passionate hotelier, I think it is crucial to keep working on continuous improvements in F&B and always be open to constructive feedback from the customers.
Given this circumstance, the revenue from the first two months is quite good and our partner for Magica is also happy with it. With the current situation, we have to hold back and we think that one serving per day is enough as it is according to the demand. In future we are looking at running a couple of sittings each evening, lunches and also very special “kids only” sittings! Once the demand increases in a normal situation, we are more than willing to expand our service.
For the other two restaurants we have at InterContinental Saigon, which are Basilico and Yu Chu, we will certainly keep their identities and continue to offer authentic yet mouthwatering restaurant experiences to our guests. With Basilico, we have a traditional Italian outlet whereas our Yu Chu restaurant is all about Cantonese cuisine with a major focus on dim sum and traditional Chinese cuisine.
Absolutely! First of all, with Magica 3D Experiential Dining, we create something new for the Saigon dining scene – that is reason enough in itself! By limiting the capacity per session it gives honour to this concept, whereby giving quality is more important than quantity. It must be a curated, bespoke dining experience with a multi-sensory feel to do the whole concept justice. The whole 90 minutes of Magica are all about excitement from the interaction, the story, and of course, the chef-selected food.
There are nearly ten million residents living in Saigon at the moment and with Magica, we want to build something sustainable for local families to be able to enjoy this offer at a global luxury hotel brand. It is an extremely social media ‘friendly’ concept, perfect for taking pictures and selfies, and from what I see our guests are always willing to explore more.
Besides Magica, we also have a lot of plans for the F&B services. Always a key focus but perhaps even more with current international travel limitations, the food and beverage continues to be our focus for 2021 in the domestic market. We have plans for more special events for the weekends, for Friday nights, for Sundays, for business lunches and for breakfasts to launch at our restaurants.
A lot of plans for the F&B have been created, many of which are still in the pipeline. We hope and believe we will continue to thrive and see many guests in our restaurants and bars, as we believe that food and beverage is all about creativity and giving the new experience to the guests. To me, the F&B is the heart of the hotel since it is where the memories are made, where people meet each other, drink, argue and connect with each other. So we will definitely focus more on development of F&B services.