We caught up with Alexandre Santamaria, founder of Aware Hospitality, specialising in food and beverage concept creation and international project management. We sat down to discuss post-COVID, his advice to clients in the hospitality industry and ORO – a dark kitchen pop up he created during COVID.
As a consultant, what are your thoughts on the help out to eat out scheme?
I think it definitely helped the Food and Beverage industry, but it also helped boost the population's morale.
For some, it was a mistake as it encouraged people to go out and therefore, accelerate spread the virus. Still, it was a good intention from the government.
What advice are you currently giving to potential clients to get through the next 6 months in the hospitality industry?
Hang tight and get ready for a boom. Delayed birthday parties, engagement and wedding parties and much-needed staff parties will hit us at some point in 2021.
This combined to a desperate need for socialising we all suffer from should give us a solid Q3 and Q4.
Additional, let's not forget that the ones who managed to survive will have a lot fewer competitors than they had in the past, sadly.
What would you say is your most significant success to date?
Opening my own consultancy company a couple of months before COVID, probably the worst possible timing.
Yet we still managed to run 6 projects in 2020 in Marbella, Saudi Arabia and London. I became a master of Zoom :)
If you weren't in the hospitality industry, what career would you pursue?
Probably something arty although my passion for art and my realisation that I was "artistic" only came 10 years ago.
How did the ORO concept come about?
Anthony Garlando (Chef Co-founder) and I got really fed up with the COVID situation. We are both very similar - we don't really do well when not very busy.
We met with a friend Graziano Article (Chairman at Chucs and Langhan's Brasserie). We asked if we could use a section of Chucs Belgravia's kitchen.
The first draft of ORO was born and well received by the wealthy residential neighbourhood and was a very successful new model I call "Dark pop-up" (Dark kitchen Pop-up).
How has COVID affected the way people eat out?
I believe that we will all get back to where we were before COVID in terms of eating and socialising habits.
However, there have been positive changes born out of covid, such as the use of QR codes instead of a menu which is good news for the environment.
Also, the delivery business has expanded in terms of the price range. I think that even once COVID will be over, people will keep having gastronomic delivery experience at home.
Where is your favourite place to eat in London?
Margot in Covent Graden. Fantastic Italian food with genuine professional hospitality. Founder Nick Jaouën has always been a role model for me, and how he builds outstanding teams and deliver memorable experiences.
Can you tell us about any exciting plans that may be afoot for you?
We secured investment for the fast expansion of ORO, our premium Japanese online business. We are also working on a new concept in Mauritius, Dallas and London under three different brands.
Concept creation and project management is what we love doing the most, and we have plenty of that coming :)