S Hotel Shifts from Conference Market to Food Retail | Business
Spanish based in Kingston Court Hotel, now renamed S Hotel, has made a pandemic-induced pivot of meetings and conferences to the retail food market under the S Foods brand.
The 10,000 square foot conference room at the New Kingston Hotel, located at the corner of Trafalgar Road and Worthington Avenue in Kingston, is getting a makeover in an effort to take advantage of Christmas sales for its bakery and its fast food drive-thru, which is part of the owner Christopher Issa’s maiden voyage into what he describes as a supermarket shop.
The drive-thru service for baked goods and prepared foods is expected to be open within a week while the supermarket should be ready for operation by the end of January. Issa said he is not considering more than one S Food location at this time.
“We will be selling a lot of commodities, but we would like the shopping to be a unique experience focused on quality and speed of service,” he told the magazine. Financial Gleaner in an interview, highlighting what is supposed to be the key area of market differentiation for the company.
S Foods is located a short walk from rival upscale John R. Wong supermarket, which is owned by the Loshusan family and has holdings of various grocery stores, including Sovereign in Liguanea, Kingston.
Issa said his supermarket’s business model mirrors that of US chain Trader Joe’s, known for their deliberately selected range of items, the quality and uniqueness of selections, and emphasis on affordable prices.
“Part of that is because the Kingston hotel industry has really suffered a lot from the COVID-19 pandemic. There could be a few hotels still closed some 18 months after the country’s borders reopened (after closing last year), ”Issa said.
“Not knowing when the conferences will return, we made the decision to diversify and convert the conference center into a supermarket,” he said.
The businessman, who also owns and operates the S Hotel in Montego Bay, declined to disclose the level of investment spent on building the supermarket and fast food restaurant. Issa did not indicate any other business changes for either facility, noting that while the Montego Bay property, which is in a resort area, was operating at 70% occupancy, the hotel de Kingston was only about 35% full.
He also seemed indifferent to his inexperience in the food retail industry or the much talked about supply chain disruptions that resulted in shortages of some imported manufactured goods, unusually high shipping costs and prolonged delays in receiving shipments from overseas.
“It’s early for us to say that, but obviously when you make the decision about 12 months ago to go that route, when you get the equipment and you equip the store, the supply chain issues would have sort of worsened more recently. But we hope that they will be settled in the coming months and that there will be an offer of items with which we can stock the store, ”Issa said optimistically.
He joins calls from other players in the hotel industry for Kingston hotels to benefit from COVID-19 protocols similar to those that apply to properties along the so-called “resilient corridor” encompassing properties along the south and north coasts.
Guests staying at these hotels are allowed to enter the country with a negative COVID-19 test; while overseas travelers destined for Kingston hotels, and who intend to travel within the city or elsewhere in the country, must, in addition to negative PCR tests, be vaccinated and quarantined for 10 at 14 days, Issa noted.
“Not everyone in the traveling public may want to get vaccinated and quarantine for up to 14 days if not vaccinated. It’s not practical for them if they come, say, a week with their family, ”noted the hotelier.
“We have good reservations for the winter season in Montego Bay, but we’ve heard people say that their family members don’t want to come to Kingston for Christmas because they want to quarantine or get vaccinated,” did he declare.
S Foods is expected to employ 45 workers in what is expected to be a customer-centric business.