Has Hyatt Simply Dressed Up Chipotle's Message with White Tablecloths? Print E-mail
Written by Kevin Murphy   

Is Food Thoughtfully Sourced an extension of Food With Integrity?

Thoughtless food need not applyThis year the American Dairy Science Association and American Society of Animal Scientists added a unique component to their joint meeting, one that has been sorely lacking from past agendas and one ASAS President James Sartin and ADSA President Ken McGuffey labeled a “new and emerging topic:” bioethics -- the field of study concerned with ethical behavior within our life sciences.

Click here to add your name to the list of those urging Hyatt to Thoughtfully Reconsider its marketing campaign.

For several years now I have been warning the agricultural community of the swift and unfettered advancement of the Food Morality Movement. This movement condemns agriculture and challenges it to explain its behavior based on the grounds of religion, ethics and morality.

Richard Reynnells, former national program lead for the United States Department of Agriculture, extended a kind invitation to have me speak at the 2013 meeting after reading Where Have You Gone Moral Champion? a story exposing the weakness of agriculture’s over-reliance on science alone as a defense to a moral inquiry.

Reynells was excited with what could be accomplished by equipping such bright, scientifically minded people with a proper understanding of how to respond to the Food Morality Movement. He clearly saw that if agriculture could combine scientific reasoning (logos) with a moral/ethical component (ethos), it would soundly defeat any nemesis.

I gladly accepted Reynells’ invitation and looked forward to our time together.

'I was about to be presented with an undeniable and powerful case study in the Food Morality Movement'

Anyone who owns a small business knows being out of the office can sometimes be problematic, so I booked the last flight out of Kansas City on Monday evening and the first flight back on Wednesday morning, giving me just one full business day away. Due to air traffic issues, my departing flight was delayed, and I didn’t arrive at the Hyatt Regency Indianapolis until 2 a.m. The bioethics sessions were scheduled early that morning, so after just a few hours of sleep I got up and went down to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. Little did I know that in the laboratory of real life my bioethics session was set to begin. One South, the hotel restaurant, was about to present me with an undeniable and powerful case study.

As I entered the restaurant and sat down, the waitress approached my table and took my drink order. She then offered the option of the breakfast buffet or ordering off the menu.

Being a seasoned traveler I know enough to inspect any buffet before committing and so like a drill sergeant inspecting the troops I walked up and down the buffet line spotting the usual -- eggs, sausage, fried potatoes and fruit. But, then an unusual sign caught my eye:

Organic grass-fed yogurt

Amused and bewildered, I took a picture of the sign and texted it to a few friends. One friend quickly retorted, “I didn’t know yogurt ate grass.”

I had to remind myself I was in Indiana, the Corn Belt, where corn constitutes over 50 percent of all crop income, and agriculture’s reverberating impact is felt far beyond the farm, producing income and jobs for the state that reaches into manufacturing, trucking, grocery retail, restaurants and hotels like the Hyatt Regency. I decided to turn and make my way back to the table to see what the full breakfast menu might have to offer. I suspected the organic grass fed yogurt sign wasn’t an anomaly.

Unfortunately, I was right!

Across the top of the menu: "Food Thoughtfully Sourced, Carefully Served"

The third option down was a Vegan Breakfast Wrap. There’s also:

  • Egg White and Grilled Veggie Sandwich
  • Organic Chicken
  • Cage-Free Eggs
  • Naturally Cured Bacon
  • Fresh local ingredients that reflect the season and the local flavors
  • Organic yogurt
  • Organic smoothies with all organic ingredients
  • Local sorghum syrup

And finally, across the bottom, the promise: We only serve cage free eggs, hormone free milk and naturally cured bacon.

The back of the menu tells more of the story about Hyatt’s food philosophy and can be seen here.

Hyatt's food morality promise

The moral menuIt is more than ironic that I was asked to rouse animal scientists into recognizing the growing power of the Food Morality Movement and the reality that scientific conclusions are not winning the day but instead are being hijacked by food politics, giving way to communication aimed at raising moral criticisms over farming and our modern food system. And, right there, under our noses, the chosen ADSA headquarter hotel was one of the Food Morality Movement’s newest rising stars -- The Hyatt Regency, with 508 locations in 46 countries! With that kind of market presence the Hyatt has the ability to influence millions of people every day with a global Food Thoughtfully Sourced campaign catapulting them into the category of the Chipotle of hotels!

Further inquiry unveiled Hyatt began implementing this food philosophy in mid 2011. It had driven the chain to design a three-course organic meal for children developed exclusively by Alice Waters, the Berkeley founder of the countercultural food movement known as California Cuisine and long-time critic of the modern food system as we know it. According to the Hyatt, it serves more than 3 million children annually through its hotels and resorts.

After returning home from the joint meeting I received a satisfaction survey, emailed to me on behalf of the Hyatt. I took the time to share my frustration with its marketing-communication efforts and soon thereafter was contacted by Jeff Steward, food and beverage director, Hyatt Regency Indianapolis.

Steward listened carefully, inquiring and adding his opinion, but always respectful of me as a consumer and Hyatt Gold Card member. Steward was fully behind some things like the cage-free eggs the Hyatt offered, which he claimed were “more humane.” When I challenged him on his view, he was astonished, as though the conclusion was patently obvious. Steward promised to take my concerns to the creators of this program, Susan Santiago, vice president of food and beverage, and Susan Terry, director of culinary operations for Hyatt.

'When I challenged him on his view that cage-free eggs the Hyatt offered were more humane, he was astonished, as though the conclusion was patently obvious.'

In the meantime, I also called Rakesh Sarna, Hyatt Group President of the Americas, whose name was at the bottom of my satisfaction survey. The next morning a representative for Sarna contacted me and, after hearing my complaint, also sought to connect me with food and beverage VP Santiago.

A few hours later my telephone rang. Susan Santiago and I finally came ear to ear.

We talked for 45 minutes about the Hyatt’s effort and its communication, bouncing from topic to topic including organics, hormones, antibiotics, animal care, obesity, customer roundtables and other issues. I voiced my criticism of the Hyatt’s Food Thoughtfully Sourced campaign, arguing that, like Chipotle’s Food with Integrity, it created a false dichotomy dividing our food system in two, with one side being the pristine, natural and organic side and the other technological, conventional and ultimately evil. I reminded Santiago of the positive impact “conventional” agriculture has on the state of Indiana and the world. She agreed and sought to assure me Food Thoughtfully Sourced was not meant to pick sides in today’s food battles but simply reflect customer demand.

'You're the first negative feedback I've gotten. Everyone else has thanked us for the program'

- Susan Santiago, VP Food and Beverage, Hyatt

“You’re the first negative feedback I’ve gotten,” said Santiago. “Everyone else has thanked us for the program.”

Absorbing the impact of her statement, I thought for a moment, where are all the trained agvocates? Surely agricultural leaders have stayed in a Hyatt and eaten in its restaurants. Has the repetitive nature of “organic as healthier” and absence marketing claims wearied agriculture to the point of despair? Or, does agriculture only recognize and wish to respond to radical activists (Humane Society of the United States, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, Mercy for Animals, Union of Concerned Scientists) when the Food Morality Movement, which is much broader in scope, surrounds them daily and requires constant engagement?

Truth in Food wants to take your feedback back to Hyatt.

What do you think of the Hyatt campaign? Here's your chance to get the ear of a company that's choosing to pursue this questionable absence-marketing strategy. Use the comment section below to leave your thoughts and what you'd like to tell Hyatt about their efforts. We'll compile the comments and present them directly to the chain and keep pursuing the question until we receive meaningful responses on your behalf.



0 #31 Joe Cox 2013-08-15 07:11
If you had ever been a farmer or even been on a farm you would understand how uttlerly difficult it is for farms to make a profit. You entire idea of better quality foods for your4 customers assumes that something is wrong with the ffood you are now getting from farms. Check out the regulations in place governing hwo farms must operate. Every regulation makes it harder to make a profit. But farmers do it even if they are unnecessary. What farmerrs bring to the table irhg tnow is the best it has ever been and your campaign is sending a false message about farmers. Reconsider it please.
0 #30 Arlen Wonderlich 2013-08-14 08:18
It is what you know that isn't so that will get you. America is blessed with agricultural producers who provide the safest, most wholesome food at the lowest cost in the world. Trying to produce food organically will result in millions of people who will not have enough to eat and it will also require putting more fragile land into production, land that should be used only for grazing. GMO's only speed up genetic change in plants and animals. The increased productivity of GMO plants will save many trees and preserve acres of fragile land.
0 #29 Lucas Sjostrom 2013-08-13 21:07
As a food producer myself, I find it astonishing how companies can put themselves in a pickle by making promises that really aren't true. Bending the truth, or not knowing the real truth, continues to get companies in trouble.

Please stop the current state of your food marketing, Hyatt. The food you serve is from animals who are treated no better than animals in other systems. Sensational news stories can lead us to believe that there are a set of good farms and a set of bad farms, but in fact the vast majority of farms are great families working to produce healthy food in a humane manner.
+2 #28 Adam 2013-08-13 07:59
I want to eat foods without chemicals added to them. I want non GMO foods. Is an eggplant who's seeds are infertile still an eggplant? This is not a mission to make the hard working farmers evil. It's a demand from consumers to change the way things are done. It's time to evolve or simply fade into the past. I'm moving forward.
+1 #27 Greg Quakenbush 2013-08-12 20:18
What is missed here is that at the core of this stealth “food scare” is lies, untruthfulness, ignorance, and an elitist’s agenda. For example, there is no such thing as hormone free milk. Milk contains hormones and it is natural. I’m not talking about BST injected cows; I’m talking normal, regular, milk. Thus the Hyatt needs to pull all liquid milk from their program and additionally pull any baked or cooked foods that contain milk. Only then could they tout their milk as “hormone free”.
In our current culture, what we eat makes us feel good about ourselves and maybe in some sense gives us a feeling of superiority or that of being “authentic”. The truth is the “feeling” is false and the efforts to help us feed our self worth may be actually making it harder for real agriculture to do its job creating enough food to feed the masses. Hunger gets rid of a lot of this foolishness….
-2 #26 Frank 2013-08-12 20:01
Trader Point Dairy, they produce the yogurt. If I was writing an article I WOULD DO MY RESEARCH SO I KNOW WHAT IM TALKING ABOUT! If any of you agree with this article you are mad, Hyatt just wants to serve good food thats grown the right way. Organic isn't the way to go??? Maybe you should look at GMO's and all the meds our children are on right now, or how "gluten free" is 600% more common now than 10 years ago. You are what you eat and I'd rather eat at a hyatt than eat chemicals that some idiot threw in his crops because he can't farm like past generations have. You all need to do a little research on yourselves and get real.
-1 #25 Frank 2013-08-12 19:53
Check out Traders Point Dairy, it is the farm that produces this "grass fed milk yogurt that the hotel purchases. I know if I was writing an article, I WOULD RESEARCH SO I KNOW WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT. One company is trying to treat their guests with respect and you bash them with no ground to stand on. Very impressive writing skills junior, maybe you should get a job mopping the floors at a Hyatt...wait they dont hire people like you.
0 #24 Brian Stevens 2013-08-12 10:10
I was disappointed to read your article and see that Hyatt has taken this position. I worked for a major food manufacturer for nearly 20 years and I was very involved in working with the sales team and their customers (like the Hyatt) and I can tell you from first hand experience they make these decisions without having knowledge and the facts. I will bet that Hyatt has one influential chef or executive that has been brainwashed by the activist community and was able to push their agenda across the company. My experience was that when ever I could get a company like the Hyatt to visit a farm and see things first hand and to visit with the farmer about why he raises his livestock the way he does their personal opinions would change once they were armed with the facts. In this case it's obvious to me Hyatt chose a path without the facts. Everyone has the right to choose and make decisions and that includes me so I won't be staying at the Hyatt unless they change their path.
0 #23 Daphne 2013-08-11 22:23
We have soooo many suppliers that tell us "your are the only ones with that issue (complaint?)" Hard to believe after we hear it often enough. So don't buy that from Hyatt. I have not stayed in a Hyatt recently, but will surely look for this and speak up next time I do stay in one. I am usually busy farming at home but do travel some just not always in big cities with Hyatt Hotels.
0 #22 Mischa Popoff 2013-08-10 12:29
“Food Thoughtfully Sourced” is a slap in the face to every farmer in America, and an insult to the intelligence of Americans in general. Hyatt is guilty of collaborating with the enemy.

Farmers don't tell Hyatt how to run their hotels. Why should Hyatt tell farmers how to run their farms?

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