Van Staden Heads MSC Food and Beverage Effort

Jacques Van Staden is back as the new vice president of food and beverage at MSC Cruises. The company’s top culinary mind will have a fleet of 29 ships to look after by 2027.          

“Right now, and it’s early for me to say, but one thing I’ve noticed is that the passion to deliver an enhanced experience to our guests, is a really strong point of MSC,” Van Staden said. “We really go out of our way to accommodate guests from all walks of life and regional areas.”

Joining the MSC operation earlier this year, Van Staden has been busy immersing himself into the company’s culture, including visiting ships and training centers in the Far East.

“There is a ton of opportunity. The people we are working with are phenomenal (for training). I’m assigning dedicated individuals for my team to go there on a regular basis” Van Staden said. “With all the new ships coming out we need a lot of crew.”

Based in Geneva, Van Staden is overseeing culinary strategy.

“We need to have a clear defined strategy that aligns with the over-arching strategy of the company. With that is creating a better coalition and synergy between departments to deliver the best products and services to guests,” he continued.

Van Staden, who was behind the food and beverage experiences aboard Celebrity’s Solstice class ships a decade ago, has a clear vision or his plans for the MSC brand.

“There will be adjustments coming,” he said. “We are establishing another layer of innovative decision-making and process-driving in Geneva. We are adding onto our team.”

Onboard, customers can expect tweaks on the menu and buffet, as well as beverage packages. A new wine program is also coming.

“There are new innovative things that will also be implemented,” Van Staden said.

Van Staden said the company’s food and beverage strategy placed huge emphasis on developing regional menus to accommodate an international set of guests.

“We are getting closer to delivering a product that will be known as the MSC product,” he added. “We have a lot of different varieties of cuisine. A lot of different themed menus. In Japan, it’s an entire Japanese menu; in Brazil, it’s almost an entirely Brazilian menu. We’re a bit different, it’s not just one menu globally.”

While other cruise companies may be chasing trends, Van Staden is more careful.

“Considering our captive audience from all over the world, one must heed with caution following trends and rather focus on concepts with substance and longevity.”

Trends for Van Staden are expanding dietary requirements, and more gluten free options, for instance.

“Focus on delivering a consistent quality product,” Van Staden continued. “Trends are great but you have to be careful. It’s not like you can have a steakhouse today and tomorrow it’s a Chinese restaurant.

Instead of following trends, our goal and objective is to create new experiences with substance that captivate the senses.”

Trends may be about creating experiences.

“It’s very different when you come in and have a great meal, versus coming in and having a great meal with an exceptional experience. It may be interactive or something you didn’t expect. We want to create new experiences instead of following trends.”

Excerpt from Cruise Industry News Quarterly Magazine: Fall 2019

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