A slice of tech, served sunny-side up

Intuitive technology has made great inroads in the F&B business, believes Jean-Michel Cassé, COO, India and South Asia, AccorHotels

By Vinita Bhatia

Technology is redefining how hotels deliver services to their guests; irrespective of the domains they operate in. Be it the economy, mid-scale or luxury segment, it is being leveraged to understand and anticipate a guest’s needs, and then personalise the offerings accordingly.
One vertical where this personalisation is most evident is in the F&B domain, where hoteliers are using intuitive technology to understand a guest’s behavioural patterns and find ways to facilitate customisations – be it in food order, presentation or delivery time.
While all of this happens at the front end, a lot of action is also taking place at the back of the house, especially in the kitchens. Today, these areas are designed based on the chef’s convenience and to ensure hassle-free operations of their time given their constricted daily schedule. A good commercial kitchen is created to incorporate the kitchen staff’s easy movement across workstations, strategic placement of heating and cooling appliances, ventilation, reliable appliances, etc. Maintaining this well has a direct reflection on the food presented to a customer on various parameters, including its quantity, quality, presentation, texture and freshness.
According to Jean-Michel Cassé, COO, India and South Asia of AccorHotels, there are many levels where technology can help in raising the bar when it comes to daily functioning of a kitchen. But this has to starts early in the supply chain
“For example, even before receiving rice in the hotel, it is already sorted with the help of a colour sorter to remove rice grains of different colours, or stones and other impurities. This saves considerable labour in the kitchen. Similar processes are applied to vegetables, and meat. Other things like peeled garlic and precut vegetables are ubiquitous today,” Cassé explained.

TACKLING MANPOWER CHALLENGES
During the actual cooking process, equipment like pressure steamers, pressure brat pans and combi-units reduce cooking time per product significantly. Thus, by employing technology effectively, hotels can also overcome the perennial manpower problem to a certain degree.
Cassé pointed out how a typical kitchen would operate at a much-reduced manning level compared to one not using these implements. “Many of these can be automated, whereby the requirement of skilled staff changes to one of having an operator. All these, however, come at a cost that not every commercial kitchen can afford,” he conceded.
The other advantage that technology presents to commercial kitchens is the use of production and inventory control systems that can help in eliminating paperwork – mistakes that may end up costing the establishment dearly – and also result in plenty of rework of efforts. According to Cassé, dealing with excess inventory or chasing after missing inventory is a major time waster that can be prevented through inventory control systems.

UPCOMING TRENDS
Technology aside, according to Cassé, 2018 is poised to be an interesting year for F&B in the hospitality industry. Of these, the foremost is the growing inclination for sustainability causes, where people and organisations are aware and responsible about their impact on the environment and on the local community.
Traditional rice varieties, local grains, local poultry and animal breeds will emerge to occupy a greater place in food. Dishes prepared with locally procured ingredients and cooked in traditional ways are going to increasingly feature in menus. In-house gardens are likely to become even more popular as hotels and restaurants will push this to the forefront.
“We will also see an increase in demand for simple, home cooked food and street hawker style food. With an increasing number of households not having time to cook daily, the demand for home food and simple hawker style food in going to be in high demand,” Cassé predicted.

RISE OF ARITSANAL PRODUCE
It is also interesting to see the advent of concepts like ‘Bean to Bar Chocolate’, with several young entrepreneurs entering this space. There are players like Nitin Chordias Cocoa Trait and Mason and Co. in Pondicherry who are promoting artisanal chocolate and breaking the traditional mould. There is a growing acceptance of dark chocolate with locally grown cocoa, and an increasing popularity for it, especially when it is combined with Indian ingredients.
On the other hand, there is a rising interest for low-fat, low-carb, organic and gluten-free foods. “With celebrities following the Keto diet and many health clubs advocating Paleo and related diets, healthy fats are going to be back in many menus. Awareness of the impact of food on health, well being and daily performance will drive a higher number of people to this type of food,” Cassé prophesied.
At the end of the day, F&B when done right, can go a long way in aiding hotels get regular and repeat business while also boosting their overall profits. More importantly, it can help them accentuate their customer’s satisfaction, while keeping track of changing trends and guest preferences, thereby creating new revenue-generating opportunities.

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