Quick chat with Devendra Kushwaha, Director F&B – Surat Marriott
Kushwaha talks about challenges faced by the F&B industry in the COVID era, the steps taken to deal with the situation, strategies redrawn and a generic view on Surat market.
How is the pandemic affecting restaurants and the culture of eating out in Surat?
The ongoing pandemic COVID19 has struck the world economy like never before. Even the world wars, the great depression or the Spanish flu did not cause such damage to the overall world economy as did the COVID19. Unfortunately, hospitality is such a sector which is first in line to get affected and recovers the last as it remains a catalyst link of every other sector. The situation in Surat has been no different; in fact, it is far more faded than some of the tier one cities in India as the city thrives on the eating out culture. In the current situation, with the possibility of vaccines still a few months away, still there is fright in going out at public places which is not letting diners step out as they did during the pre COVID era. Even at Surat Marriott we have witnessed the similar trend as the footfall has reduced to much lower in comparison to the pre COVID time, though now the green shoots of revival have started to be seen which an encouraging sign for the immediate future is.
What are the new business strategies adopted by your hotel?
“Flex your style” has always been the mantra in hospitality and this sector has been one of the most agile, if not the most, industry since the inception. There are quite a few geo-political affairs which effected a change in strategy i.e. the Night curfew, gathering of 50, home delivery & DIY etc. Our hotel was the leader in adopting the changes in the city, we were prudent in adapting to the new requirement of delivering the iconic restaurants at the doorstep of the diner’s right after the lockdown was announced. Night curfew resulted in the restaurant started opening as early as 6:00 pm for dinner than the normal time of 7:30.
Government restrictions of 50 guests for weddings made hotels to curate their plan to accommodate the new mandate and made the event more personalized. During the lockdown cooking was the skill which most of us acquired or practiced hence a new trend of DIY Meals were very popular wherein a guest can order a box of complete ingredients with a recipe card and cook it himself/herself at the convenience of home. We also started with a concept called "Table 101 at Home" wherein we create Table 101 at guest house and serve the best of cuisine with the personalized touch of Table 101.
How will you define the new F&B service in 5-stars now?
Well, the warmth of hospitality in 5 Stars is no longer the same because the quintessential symbol of hospitality – the friendly smile, is no longer visible due to the mask but the hotel still remains one of the safest and preferred destinations among other public places. However now the hotels will look for clinically cleaned than aesthetically cleaned and focus will be on sanitizing the used space and furniture post every usage and continue eliminating the undue touch points. The service now will be quick, contactless and personalised. At Surat Marriott hygiene and cleanliness has always been our top priority even before the COVID period, now we have taken it to the next level by increasing the frequency.
How is technology impacting your service?
Contactless is the new normal. From Menu, to order taking, to billing and payment now most of the hotels and restaurants have opted for contactless procedure or eliminated unnecessary touch points which have only been possible due to usage of technology. Now a guest places the order directly to the kitchen while interacting with a talk bot and soon we will see having food served through robots. In fact some of the Japanese hotels have already started using robots for guest services. I truly feel that technology has a very key role to play in future as well.