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The Hotelier India F&B Conclave 2017 brought together stakeholders from across various verticals to delve on the latest trends, opportunities and challenges in the F&B industry

Aone-of-a-kind conference in the hospitality industry – the F&B Conclave 2017, organised by Hotelier India – witnessed the participation of over 200 delegates that included leading chefs, culinary experts, F&B professionals, restaurateurs, hospitality designers and consultants. The day-long event that created a holistic platform addressing a range of topics and issues prevalent in this segment was held at JW Marriott New Delhi Aerocity on 20 December, 2017.
Focussing on ‘celebrating India’s next generation of innovative F&B leaders’, the conclave revolved around discussing current trends, strategies and emerging business opportunities, best practices and experiences from experienced minds hailing from divergent verticals across the F&B spectrum. Some of the top hospitality experts took the lead in sharing their thoughts and ideas with participants from leading brands in the country.
Kick-starting the conclave with her opening address, Gurmeet Sachdev, director, ITP Media India, evoked the focal discussion for the day – about how innovations and evolving trends in Indian hotel industry are largely driven by the F&B segment. “There are many other factors affecting the world of F&B today. To stay competitive and relevant, restaurant operators have to stay constantly updated with the ongoing market shifts, technological advances, and regulation changes. It’s equally critical, today, to meet diners’ expectations while staying true to the concept’s identity and simultaneously file profits for the business,” asserted Sachdev.
In the ensuing special address, Wilson Jebaraj, senior general manager, commercial refrigeration, Blue Star, led the audience through a brief snapshot of the brand and its offerings. As the hospitality partner for the conclave, Nitesh Gandhi, general manager, JW Marriott New Delhi Aerocity, welcomed the attendees in anticipation of witnessing a great day defined by knowledge sharing.

After the success of his ‘In conversation’ segment in the first edition of the F&B conclave held in Mumbai, the forum was honoured to once again have Zorawar Kalra, founder and managing director, Massive Restaurants, on board its third edition. Invited to exchange dialogues with Bibhor Srivastava, group publishing director, ITP Media India, Kalra, during the session, particularly deliberated the various evolving and ongoing trends in the F&B industry. Concluding his discussion, Kalra shared his belief with the upcoming hoteliers present at the conference, stated, “We all were born to do what we love doing. So if you dream of running a hotel or restaurants of your own in future, just give it a shot.”

Panel discussion I: Hotel & Restaurant – F&B trends, strategies and opportunities
Following a short tea break, the first panel discussion commenced, which revolved around the topic – Hotel & Restaurant – F&B trends, strategies and opportunities. This discussion constituted a panel of power-packed CEOs, leading restaurant owners and change makers in the hospitality industry. Gandhi proceeded to introduce the members and posed questions, respective to their individual field of expertise and background, in order to learn and bring out the best ideas.
The session started with Katriar shedding light on how excellence and growth can be balanced in an holistic manner. Being a food-lover himself, while simultaneously being a part of the cycle, he mentioned that the key is to maintain this very balance – “Through the day, we concentrate on doing things right, but at the end of the day, we are expanding too. So, basically, numbers are just an outcome of the excellence that is put to work.”
Being a young entrepreneur and founder of a franchise management company, Kanan was asked to share his best adopted practice. He answered this question by explaining what they do as a firm: “The franchising capabilities of our country are pretty naive. However, we decided to provide adequate support to franchise owners in term of defining brand strategies, infrastructure, and supply chain management, etc. – thereby striving for sustainability for each of the respective companies.”
Lamba, the director of an entertainment brand for hospitalities, was asked to deliberate the importance of cutting-edge technology and entertainment in today’s restaurant scenario. “I think entertainment is a huge factor that can bring in the crowd to the restaurants – coaxing them to spend more quality time through various form of art like comedy, music, fashion or literature, has gained immense popularity. What worked for us is that our customers look forward to what is coming up every day, rather than just visiting us for the food served,” he explained.

Responding to the question about the biggest disruptor for established restaurants, Suri mentioned “In today’s scenario, where time plays a critical role, in my opinion, the convenience of delivery is the biggest disruptor. We are looking at setting up shadow kitchens to service nooks and pockets; the key is to be consistent and serve quality food.”
Varma was asked if there is a need for implication on regulations regarding food safety and hygiene of restaurants. He responded, “From quality point of view, there is lot of work that is happening with regards to regulations and control. But, I believe, the licensing procedure needs to be made easy and efficient.” Talking about the liquor ban in Delhi and the best way forward, Chadha stated, “Such disruptions are going to keep happening; the way forward is to continue doing our basics right.” With manpower being one of the most important pillars in the industry, Agarwal opined that, “With the changing trends, we need to continuously keep training our human resources. They need to be knowledgeable about the changing fads, consumer food preferences, schedule and entertainment of the restaurant so that they can appropriately service their customers efficiently.”
As the discussion ended, the panel members were felicitated and offered thanks for their undeniably insightful inputs. Following the discussion, Tarun Khattar, business development director (South Asia) and Veeranuch Trangtrakul, product group manager, on behalf of Lucaris, spoke about their flagship products and offerings for the hotel industry.

Panel discussion II: Evolving trends and innovation in the F&B service industry
The second panel discussion, moderated by Michel Koopman, General manager, The Leela Ambience Gurugram Hotel & Residences, delved on understanding the ‘evolving trends and innovation in the F&B service industry’ from highly regarded chefs of various restaurants.
Koopam was eager to know about the global culinary trends that have surfaced over the previous year. “Global cuisine as a whole is driving towards sustainability; there’s a recurrence in the basics and simplicity that dominated food through the erstwhile years. The presentation could be more different and modern, but the ingredients that consumers favour today are more elemental,” expressed Sharma. To which Moser agreed and added, “I believe, a mindful menu and making the best out of the locally-sourced ingredients can go a long way. We, hence, work very closely with farmers.” Talking about mindful menus and soulful foods, Bhatt explained, “Transparency is playing a very important role today. The customers want to know the real history behind the food being served – how it is prepared and procured, if there is any particular cooking style involved, etc. This way, they connect and believe in the brand more. Soul food, for me, is one that not only satiates the body, but also the mind.”

Continuing on the same thread, Sundararaj added, “Given that, guests now-a-days, are very aware and conscious about the food they consume, keeping up with all the latest ingredients and generating ways to add them in our menus is challenge and a global trend that we are witnessing. Another hurdle is to make the new product interesting, create a story, market it well and sell it.”
Touching upon the personnel statistics in the industry, Bhasin was questioned about why the industry is witnessing a low influx of women in the profession and how this can be changed. To which she iterated that, “There has definitely been an increase of women entry in the kitchens. It is actually about the mindset; any girl working equally well, equally hard to a man will stand out no matter what.”
Banerjee claimed that the F&B industry is driven by chefs and they are the ones who bring in newer concepts and put it on the plate. Koopam asked him if there is any scope of betterment for chefs’ as of today. “In India, if we really need to better ourselves and the F&B industry, we need a compliant and a closer fraternity.” Agreeing on the same, Swamy said, “We need to share our knowledge – spending time with catering institutions, conducting workshops, etc, helps contribute to the industry as this is where new talent is being nurtured.”
Before closing for lunch, Himanshu Lodha, founder & director, AH International, gave a short presentation on how the chefs, owners, facility managers and people from other verticals of the industry can gain from the offerings of AHI.

Panel discussion III: F&B Operations: latest trends, innovations and analysis needed to succeed in today’s market
Post the networking luncheon, the third and final panel discussion of the day was scheduled around the topic ‘F&B Operations: Latest trends, innovations and analysis needed to succeed in today’s market’. Umesh Dalal, director- food & beverage, Crowne Plaza Gurgaon, took on the reins to direct the flow of discussion that included renowned speakers, who are F&B managers and heads of eminent restaurants in India.
Shedding light on some of the upcoming and ongoing trends of the F&B industry, Thachery stated that being rooted to basics is important, but at the same it is also important to innovate and modernise the dishes to fulfil the upcoming clientele demands. “Standalone restaurants, today, are completely abreast with the latest innovation and creativity as compared to long-established hotels and their in-house restaurants. Taking it as an encouraging aspect, we (in-house restaurants of five-star hotels) too should look forward to incorporating innovation and technology in our practices.”
A globe-trotter himself, Kaul was asked to deliberate the many things that hoteliers should do to improvise on their customer experience. “Guests, today, have travelled extensively to different countries and hence have developed a palette beyond their regular cuisine. Basically, it is not only about the food, but the ambience. It is also very important for the restaurateurs to understand the culture and wants of the locality and serve accordingly,” he replied.
Talking about how social media can boost and influence today’s food business, Mangal rightly pointed out that, “The contribution of social media is more measurable when specific targeted campaigns are held. To make social media efforts more meaningful, rather than being granular, the content should be driven by the interest of customers or guests.”
With a career spanning over two decades, Ghose, too, has been proficiently providing technological support to the F&B segment and beyond. He said: “Today, technology is aiding us with more strategic information and tools to manage and expand the business. Business analytics are being integrated with constantly evolving artificial intelligence to enable efficient understanding, operations and faster service. Putting into action this collected data, is very essential for the growth of the segment.”

In today’s age of rapid evolution and international competition, Verghese was asked about how they deal with issues related to procurement. “The operating teams should be converted to enablers, because operations, at the end of the day, make money and that is where procurement begins. Operations should be intelligent, efficient and cost effective at all times,” he explained.
Following the last panel discussion, Ashish Bajaj, Director Enterprise Sales – India & SAARC, Harman International, briefly presented his points on how hoteliers and restaurateurs can simplify customer experience with products, tools and offerings by Harman.
The conclave marked its end with discussions that touched upon innovations, best practices and betterment theories within the hospitality industry for its development.

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