THIS ARTICLE IS POWERED BY
Foodies in Vizag, the Port City in Andhra Pradesh, have an inherent love for seafood. Restaurateurs in the city, beside the sea, also cater to this need. Significantly, many of the restaurants offer multi-cuisines like Italian, Spanish, Continental, and Arabic. Let us understand the eating habits of Vizagites and if the food lovers had switched to healthy eating habits post-COVID.
Prasanth, General Manager, Dharani Restaurant, Daspalla Hotels, Vizag revealed that all-star hotels in the city have to mandatorily maintain combustible plants to dispose of the leftovers. So, at the end of the day, we burn all the leftover food which is turned into manure. There is not much kitchen waste as we prepare food based on our guests’ orders.
Coming to the workforce, there is no problem with the chefs or other behind-the-door staff. We face a lot of problems in procuring serving staff, as they are visible to the customers. Though there are many colleges offering hotel management and hospitality courses, there is still some social stigma attached to working in restaurants and hotels. The stigma is more in B-grade cities when compared to metros and cosmopolitan cities. Students pursuing hotel management courses in Vizag would like to move out to bigger cities to avoid social stigma and at the same time, earn more. At the same time, students pursuing similar courses in cities would not come to small towns to work. This is creating the shortage but there is nothing much we can do about it, Prasanth said.
Though society has begun accepting hotel management as a profession, there is still some social stigma associated with it. So, we are training the serving staff ourselves and trying to manage the show, he added.
Employment in the hotel industry is the last preferred because there is a notion that people running away from their houses land in hotels as staff. Though there are entrance tests for induction into the hotel management course, the profession is still looked down upon, he informed.
Further, we do have some stray incidents of customers questioning us about selling the mineral water above the MRP. They do not understand that providing them water in the AC room having a good ambience and some staff members taking the bottle to them do cost a few bucks, he informed. In such cases, when the customer complains about the MRP, we have to show them the court order and try to appease them regarding the issue.
Our hotel has a basic menu which will be tweaked during special occasions like festivals or national holidays or during weekends when there is more crowd. We do inform the guests about the special dish erecting boards on the hotel premises. If the customers like that dishes and become popular, they will be included in the menu, when it is printed the next time.
Post Covid Scene
Post-COVID, the crowd coming to our hotels and restaurants has dropped. Two years have passed since the pandemic ended, but the usual crowd has not restored. Regarding eating patterns, there is no significant shift to eating healthy food. We are not seeing any major change in the guests’ eating choices to say that they have become health conscious, he added.
Satyanarayana of Sri Sairam Parlour, Vizag says that being a well-established hotel, there are not many challenges we have been facing during the past few years. It has been 30 years since we have been running the hotel and recently, Times Group even gave us an award for providing the best South Indian food in the city. This should not misguide our customers. We also provide North Indian dishes at our restaurant. In 2013, we even launched Sairam Hospitalities and opened the Ritz Comfort Hotel with 51 rooms.
Skilled Chefs Set Up New Hotels
The major challenge we face is from the chefs, he added. Once they gain all the skills, the chefs would want to move out and set up their own establishment. We do encourage such ventures but then, it causes some inconvenience to us. However, we are continuously on the job of providing training to the staff having interest to excel as chefs and this reduces our problem to some extent, said Satyanarayana.
We do not have much wastage. The staff ensures that nothing much is cooked beyond our projected number of consumers. There is zero wastage from the customers’ plates and in the kitchen, even if there is some wastage, the staff consume it, he added.
Back To Normal
There had been some switch to healthy eating during and after Covid but now, once again the consumers are back to normal. People had been conscious about their choices regarding spices and oils at that moment but now, they have shed those inhibitions, he revealed.
Dinesh Prasad, Food and Beverages manager of Four Points (Sheraton), Vizag also echoed Satyanarayana’s opinion.
Being a large establishment, there are not many challenges we are facing. Ours is a multi-cuisine restaurant. Coming to the leftovers from the customers’ plates, it goes into the bin. Normally, we do not have much wastage in the kitchen as items are prepared based on the order. If there is any anomaly like if the food is spicy or any other problem, then our staff members consume it, he said.
After Covid-19, guests have become health conscious. We cannot say that they have moved to healthy eating habits completely, but there is a slight shift in this regard.
Coming to the local festivals, Dinesh said that they decorate their lobby and go for an ambience suiting the occasion. During festivals, we also make changes in the menu and include the popular local dishes to mark the occasion and make the guests feel special, he said.
There are modifications made to our menu every month. We offer Indian, Continental, and Russian cuisine. Roasted chicken salad and chicken chops are our special side dishes. In the main course, we have some non-veg soups for the guests.
“There is not much labour shortage for us. In case of any shortage, we source from the Hotel Management college, when there is any outdoor catering.”
From challenges to opportunities
We do face challenges in our business. The ability of the businessman lies in turning challenges into opportunities. When the entire world was shut during the pandemic, I tried to find where food was necessary and got contracts from the government to supply food to COVID hospitals, quarantine centres, and COVID care centers. When hotels are busy, hospitals will be free and vice-versa. We have to shift our marketing to places where there is a crowd. That is the strategy I follow, says Vajrapu Manmadha Gupta, Manikanta Catering and Suppliers, Vizag.
“When there are no weddings and the market is dull, the majority of the people spend money on tourism. During that time, we try to tie up with those at the tourist spots and sell our food. We can do food exhibitions. We cater mostly to weddings and government functions and have to bear with the problem of wastage of food, if we want to retain our reputation. Usually, we have 10-15% wastage, and at times, it might go up to 30-40%,” he informed.
On some occasions, we might have to prepare for the assisting staff like the drivers even during wedding catering. Similarly, the authorities might tell us only about food supply to the legislators or officers but there might be gunmen, drivers, and personal secretaries accompanying them. We need to supply food to them too. We have to calculate all these expenses and bargain the rate accordingly, Manmadha Gupta explained.
With regard to the workforce, we have to manage the show by sourcing the labour by shelling out some extra bucks, if there is a need. We have to constantly check our income and expenditure if we want to earn profits, he said.