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Jodhpur: Treating international guest is an art and many chefs fail in that segment. Be it understanding their psychology or giving importance to their food consumption patterns, the role of chef is very inevitable in making the international guests not just feel comfortable, but also carry happy memories back home.
If you are a property that relies on international bookings or wants more global traveller bookings, you need to tap into the motivations, behaviours, and preferences of travellers around the world. Given how many countries and cultures there are in the world, it becomes a huge task to understand who you should be targeting and exactly how you should communicate to them in a way that convinces them to stay at your hotel.
Bringing your nation on a plate:
Chef Vishal Gautam, Chef and Associate Partner, Indique Haveli, one of the leading multi-cuisine restaurants in Jodhpur serving wide range of guests says some of the new insights. “In my journey of close to 3 decades, handling various guests, I feel the uttermost importance is having a ‘motherly care’ towards your guest. In my opinion, I personally do not [and say any chef should not] discriminate any guest on the basis of ethnicity or nationality. A guest is a guest, not matter what they carry within themselves”, he says.
Vishal firmly believes that, chefs should remember that while serving the food, the host country’s name, reputation, culture and tradition in a plate. The chefs should be extremely careful as any minor impact might cost the reputation of the country. “In our restaurants, we get wide range of tourists and chefs like us working in a tourist location have more avenues to exhibit our creativity than our counterparts working for a business hotel. Unlike a leisure property, in a business property, the guests are always on the run and it is very unlikely they might have time to sit and enjoy the food like a traveller is”, he avers. Concluding the same, Vishal recalls the importance of ‘motherly care’ towards the guests. “Even today, I remember how my mother feed me. While I cook for my guests, I ensure that I replicate that as well. We can play around the presentations, but never ever play around the ingredients and cook international food in wrong way. It might be hurting for some tourists seeing their food mishandled” he concludes.
Language barriers and communication skills critical:
Chef Amit Agrawal, Executive Chef of Ajit Bhawan, Jodhpur says, understanding international tourists is the first step in treating them better. “I can see many international tourists coming to Rajasthan come well-read and researched- saying ‘namaste’ folding hands, welcoming, knowing the names of our dishes and what not. Thus, I feel chefs should know what they would be their need and expectations.”
Amit says the seed for this should start with the hotel management schools. “I think many schools train students with the basics of French, German and Italian cultures. However, it should be mandated and chefs should learn beyond cooking and other aspects like human psychology, global economy, costing for the food and more”, he says.
Cooking as per guests’ choice:
According to Amit, knowing the few words for welcoming, thanking will be additional advantage for enhancing guests’ experience. He also cautions too much of localization in the name of authenticity will also kill the guest experience. He says Chefs should always ask the guests in detail what and what not they expect in a food.
Mirza Arshad Beg, who works as the Executive chef of an ITC property in Jodhpur says the chefs should identify where the tourists come from. “International tourists are of various types. There might be a group of retired people who come with a local tourist guide. In those cases, the guests are well-informed on the local conditions and the menu is fixed.”
The real challenge is when the other category of guests, who come alone or with their family and tries to explore the food. “I firmly believe that a chef should have some basic knowledge on the background of the guests. Of course, we need not need to be an entire encyclopaedia about the country which they belong to. However, the way to cuisines are cooked in their country, acceptance level should be kept in mind. For example, some guests come pre-determined to consume spicy food. However, some might have not anticipated and serving them over spiced food might impact their health. Such things should be avoided”, he says.
How to tackle the problems:
Chef Hitesh Yadav, Executive Chef of RAAS hotels in Jodhpur feels that in most cases, handling the international guest is easier than the domestic guests. “As compared to Indian and foreigners, I personally feel, foreigners are easy to handle. In most cases, the international guests point out what is the real issue there and not play around the bush. If there is an issue created by the guest, the culinary team, rather than arguing with them, should first make sure if nothing wrong at their end.” On the other hand, in most cases, what many chefs do is, in the name of special treatments for international guests; fail to treat well the domestic guests. This is not acceptable.
Another aspect Hitesh want the culinary industry to know is that the chefs should know that the days are gone where a chef is expected to know only cooking. “For instance an international guest might have an issue with regards to a house keeping issue. They might have language barrier telling the housekeeping staff. They might update the culinary team who had been equipped with better communication skills. Thus the culinary team can evolve better and a better culinary experience might make the guests forget the small issues during the stay”, he notes.
Asked what to do during an issue, Hitesh says there is no readymade solution for an issue as the problems varies from situation to situation. “Always remember, a chef works in maximum 10 restaurants and his/her exposure level is lesser than the guest who would have visited more than 200 properties. Chefs should always keep this in mind and first try to understand the issue completely”, he says.
If the mistake is on the culinary team, the following recovery steps should be followed:
- Try to understand the issue completely and apologise the guest
- Ensure that the head of kitchen brigade meets the guests personally and try to ensure that such instances will not occur again.
- If the guest is not available, it is the duty of the culinary team to ensure that they personally meet the guest and address their concerns within 24 hours of the incident.
“Whatsoever it might be, the chefs should understand that they are in the business because of the guests. Beyond a job, treating guests in a better manner should run in the blood vessels of every chef.”, concludes Vikas recalling that the white coat is worn only by two professionals and a chef has nothing lesser responsibility than a doctor in all terms.