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The Vatel Hotel and Tourism Business has left no stone unturned in either in assessing the current Covid crisis by way of inviting various celebrated speakers engaged in the hospitality business, it has examined this angle equally in the airlines, the travel trade and now, since the consumption of meals are also being subjected to the angle of hygiene, self-protection and developing immunity, two specialists were invited as resource persons to conduct a webinar for faculty, students and for special invitees.

The theme of the webinar was carried forward by Dr. Shivani, a renowned dietician and Chef Akanksha a young chef, earlier with the ITC Hotels and now an entrepreneur herself, divulged extremely informative and revealing facts about the potency of various edibles and their use with regard to either developing immunity or for deterring various viruses. “Immuno meals are the next big thing in the society and the questions as to why and when do we eat healthy food automatically erupts in the mind” says Dr. Shivani, who while touching upon the history of the peoples’ eating habits said that compared to the earlier times, the modern, international standards have changed our mindset, our health and indeed our dietary and medical requirements. “What are immunity boosters…? They are the foods that have the capability of supporting our immune systems and prevent us from falling sick. To name a few, broccoli, avocados, citrus foods, ginger, strawberries and bell peppers help us a lot in this area. All these foods are available locally and are easily accessible.”

The Farm-to-Plate concept introduced by many organisations, in which they offer fresh fruits and vegetables right at your doorstep and also go to the extent of providing organic foods is in practice these days and, depending upon the authenticity of their claims about being hygienic and sanitized some amount of research should always be done.

“There are already some foods which are being used right from their ancient times and we too have carried forward their usage, without even knowing how valuable they are. Quinoa seeds, chia seeds, cabbage and amla are full of nutrients, so very essential for our bodies for building immune systems. We are slowly forgetting whatever we learnt from our ancestors as to why they used to include certain ingredients in their foods – they were actually immunity boosters, that’s the reason as to why we our immunity system in the modern days has become fragile and we are falling sick so frequently.

Hospitality establishments are now going to the extent of providing Immuno Thalis, Immuno drinks and shakes and ayurvedic meals based specifically on the constitution of an individual. Every food must satisfy all 5 senses space, air, water, earth and fire. “The benefits of Haldi, or turmeric are inestimable and in my mind everybody should consume turmeric mixed in milk before retiring for the day. This is the best immunity booster.” Says Dr. Shivani.

Chef Akanksha, while talking about the availability of healthy foods in the hotels of high standing said “Gone are the days when, while staying in hotels you were required to sacrifice your usual domestic meals as the hotels have now become innovative and have introduced special domestic, home-like meals for their customers. They are hygienic, low in calories and on the fat. Whatever you may say, the Indian food remains on the top of the list to be containing immunity boosters. Asked about how to recognize good honey with a bad one, Akanksha said, if the you put honey in the fridge and if it develops any crystals, it should mean it is not genuine. Secondly, honey will always settle down if poured in water. “I personally recommend the consumption of warm lemon water with honey and basil leaves at least twice in a day. This will keep you fit and active all day”

The biggest disadvantage of the modern day foods is that they all use processed ingredients which are the main cause of the proliferation of cancer, allergy and diabetes. Furthermore, we usually pass our days and nights in air conditioned areas and we do not break any sweat. Furthermore, we tend to neglect the drinking of water which is an extremely important thing to do in a day, neither do we get out into the sun. The olden days in which people used to walk for miles every day has also been reduced considerably. “We have to get down to doing our work ourselves – that will give us forceful exercise and movement to our body and keep us away from the sedentary lifestyle, of which most of us are victims” Says Akanksha. We should hand-pound our spices and ingredients as against getting them in a powder form from the market, packed in plastic coverings or containers. “All meals should be consumed at their fixed timings and the bodies too discipline themselves to it. Any disturbance in the regular meal timings will not make your systems function to their fullest. We are currently prioritizing work over our meals” Lemons are cheapest and easily available, says Akanksha, we should consume at least one in a day in whichever way possible – in water, salads, dal, fruits etc. People in olden days used to carry a lemon wedge in their tiffin as an important thing. We may have done it in our childhood but now we have forgotten all about it.

“Chana dal, raisins, cashew nuts and lentils are very rich in zinc and therefore must be consumed every week. It should be a practice, as much as possible, not to over-wash the lentils. Fruits and vegetables of different colours should be consumed as they contain their own special advantages.

There are many countries which have totally banned the consumption of sugar, Iceland, Norway, Sweden are the forerunners in this activity. “There is something to do also with the marketing systems we have adopted for our foods as they lose compared to how the American and Chinese foods are packaged and sold. That’s where the biggest problem lies. Being a vegan restricts you from getting a complete meal. As a matter of fact, one should cut down on cereals and compensate with milk. Soups should always be freshly prepared and consumed. Lamenting over the downside about the food control systems in India, Akanksha said that we are regrettably not very strict about what goes in the packaged foods, how the fresh vegetables are treated, how paneer is made, and how it is stored and transported.

“We in India might be consuming the healthiest meals on this earth but we still have a long way to go before we can eat fully hygienic, non-processed, pure ingredients and foods” says Chef Akanksha.

“Whether in a cork or in a screw cap, a good wine will remain a good wine”

“People think ours is a cushy job” says with a grin the renowned sommelier Magandeep Singh while beginning to address a gathering of students and faculty members of the Vatel Hotel and Tourism Business School, in a Webinar participated equally by the industry leaders and hospitality educators.

“People at large feel envious about the best wines and alcohol that we get to taste, the way we travel across the globe frequently and about the kind of lifestyle that we lead. Little do they know about the toil, the hard work, the labour and the drudgery we have to go through before being addressed to as Certified Sommeliers.

“A wine waiter that’s how our profession is labelled when people wonder about what a sommelier does” says Magandeep. “But, a lot has changed over the years, we, by virtue of having delved into the history of wines in their profoundest and micro levels, know far more than what the label of the bottle can tell a customer, and, being able to sell wine to the people dining in the restaurant is not an easy task as wines are ordered usually in the upscale fine-dine restaurants and bars, which the most frequently travelled people patronize and who have a rich international, first-hand experience of wines from the different regions of the world.” Says he.

Knowing about the origin of wine is a process that requires a deep study and stands to be a progression of a very profound and patient learning. This is a study that only a true sommelier can feel in his senses and can create the same experience to the people to whom he/she recommends it to. “Wines have a rich legacy and they date back to thousands of years, when in the ancient Greek mythology Bacchus was known as the God of Wines, whereas the whiskies and the other spirits, compared to the age of wines, are but very new and recent, without having much of history to talk about” says Magandeep’s companion Gagandeep Singh. “Wine has a very cultivated and a rich image as there are more than 100,000 varieties of grapes and they too differ, depending on the soil, the air and the water. But, fortunately, we do not need to learn about all of them as there are but a 150 of them which are used for wines” he said it was difficult to tell which grape is ‘ripe’ as the ripeness too depends upon what you wish to make out of the grape”

The difference of usage between wines and spirits is that whereas a bottle of whiskey, after opening, may be consumed over a few weeks, the bottle of wine is usually finished the same day. This goes to say that a good sommelier in a bar is able to earn his salary far quicker than can do a normal bartender. “That’s why”, Gagan says – “It is not easy to become a certified sommelier – there are hardly 50-60 of us in the second most populated country of the world. We are in the sellers’ market, where our demand is high and the supply is far too less.” Under the heading LET’S TALK MONEY, Gagan said – “We people are paid to study, paid to travel, paid to eat, paid to speak, paid through wines and are paid being associated with good companies. What else can we ask for?”

Upon being asked to throw some light on the subject of Blind Tasting, he said it is done in circumstances in which the tasters are kept unaware of the wines’ identities. The blind approach is routine for the wine professionals and wine tasters who wish to ensure impartiality in the judgement of the quality of wine during wine competitions on in the evaluation of a sommelier professional certification. “The Taste is allowed only to deduce and not to guess” “We sommeliers can’t taste spices” says he. “Our taste buds are oriented exclusively towards wines”

Upselling wines in a restaurant, especially to the connoisseurs is an arduous task. More than our keenness to sell, we should understand as to what the customer wants to buy and, here, it is a truth that the lady sommeliers stand to do much better. “Wines are no more restricted to be of interest in the world of hoteliers” says he “I can see many lawyers, engineers and even doctors getting interested in wines, its taste and have started about asking of its origins”

“Screw-cap or a cork is just a means to close the bottle” says Gagan, “Though some people might find the cork to be more ‘romantic’ the taste does not differ, neither does the wine develop any different taste in any of these closures”

While thanking the sommeliers for contributing their valuable time, Dr. Garima Parkash, Dean, Vatel Hotel and Tourism Business School said, “Our students can derive a lot of learning and inspiration from these webinars and, I am sure, one day, I will be proud to announce as seeing few students of our school being crowned as “Certified Sommeliers of the Vatel India School” This webinar was coordinated and presented by Mr. Saif Anjum, Assistant Professor, Vatel Hotel and Tourism Business School, Ansal University, Gurgaon.

The hospitality sector, not merely restricting itself to hotels and restaurants, equally extends its peculiarities and subtleties to the Show World. The cinema complexes, by virtue of being designed to congregate hundreds of people simultaneously, currently stand to be reckoned amongst the most volatile businesses, which the Government, for the moment, classifies amongst the non-essential business activities, to which, the grant of opening has been deferred. A cinema hall, receiving its patrons for a short stay of even 2-3 hours, is obliged to, like every other hospitality establishment’s binding commitment, their safety and security for the entire duration. This obligation, in the wake of the current situation, presents itself in its most formidable aspects upon which depends the making or breaking of an organization.

Ms Asha Pathania, a hotel management graduate and MBA in human resources, now holding the portfolio of Assistant Vice President, Housekeeping with PVR Cinemas, looks after 845 auditoriums of the company and has a backing of as many as 2000 personnel. “We though haven’t started our business but have, since long, begun the process to think, whenever the due permissions come our way, of ways and means to re-start our operations, in which we have to look, study and follow. Our SoP’s will change as the atmosphere has altered itself” she says. “Good housekeeping is a joint action and a good result is possible only when every other department cooperating correspondingly”

Asked upon how the norm of safe distancing, in view of the seats in the cinema hall being placed just next to each other, would be observed, she said “We will allocate seats together in a row only to the family members and as far as the single viewers are concerned, we will seat them safely away from each other, even if leaving a few seats in-between means a loss of revenue for us. We will not pass on the cost of vacant seats to our patrons”

With regard to the training the staff, she says “People have fertile brains and, having already been exposed to a period of extreme restraint and hardship over the past few months, they will, I am sure, understand the norms of safety and hygiene better. The masks and gloves have been made as parts of the uniform and are absolutely mandatory, irrespective of where one’s area of work is”

“We will put up safety guidelines and instructions at several places in our cinemas and in different regional languages so that people are reminded of these important restrictions wherever they go. Furthermore, the time-period in-between two shows has been increased from 15 minutes to 30 minutes, which will allow us more time to meticulously sanitize each and every seat, the aisles and the corridors” “We will issue E-Tickets which will be checked by matching apparatus so that the question of a physical contact of any kind does not arise.” She added “Hand-sanitizers will be put up each and every area of the premises where our patrons likely to go”

Upon a question regarding career progression in housekeeping put up by one of the students, she said “The only department which has a part to play in all the departments of the hotel is housekeeping and should not be looked down upon as a minor area. I have seen many executives rising to the position of general managers, even vice presidents, and this transition is on the increase now”

The second speaker of the Webinar Ms. Payal Mehta endorsed Ms. Pathania’s viewpoint about the lucrative growth prospects in housekeeping, citing her own example of having started with the Front Office but moving on to the HK Department, rising to the level of executive housekeeper and soon having risen to the coveted position of a Rooms Division Manager of Crowne Plaza Today, New Delhi Okhla, and now is just a step short of becoming the general manager.

“Housekeeping”, she says, “Can actually deliver more than what is expected of it, where, just on the basis of dealing with hard facts, new strategies can be evolved” “The myth that the housekeeper’s role was restricted to operate behind the curtains, no more holds true in the present context as, in order to deliver a personalized service, the young and trained staff is proficient and competent to directly deal with guests, which, now would, of course, be carried out after a series of hygiene checks. Just like the cinemas, even we have to treat the guest rooms for as long as 72 hours before allocating it to the next guest”

“Such programmes prove to be eye-openers for our students as they get to listen to the first-hand experienced and eminent hotel executives of modern times and see some future in the housekeeping department” Said Dr. Garima Parkash, Dean, Vatel Hotel and Tourism Business School.

This Webinar, attended by faculty members, students and professionals from all over the world, was coordinated by Ms. Chandana Paul, Assistant Professor, Vatel Hotel and Tourism Business School.

HOSPITALITY SECTOR IS POISED TO GET BACK TO BUSINESS MUCH FASTER THAN ANY OTHER INDUSTRY…

In a yet another webinar in Hospitality 2.0 NCCO (New normal, careers, challenges and opportunities) series, the Vatel Hotel and Tourism Business School invited specialists to talk about regaining customer confidence – post-COVID Era.

Much has though been said and deliberated upon by various organisations about the way the hospitality trade would rejuvenate itself after the spell of Covid and would catapult itself back on the track, little has been discussed as to how confident would the customers feel about getting back to the hotel and performing tasks which they so liberally used to do earlier.

Ms, Shilpi Sharma of Westin and Mr. Tushar Abrol of the Vivanta by Taj brands, both of whom incidentally look after training and learning departments, spoke about the cloud of uncertainty and fear amongst people at large regarding how long for this situation would last. “We are in the process of learning, unlearning and re-learning and must adapt ourselves with the changes in the environment. We will do all that is possible to regain customer confidence and re-state their loyalty” said Shilpi.

Being optimistic in his approach, Tushar said that the hospitality sector would be the first one to bounce back and the COVID-Free cities, being safer, would instantly re-start their businesses in all fields, nevertheless, with entirely new systems and with highly advanced, safety-oriented technologies.

 “The challenges of today have to be transformed into the opportunities of tomorrow, which happens to be the best business approach adopted by several organisations.” “What will the customer look forward to as his foremost need?” asks Tushar and himself answers by saying “It is for the sake of winning customers back that the hotels would highlight more prominently their safety standards, rather than bringing up the features of luxury and the variety in gastronomy available at the hotel.”

The roles will change; this will be an era in which, rather than a customer visiting a hotel, the hotel would start visiting the customer right at their doorsteps to serve their delicacies and for gaining further self-assurance. “We must learn from the other players in the hospitality. Best practices can be picked up from Hospitals and health clinics which are renowned for their hygiene and cleanliness and we should try to implement the same at hotels, which would certainly be a big factor to regain faith in minds of the guests. Keeping our ears and eyes open, we will apply, to the fullest possible, the norms suggested by the World Health Organisation.” Commented Tushar.

Since the guests would tend to shy-away from crowded hotels, even having lesser but more efficient staff who can do multi-tasking would perhaps be the new norm. This would also bring down the impact on payroll. “We have accommodated our staff in the hotel itself so that they are not exposed to the outside world. We have, thereby, in our own ways, done our best to let our esteemed guests know about this step of ours.” 

Taj Vivanta has started the concept of limited dishes on the buffet and we spread the buffet on much longer tables. This will separate the distance in chaffing dishes and will help repose faith amongst the customers”, says Tushar with a smile. “The check-ins and the in-room dining orders would also be contact-less – all this for our discerning customers.” He adds

“Our housekeeping staff has been trained to thoroughly sanitize the rooms after the guest checks out and the front office associates have been instructed to allocate these rooms to the new customers only after a gap of 24 hours. This may though have a negative impact on our revenues but we want our guests to be happy at all costs.”, says he with full buoyancy. “The spin-off of this may result into the other departments losing out on business, but, we do realize that guest safety is of paramount importance these days?” remarked Tushar.

“The down-sizing of staff and instilling a sense of multi-tasking would indeed be temporary measures – we love the staff trained by us and would like to get everybody back as they have happily grown with us. They will, once again take on their usual responsibilities…” says Tushar.

“Internally we have put into place extremely robust programmes, whereby we watch and monitor closely how the supplies are received and the waste disposal is done. These small practices will lead to re-inforce the quality of our being environment-friendly and will eventually promote customer trust.” Confirms Tushar…

“Technology though is holding our hands during these days of emergency and is standing by us at our beck-and-call but we must admit that it has its own limitations and can never replace the human touch. Being a peoples’ oriented business, we must, for the sake of keeping a personal touch with the guest, have at our disposal, well trained, skilled, proficient and dedicated people.”

We would not like to miss out on the human factor, says Shilpi” – Hospitality is a peoples’ trade . She further says that “Whereas on one hand hotels are laying off people, on the other, new properties are continuously coming up.” The operating service establishments must therefore gear themselves up to receive guest only when their key staff is there to handle them”

The webinar was consummated with the address of the dean of the school, Dr. Garima Parkash.

Hospitality 2.0 Redefining careers in Hospitality

COVID is like an earthquake, filled with fear…

- Douglas Peter

A period in which uncertainty and ambiguity looms large on our planet, assuring physical existence comers up as the most important priority, taking precedence over professional or even, to a great extent, over one’s own commercial pursuits. With the businesses of almost all industries having taken a dip, hospitality reveals itself as the most severely hit sector which, due to its volatility, was the first, ruthlessly wounded victim…

The apprehension of students who aspired to make promising careers for themselves in the hospitality trade, upon seeing the hotels having to barely exist by hosting affected patients or surviving on home deliveries, grew more and more. Deemed soon-to-be the largest foreign-exchange earner, the hospitality trade now isn’t in any position to make promises of lucrative careers, of growth or even the progression for its human resources.

Be that as it may, in a Webinar titled Redefining Careers in Hospitality organized by the dean of Vatel Hotel and Tourism Business School Dr. Garima Parkash, in order to dispel the anxiety, distress and panic currently prevailing amongst the aspiring students, invited two veteran human resource Specialists Ms. Poulomi Bhattacharya, having headed the HR of a couple of international chains, is currently looking after the HR of Bestech Hospitality and Mr. Douglas Peter, a multi-faceted personality in the industry having worked as HR at international properties, with the India Skills, Government of India and now having evolved himself as a successful entrepreneur to be the guest speakers.

Both the speakers described the situation as “A passing phase like a storm” and were hopeful about this dynamic hospitality trade, upon adapting itself to new systems and procedures, would eventually bounce back into full operations. “Come, what may, the students pursuing Hotel Management, being presentable, polished and trained hard to be customer-oriented, would always be in demand” said Douglas, exuding a strong ray of hope and optimism for the hospitality trade aspirants.  

“To be strong in this trade, believe you me, a positive attitude is needed far more than one’s expertise and knowledge to handle operations” said Ms Poulomi Bhattacharya.   

“These Webinars, being participated by eminent speakers and renowned experts, create a real awakening amongst our students, reassure them, boost their morale and eventually inspire them to look for light at the end of the tunnel” Said the dean, Dr. Garima Parkash  

In our attempt to make our discussion on COVID – 19 stand out as different from the usual programmes that one gets to see these days, we made an attempt to put together in our forum a living experience of more than 500 years. Veterans who have individually spent more than 4 decades each and who have experienced and dealt with several ups and downs in this trade and have successfully managed to overcome such emergencies were, in our mind the worthiest resources to be able to put forth, on one hand, their personal assessment of the damage that this pandemic has made and on the other, paint a clear picture depicting in its true shades and colors, as to how this Sector would change the way of its functioning and what all lies in store for it.

The keynote speakers were unanimously of the opinion that this situation is not a collapse but it would definitely play its part by dramatically changing the ways of this Sector’s functioning, thereby making it necessary for the operators to bring about radical changes, not only in their systems as a whole but also in their procedures at the level of their micro, day-to-day functioning. There would be no other solution for the hoteliers but to adopt an approach towards being sharply customer-driven. The most important function, though, of the operators would be to keep their staff highly motivated and to instill in them the feeling that the industry would certainly rebound into complete action. Patience is therefore the need of the hour.

Though being skeptical about the pace of recovery with respect to the other economies of the world, it was strongly felt that the Indian economy would come back on its tracks much faster than any other economy of the world.

With the clear decline envisaged in the international inbound travel, the Indian domestic traveler would now be more inclined towards exploring the vast treasures that our own country has to offer, and will give an unprecedented indirect and indirect boost to meetings, conferences and conventions being organized within the subcontinent. The Tier-II or the mid-scale cities of India would, it was assumed, pick up much quicker than the other, bigger cities of India.

The conference was attended by the vice chancellor of Ansal University, the Vatel India team, the students, invitees and the resource persons who contributed their useful thoughts from the different parts of India, from the UAE, the UK and the USA…

 

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