Food & Beverage Services (Hospitality Sector)
THIS function is a managerial profile, which comprises managing a restaurant or the bar in a hotel, or a stand-alone restaurant. This division is all about looking after guests and their needs.
“We look after clients like guests who visit out homes,” says Kunal Pahwa, Restaurant Manager, Bukhara, ITC Maurya. So even before a guest raises a hand or looks around for a waiter, an F&B person is already at the table with water or juice. “It’s about anticipating the guest’s requirement,” says KS Srinivasan, Vice-President, HR, Taj, Mumbai.
At the same time, one has to ensure that the guests have the space to do what they want, and one does not stand over their heads. It’s a bit tricky, but with experience one develops a knack for it. “The services industry is not rocket science; it about understanding simple human needs. You decide your approach by who sits at the table,” Pahwa adds.
Is the customer always right?
All kinds of people frequent restaurants and chances are there will be unpleasant experiences. On occasions, you may happen to overhear unpleasant things a client is saying about you. “Even then we wear a smile and serve the customer to the best we can,” says Anurag, a butler with ITC. In this business, the customer is always right. “Always,” he adds!
Work like an entrepreneur
While such experiences are part of the job, an F&B manager also gets the chance to run the restaurant like an entrepreneur.
You are completely responsible for your restaurant, says Pahwa who was involved in the pre-opening of ITC Grand Central hotel in Mumbai. “From the colour of the cushion to what goes on the menu, you are in-charge of everything.” Hence, F&B managers are expected to think of novel ways to generate more revenue.
Besides looking after the needs of customers, a restaurant manager also manages the staff. “You may have to manage people older than you who report to you. You also have to earn the respect of your clients as well as your staff.”
Many, after working for two or three years in the Indian hospitality industry, go abroad as opportunities are lucrative. “One of my friends is working in Burj Dubai (the world’s tallest tower) as an F&B manager in one the top restaurants there and he is earning well,” says Pahwa.
Indian hospitality professionals are in demand in countries such as Dubai, the US and Australia because of their high level of education and experience in the industry.
Ashish Kesharwani, Chief Learning Officer, at education consultancy UEI Global says, “Approximately 20 percent hotel management graduates go to foreign countries.”
Long hours, greater rewards
In F&B one has to work for 11 or 12 hours a day. So a young recruit should be prepared for the grind. But look at the brighter side, says Pahwa. At the age of 25 or 27 you may already be a restaurant manager, supervising 20-30 people. Although, the pay isn’t that good compared to other service sectors, perks such as medical and house rent allowances and a good work environment are good incentives to continue to be part of the industry. “The Welcome Group has made it so wonderful for me here that
I haven’t made my CV, yet!”
Beverages and Wines
A bartender has very specific skills as the job involves making and serving beverages to guests. Typically, there are two job portfolios. One is that of mixing beverages, that is making and serving drinks, cocktails and mocktails. Thus bartenders are also referred to as mixologists. The other, is flaring; what Tom Cruise does lots of in Hollywood film Cocktail.
This act of juggling and swivelling bottles may look easy, but it needs much training and practice. Private tutors as well as institutes offer training in flaring. “Flaring is about showmanship!” says KM Kamalaksh, (known as Kama in the industry), a beverage consultant.
Flaring is optional for a bartender, but of course, a bartender has to be excellent at making drinks. It’s an art says Jay Rathore, General Manager, The Oberoi, Delhi. To be a mixologist, you simply have to be passionate, have a positive attitude and should like to socialise. This job requires high energy levels as it’s a 12-18 hour job and it usually starts at night. Bartending is taught as part of the F&B course at hotel management schools.
A bartender is also responsible for menu design, product development, bar management, training people and planning events. A small piece of advice from Kama for aspiring bartenders: don’t talk politics and religion at the bar. And remember, little wastage as every costs money! At a restaurant or a hotel, a bartender’s package starts from Rs. 25,000. With experience one could become a beverage consultant and earn in lakhs.
If bartenders are artists then sommeliers are poets. A sommelier is a wine advisor or a wine master who is an expert on the wine industry and understands pairing of wine with all food courses. To be a sommelier one has to have a palate as it is all about tasting wines and deciding the wine menu keeping.
Also, a sommelier should have a good pronunciation as many wines are French.
But the reality is that there aren’t many certified sommeliers in India. Indians are just beginning to get exposed to wine culture and thus one may not always find wine masters in all the good restaurants. Because sommeliers are yet to find their rightful place in the industry, they aren’t paid well. So anywhere between Rs. 15,000-Rs. 20,000 is the take-home. It isn’t easy becoming a sommelier. Smoking, having greasy and spicy food are a no-no and if you become a celebrity sommeliers like Magandeep Singh you may have to get your tongue insured!