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Chef Rakesh Sethi Corporate Executive Chef – Operations (South Asia), Radisson Hotel Group

Chef Rakesh Sethi Corporate Executive Chef – Operations (South Asia), Radisson Hotel Group

Friday, June 7, 2019, 10:14 Hrs  [IST]

Chef Rakesh Sethi is a senior, respected Chef with nearly four decades of industry experience and exposure. An IHM Pusa 1982 batch pass out, Chef Sethi started his culinary career with Hotel Corporation of India and worked through the rank and file of leading hotel chains like Hyatt Regency, The Oberoi Hotels, Lalit Hotels, etc. to reach leadership position in the culinary industry in the country. After joining the Radisson Hotel Group (RHG) six years back, he was promoted as the Corporate Executive Chef for the entire South Asia hotels two years ago. As the Corporate Executive Chef, he takes care of the F&B operations of 95 hotels in the region. P Krishna Kumar spoke to Chef Sethi recently to know his views on various trends in the F&B world.

Q As the Corporate Executive Chef responsible for the F&B, what are your key responsibilities to improve the F&B offerings of hotels under your purview?
I look after the whole F&B of the region. At present, there are 95 member hotels in the region for Radisson Hotel Group. F&B is a major revenue driver for our Group. Currently, F&B contributes 47% of the total revenue for our hotels in the region. The focus now is how to enhance the share further, plus how do we look different from others in terms of our F&B offerings. We have been working on various concepts to achieve this goal for last couple of years. We have developed super breakfast menu for our Radisson Blu Hotels and Healthy Breakfast for Radisson brand. We have six categories of hotels and we have developed unique breakfast menu for each category.

The total culinary and F&B experience of the guest is my responsibility and I make sure each brand gets its recognition. We have a very popular F&B brand, The Great Kabab Factory already, and we are in the process of launching a Spanish Tapas brand in India very soon. We will be taking these two brands to all potential destinations as possible. Apart from that, the 24- hour Coffee shop and banquets are quite strong focus for us. Banquets is a major focus for us across brands. So we keep on introducing innovative concepts to make the banqueting experience unique for our customers both in the social events segment and corporate.

Q The hotel F&B outlets are facing serious challenge from standalone restaurants? How do you make sure your restaurants and bars remain relevant from this onslaught?
We have been very lucky that all our outlets are giving run for their money for standalone restaurants at all our locations, especially our The Great Kabab Factory. We design concepts based on the location and area. Even our restro-bars where millennials frequent, we have developed innovative cocktail and food menu based on finger food. Even for the beverage presentation, we are using fresh fruit, vegetables and lot of herbs. These kinds of innovations bring a lot of young millennials to our outlets.

Q Standalone restaurants score over hotel F&B because of the flexibility to adapt to trends quickly. How do you break this stereotype?
I have worked in the past with brands which are quite rigid in their policies. But Radisson Hotel Group is quite flexible in that respect. Our tagline is ‘Every moment matters’. Every moment the guest spends with us should be memorable. To make it possible, we need to be flexible. That is how every associate is trained to. We never say no to customers. Of course, we are guided by brand standards, we don’t leave them, but we try to keep the customer above everything else.

Q There is a lot of talk about healthy menu, sustainable food, farm to fork, etc. How much work is happening on the ground?
These are trends fast picking up momentum in the hotel F&B. Radisson Hotel Group focus a lot on healthy food and food sustainability. We follow the philosophy of ‘feel the locale’, that means go local. We preserve and practice the food culture of the destination we are in. We make sure that we imbibe and include as many local cuisines, local trends, local cooking techniques into our kitchen. Similarly, make sure each menu has got a healthy section. Each à la carte menu and buffet will have a healthy section in it. We follow the ‘FLOSS’ philosophy – Fresh, Local, Organic, Seasonal and Sustainable - in Food and Drinks. Since our footprint is in Tier II destinations, we are able to capture the local food culture, heritage, etc. better than any other hotel group with a focus on FLOSS.

Q Human resource turnover is a major issue in the kitchens. How do you look at it?
We generally hire freshers, who are easy to be moulded and trained. Yes, there is a challenge of getting expert hands. Hotels are good poaching grounds for others. But in Radisson, the management and our HR follows a philosophy of ‘We grow talent, and the talent grows us’. We have our Radisson academy, an online training platform for all our staff. We hire people with right attitude and then train and mould them to serve us.

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