’37% customers get food delivery from Taj's restaurants once a week’

BW HOTELIER talks to Indrani Gupta, General Manager of President, Mumbai-IHCL SeleQtions, about the inspiration of launching the Qmin Shop, exclusive offers for customers and also about the hotels functioning in the new normal.

Being confined in their homes for almost half year, the consumer today has a different mindset. Preferring safety over everything else, most of the consumers are inclined towards ordering food or products to home and this new challenge was turned into an opportunity by Taj Hotels by introducing Qmin that delivers culinary experience to every household. The company recently brought the online platform into an offline store. BW HOTELIER talks to Indrani Gupta, General Manager of President, Mumbai-IHCL SeleQtions, about the inspiration of launching the Qmin Shop, exclusive offers for customers and also about the hotels functioning in the new normal.

The hotel recently opened Qmin shop at the hotel. Please tell us the inspiration behind the idea of bringing online space into offline store?

No one can deny the rapid growth of online commerce in recent times and the pandemic outbreak accelerates the pace of transition to online. A lot of entrepreneurs started their online business from scratch, but most of the companies apply O2O strategy. It means the migration of commerce from offline to online while keeping on both channels.  So same with us also, we have both options open for our guests.  With our Qmin App, we saw that one-third of consumers are now using a restaurant or meal delivery service, and what we have seen in our restaurants that 37 per cent of consumers get delivery once a week. This is driven by the expansion of online-delivery platforms that provide consumers with greater choice and convenience at dinner time. This inspired us to kick start Qmin shop and making available all the gourmet products to them under one roof. 

What kind of offers are on the plate by lifestyle gourmet store to attract customers?

Convenience and quality cooking is the major attraction and it has been our key mantra at Qmin shop. Convenience is not just about saving time on cooking but it is also about getting the food or products one want, when and where you want it. Technology-enabled delivery – for groceries, prepared meals, and ready to eat meals – has increased dramatically over the last five years and consumers are taking full advantage. So we also want to use this opportunity to hilt and ensure we deliver what our guests expect us to. 

Prepared meals offer busy households a convenient way to source their food. Usually only requiring reheating for consumption. Online Industry revenue has also grown in the past couple of years – driven by a growing preference for personalized meals. More and more foods consumers want—such as freshly prepared convenience foods, higher-quality, additive-/pesticide-free foods, and environmentally, agriculturally, and animal-friendly products—are also beginning to cross over from premium markets to the mass market. Better quality products emerged as an important reason why one-third of shoppers regularly shopped for foods at other locations, right behind convenience and price. So the major emphasis has been given on the quality of product at Qmin shop so there is always a reason to come back with us and shop. 

What changes do you think this pandemic has brought or I must say forced the hospitality sector in terms of running a hotel?

Hospitality industry has always been considered one of the key drivers of growth among the service sectors in India. However, the unexpected spiral of the pandemic had a tremendous impact on the travel and tourism industry which has put the sector to a standstill as we all have been compelled to avoid physical contact and all forms of social interaction which are integral to enable hoteliers to deliver the type of service historically synonymous with this industry.

We have re-examine our fundamental strategies of preparedness, business survival, daily operations, HR policies and technological investment, cross-training, re-evaluating internal spending, pricing adjustments, cancellation policies, audits of technological interfaces and maximise utilisation of available resources in an effective manner.

While the pandemic continues to reshape the global economy, we at President, Mumbai–IHCL SeleQtions have focused all our efforts in executing R.E.S.E.T 2020, a comprehensive five-point strategy of IHCL. It includes the creation of alternative revenue growth avenues, driving cost optimisation and continuing to deliver value to our stakeholders. 

With the recent phase-wise unlocking across the country, the business has shown gradual signs of improvement. It has motivated us to embrace new ways of working to remain efficient and relevant in the new normal.  Innovative measures and design changes along with digital technologies and solutions whilst being compliant to Covid protocols has become the new mantra for engaging with our discerning guest and our associates. With enhanced cleaning protocols and visible display of hygiene standards, there has been a continuous effort to give assurance to our guest of being safe in our premises. While we have all focussed on regaining business we have continued to lay great emphasis on engaging and recognising our associates who have been with us serving the guest in these difficult times. 

The hospitality industry has been barely surviving due to the pandemic’s impact. Now, with restrictions lifted, how has President, Mumbai planned to reopen in the new world order?

People are looking for opportunities for taking a much-needed break, leading to the return of road trips and staycations. At President, Mumbai - IHCL SeleQtions, we have a plan for continuity and have put recovery measures in place while leaving no stone unturned to be the preferred hotel. 

Keeping in-line with the current market trends and with a strong focus on driving domestic tourism, we have created several innovative offers, with a commitment of curating personalised experience. Be it Discover SeleQtions, SeleQtions All inclusive or unique Pawcation offers, there is something for everyone. The demand for virtual dinners, dining by the poolside/terrace in the open are new phases of our F& B business which was relatively unknown until the recent past.

While the lockdown had us all confined within the safety of our homes, we recognised the rising demand for gourmet food. With the introduction of Qmin App we started delivering food from the iconic restaurants Thai Pavilion, The Konkan Café and Trattoria in the comfort of the home.

With social distancing being the need of the hour, we have tweaked the regular processes and activities. Altering seating arrangements, sneeze guards at buffet stations, service designs for minimal touch signage’s are a few examples of maintaining social distancing processes maintained at the hotel. Stringent measures are adopted in ensuring regular sanitisation of all surfaces including cars for valet parking, luggage, thermal non-invasive checking at various points of interaction, self-declaration forms in order to ensure safety and hygiene protocol as guided by WHO and local authorities. 

Which all new technology and innovation has the hotel adopted to maintain social distancing? 

Harnessing the power of digital has become even more crucial now. We are offering mobile functionalities, such as contactless check-in and check-out to all our guests. There are regular temperature checks at the entrance through an automatic thermal scanner for both, the guests and the associates.  All our offerings are through QR code ensuring touch-less service to the guests. Attendance through facial recognition, HR automation, mobile application based checklists, sensor taps, automatic water dispensers are few measures adopted to ensure safety for our associates who have been our Covid warriors. 

In order to facilitate minimum contact we have adopted measures like digital check-in and check-out, accessing all our offerings like restaurant menu, directory of services, in-house magazines use digital technology.

Restaurants and fine dining have been a must-have for any hotel of good standing, but now it seems in-room dining will be preferred by in house guests. How do you plan to run the operations smoothly keeping the new norms in mind?

The President, Mumbai – IHCL SeleQtions enjoys a strategic location at the heart of South Mumbai and has always been the destination of choice for our guests in and around the neighbourhood including Cuffe Parade and Colaba. 

Standing tall for four decades we are resilient and are always testing new initiatives and experiences to determine what works best for our guests. With I-ZEST: IHCL’s Zero-Touch Service Transformation, we attempt to ensure that we align our protocols, hotel procedure, processes and hotel operations to instill a heightened sense of safety, security, comfort and consistency for our guests. Our food safety program includes enhanced sanitation guidelines and training videos for the associates.  

All food handlers and supervisors are trained in safe food preparation and service practices. We have in-room dining services where the guests will be able to use their phones to access the menu,   make special requests and order room service that will be specially packaged and delivered right to the door without any contact. 

However, as we have seen, it is the uncertainty that ignites change. Accepting the unknown also drives curiosity – a fundamental motivator for learning and expanding horizons.


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