‘F&B will remain one of the biggest revenue generating streams’
The way forward is to grab every single business opportunity and stay flexible, says Vijay Wanchoo, Senior Executive Vice President and General Manager, The Imperial, New Delhi
Author and thought leader Roy T Bennett once said: “Every challenge, every adversity, contains within it the seeds of opportunity and growth.” So it happened with Vijay Wanchoo who took up a two-year kitchen training programme conducted by The Oberoi School of Hotel Management as a challenge. Little did he know that it will turn into an opportunity and subsequently, into growth.
“After completing my hotel management course in 1979 from IHM Pusa, I did not have a reasonable job. However, when I got an opportunity to join The Oberoi Hotels as a chef trainee, I agreed though it was not my first preference. Though at some stage, I enjoyed the culinary experience,” shares Wanchoo, Senior Executive Vice President and General Manager, The Imperial, New Delhi. He adds that back then it was tougher learning as most chefs, adept in various cuisines, didn’t like trainees. “They were not interested in us learning much for reasons best known to them,” adds the St Columba’s School alumnus.
Thereafter, in 1987, Wanchoo taught at The Oberoi School and in 1987 moved across to operations as Assistant F&B Manager and later as F&B Manager. “This was a good move and then I became an EAM at The Imperial in 1996. Three years later, I became a General Manager with ITC Hotels. In 2006, I moved back to The Lalit where I was in F&B till 1995 as Vice President Development. In 2009, I started working with The Imperial as Senior Vice President and GM to be later promoted as Senior Executive VP and GM where I continue to operate,” says Wanchoo who feels that his days at The Oberoi School was a pivotal juncture in his career where he learnt the foundations of the hospitality industry.
A firm believer in creating a ‘home away from home’ experience for the guests, Wanchoo says, “We try our best to anticipate guests’ needs and involve them in all our celebrations and offer them a taste of Indian culture to take a piece of it home. At our porch, we welcome the guest with the words ‘Welcome Home’. We also ensure all guests are met and their preferences noted.”
Expressing his views on delivery taking a front seat during the pandemic, the veteran hotelier says that it became pertinent at the time as guests were missing dining with the hotel. “The Imperial has been known for its impeccable service and stellar dining experiences. To continue this legacy with enhanced safety protocols, the home delivery service was introduced comprising contactless deliveries and payment processes. The idea was to offer our spectacular dining experience at the comfort of one’s home, for them to relive memories spent with us. It initiated a new vertical and helped us stay connected with our diners,” informs Wanchoo who is fond of The Spice Route at The Imperial as he was involved with the project in 1998. “It easily tops the list of my favourite projects,” he adds. Given a chance to get to the kitchen, Wanchoo says he would love to create the traditional chicken stroganoff with spatzeli which is rarely available in hotels today.
To keep pace with fast-changing demands and guest preferences especially post-pandemic, Wanchoo says as guests are seeking enhanced experiences, immaculate and personalised services are quintessential. “These can be achieved by customising staycations with wellness value-adds and revisiting business modules by serving local while pitching for travellers within the country,” he puts in, adding that being an iconic heritage hotel, for domestic travellers, The Imperial is in the process of curating local experiences with bespoke stay and dining packages. “We recently conducted Nature Walks with WWF India for Earth Hour and took our guests to various gardens on three Saturdays in March to raise awareness about urban biodiversity, a post-pandemic essential for all of us. These reorientations are vital for sustaining business, considering the current travel scenario and unpredictable future,” express Wanchoo.
Food & Beverage is and will remain one of the biggest revenue generating streams for hotels in times ahead, opines the General Manager, The Imperial. “Building up on it and getting the regulars back with distinguished offers combined with unrivalled safety standards, is the core for recovery. Apart from F&B, flexible wedding venues will continue to meet the new normal demand of event formats. With international flights operation, major concentration will be on Incentives and Residential conferences other than the regular inbound business. Focus on domestic markets will also play a major role,” he shares.
Wanchoo feels the time is ripe to initiate bleisure, workations, staycations and drivecations. “Even the new term coined recently called ‘phygital’ meetings are a new revenue stream, combining both physical and digital meetings,” he says.
Did the hotel make any changes in the scheme of things during the pandemic on the banqueting and wedding front that have stayed on, Wanchoo says, “The way forward is to grab every single business opportunity and stay flexible. We allowed residential weddings and even opened our pool and other areas for elite wedding setups. We are also open to movie shoots now which wasn’t the case earlier, maintaining all Covid19 protocols under ‘I Care’ programme at The Imperial.”
Around 50 tour operators and 200 domestic companies have been added as clients at The Imperial in the last few years. “These are new companies for us and have been initiated to capture new business. The team will focus more on residential weddings and not standalone weddings. More importance will be given to conferences and events, especially residential over weddings,” says Wanchoo whose favourite dish at The Imperial is Kaeng Kheow Waan Chae or Thai Vegetables in Green Curry.
Looking ahead, Wanchoo says that with inbound expected to increase, the focus will remain to position The Imperial among the top three hotels of Delhi in international market. “The demand in domestic market is on a rise so we will have to strike a perfect balance between the two leisure segments. Corporate and embassy movements will remain our strength,” he feels. Then there is the need to embrace digitisation for brand promotions and value-added services for marketing strategies. “User generated content, credible testimonials, reviews and messages are crucial to tap online segment. We also want to invest in strengthening our online business and capture domestic business with companies and tour operators,” he shares.
With sustainability becoming imperative for survival, “energy in essence is always going to be a limited resource even if it was rendered free and as an environmentally conscious organisation, we will always see how we can optimally use it. Hence, saving energy for reducing cost and providing environmentally responsible amenities are crucial for every hotel in the coming years. Better air quality systems, efficient hand- hygiene standards, less water wastage and reduced use of plastic are now operational must-haves. So creative solutions in technology and ground level green initiatives to optimise operations is the renewal strategy,” says Wanchoo. n
This article was published in BW hotelier issue dated '' with cover story titled 'MARCH-APRIL 2022 F&B SPECIAL'
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