‘We Will Stay Safe To Keep You Safe!’
BW Hotelier talks to Biswajit Chakraborty, General Manager Delegate of Pullman and Novotel New Delhi Aerocity about the hotel's planning for reopening in terms of new protection, cleanliness and hygiene protocols.
BW Hotelier talks to Biswajit Chakraborty, General Manager Delegate of Pullman and Novotel New Delhi Aerocity about the hotel's planning for reopening in terms of new protection, cleanliness and hygiene protocols. He shares that the hospitality sector will have to maintain a balance in terms of everything i.e. cost/revenue, empathy/task-driven, vision - and the ability to see short, medium-term more accurately, immense gratitude for our stakeholder, i.e. brand, owners, colleagues, customers, suppliers and for whatever each one did and we took for granted.
With the lockdown nearing an end and almost 6 weeks of planning to prepare for a gradual reopening in the new world order, tell us briefly about some of the critical operational areas that you must, as the head of your business, tackle?
The end of the lockdown heralds the beginning of a new era, a new order, a new world. Accor has always been nimble, adaptable and will be even more so. Our primary concern is the safety of our stakeholders, i.e. guest, colleagues, our brand reputation and commitment to owners in safeguarding their assets. All these are intertwined in business. Detailed global standard operating procedures (SOPs) are in place for human safety, hygiene, sanitisation and protection. Whether frontline, back of the house - we are ready to commence operations in a secure, safe manner, with simple global procedures, the core of which is Social distancing, protection of face, eyes and mouth these will appear shortly in our communication worldwide. So all touchpoints i.e. customer and back of the house will be secure. We have engaged heavily on social media to stay in touch with our customers be it with recipes from chefs, virtual entertainment such as jazz, narration of our CSR and genuineness.
Most importantly we have stayed connected with the customer by way of phone calls, video conferences to assure them we are there, we need their support and address their concerns over safety. This will add up to our being in their mind space throughout.
How do you plan to implement social distancing and the new protection, cleanliness and hygiene protocols?
Again, this is the path we will follow more as an industry globally than just a company or a hotel. Accor in fact is a company which details, tests, communicates and implements thoroughly. For example, for sanitising glassware, crockery, cutlery, our dishwashers are calibrated at 85 degrees centigrade to ensure the virus is eliminated final rinse temperature now. Suppose the reading and the actual temperature are different and lower than 85 due to malfunction, we have a check and balance both manual and automatic to detect and fix before human touch.
F&B, MICE and weddings have been huge revenue drivers. They stand impacted now, at least in the short immediate run. How do you plan to recoup this revenue gap to recover and over what horizon?
Food and beverage, i.e. restaurants, I am far more optimistic, since our brands and hotels exude confidence in terms of hygiene, safety, global certification (With partners such as Bureau Veritas Globally). Moreover, people are wanting to dine out and once more sample the authenticity we can offer - For example, Honk by Pullman is Delhi’s most reputed, pan Asian outlet, literally brings the Asian experience on their plates and gives them an atmosphere which is world class for that cuisine and cannot be replicated at home - they will come in spite of social distancing. This is in the short term.
MICE will take longer due to savings being implemented by companies, safety social distancing issues in gatherings - it will take till Q4, though we are ready globally with cutting edge SOP’s and training.
Recouping will happen from mid-2021- through customer engagement and assuring them of safety like never before. Our sales and marketing, communication abilities and reach at all levels are gearing up. We will never overpromise but will deliver.
With a revenue dent that will go beyond a few months, what are the few cost control measures you are undertaking?
Here there is a balance - we are aligning variable and fixed costs with projected revenues. Big ticket items like energy, payroll are being tackled rationally and humanely to survive and revive. Our owners are being communicated to in all transparency and most of them are supporting us since they have immense faith in our brand deliverables proved in good and moderate times. We have assured them that their assets will be in pristine condition and we as Accor associates will do all it takes to deliver revenues and profits in a graded manner through our global and domestic domains/expertise.
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, while walk-in diners will take time coming back. What is your view?
My view is more optimistic - I feel diners, especially non-residents will come back sooner than expected due our commitment to safety and range/authenticity of offerings. In-room dining is also getting more exciting in terms of flexibility in offerings, smaller, fresher, more local even organic menus. The customer perception and experience will be better. There will be more respect and gratitude for food, skills associated with food. A customer will remember the supply chain, skills and commitment to safety when he/she is served. Whilst we will be even more grateful for every guest. It will be a mindset change for the better.
Do you think domestic tourism will be a game-changer with a likely drop in international inbound traffic for a while?
To an extent - staycations for drivable distances will happen. However in my opinion India is different from China and Vietnam. Our staycations will be less since people will conserve money. It will not be a game-changer. I hope I am wrong here.
As the head of your hotel, how do you keep the employee morale up during these tough times?
By being transparent, empathetic, communicating more often, getting their opinion wherever needed. Charity also begins at home - we believe in helping them when in need. Accor also has a global scheme which helps very needy employees financially as the case may be.
What changes do you think this pandemic will bring to the Hospitality sector in terms of running a hotel?
We will have a lot more ‘Equipoise’. Balance in terms of everything i.e. cost/revenue, empathy/task-driven, vision - and the ability to see short, medium term more accurately, immense gratitude for our stakeholder, i.e. brand, owners, colleagues, customers, suppliers and for whatever each one did and we took for granted.
What is your message for the tourism and hospitality industry partners, as well as to your loyal clientele?
Simple 'Every Dark cloud has a silver lining', have faith in yourselves and have patience, work as a team, more than ever now.
What has been your hotel's contribution towards the fight against this pandemic?
We have done weekly CSR’s from day one i.e. giving food to the needy through recognised NGO’s, providing lunch to frontline like the Police at their outposts on a hot summer afternoon, made masks inhouse and distributed to needy societies, we will continue doing this as long as we exist.
What are the key lessons for the future to be learned from fighting this pandemic?
Humility, perseverance, resilience, humaneness, gratitude, never say die attitude, never take anything for granted. It will teach us how to balance collaboration with competitiveness, amongst each other as brands, and we would learn to respect our own industry much more. As we enter the new world, stronger together.
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