Adding Flavour to the Management
Rajesh Radhakrishnan, GM of The Park Hotel Chennai speaks to us about his charge and the place the city holds for his brand
RAJESH RADHAKRISHNAN, as General Managers in the sub-continent go, is a rare breed. He is an Executive Chef who has taken on the responsibility of the whole hotel. Radhakrishnan is even rarer still in today’s day and age and career driven world, in that he heads a hotel which he joined a dozen years ago. The hotel, The Park Hotel Chennai is currently on the verge of a rebirth (by the time this interview is published, the metamorphosis should be well on its way to completion). We got the opportunity to speak with Radhakrishnan on a recent visit to the city, to speak about a hotel which is a very important part of the city’s nightlife and hospitality.
“Chennai is seeing a definite uptrend in the last two-and-a-half years. Occupancy levels have gone up. Chennai was always considered different from other cities when it came to F&B spaces and bars, but I think that whole thing is changing now. There is a new licensing law and there are new standalone restaurants and bars are coming up. In general, there is a lot of activity happening in the F&B space,” Radhakrishnan told us. In terms of hotels, there have been more international chains entering the city. The buzz in the city when it comes to hotels is much more upbeat than what it used to be, he added.
“There has been a lot of development which has been happening in areas across areas like the OMR, where business has been growing steadily with new offices expanding to the space. I think though the airport and the central business district, sees higher levels of occupancy and business,” he said.
One major point about Chennai is that most of the big development work has already happened so there are no new large properties to come up in the next two or three years, so all the hotels are expecting occupancy levels to go up and the rates to increase, he hoped.
As far as the Park in Chennai was concerned, Radhakrishnan filled us in, “In the last couple of years, since 2015 December, when we had to shut down, has had to be restored over the last two and a half years. We will be ready by this year,” he said.
One major change that happened in Chennai was the arrival of the ITC Grand Chola with its convention space, something that the city had never seen before. The Park, in comparison has a much smaller banqueting space. “We have only about around 4500 square feet of convention space. We get a lot of small intimate wedding functions, pre-wedding. Our banquetting can only hold around 300 people. However, we are very strongly present in our outdoor catering space. Except for the summer months of April, May and June, the outdoor catering market is good, so we do a lot of oudoor functions,” he told us.
Radhakrishnan, an old hand in the hotel, having also served it as an Executive Chef mulled over the state of F&B in the city. “The supply chain has definitely improved from when I first arrived at the hotel, but it hasn’t reached the levels of somewhere like Bengaluru, primarily because many things cannot grow in the Chennai weather, so has to be shipped in. Nowadays, we are seeing a lot of new things like hydroponic agriculture for instance as well as using green houses to grow exotic veg. Earlier it was unthinkable that one could grow lettuce in Chennai, now there are people who are growing it,” he said.
As far as the restaurant scene in Chennai is changing, especially with the younger more adventurous customers coming to the fore in the market. “One of the limiting factor here in the city, was the availability of liquor. Any good food space, you’d want to have a glass of wine or beer, which was not possible earlier, because of the limited outlets which offered the same. Many more outlets opening now have bar licenses now. The food schene in the city is definitely coming up. Options has improved and the new customers are going out more. The whole notion that the Chennai customer was not as adventurous or as lavish with their spend is changing,” he added.
About the future, Radhakrishnan told us, “Park as you know, are located at fantastic locations. We are very central that gives us a huge advantage of being where the action is. Park has always been known for its young vibe, so we attract a lot of people who really want to have fun. We are strong in the segment of customers who want something different in their experiences. In terms of banquetting for instance, we always tend to get people who want to do something very different with their menus. We are on the Chennaiites mind, we top the list when it comes to creative thinking and creative cuisine. We do traditional, but we also specialise in creating something extraordinary in terms of food experiences. In terms of F&B food business, we have a niche clientele. In terms of nightlife and bars, we are also very strongly present in the market. Pasha the Club is still the number one club in the city. The Leather Bar is also equally good, but gives a different vibe,” he said.
There is also Aqua which is the outdoor lounge with a swimming pool and the iconic Lotus restaurant which serves Thai food and has been recently totally refurbished. “We are one of the best in the city as far as Thai food is concerned,” he added.
“In the overall picture of the Chennai market, in terms of the room business as well as F&B, which contributes to 60 percent of revenues, Park has always been a good balance,” he said.
The hotel celebrated 50 years of the Park happened in July, which is going to be a huge event. “We will be launching the new Aqua and the Aura spa menu is slated soon after, Our new suites are also going to be launched this year. 601, the 24-hour restaurant is also going in for a major menu overhaul, both buffet and a la cart. So there is a kind of a refreshing of the whole product happening in 2019,” he added in conclusion.
This article was published in BW hotelier issue dated '' with cover story titled 'The Food & Beverage Issue '
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