‘F&B is the soul of ITC Royal Bengal’
The people of Kolkata are adventurous when it comes to exploring new cuisines, says General Manager Gaurav Soneja
On the cusp of business district and the city, ITC Royal Bengal is an ode to the region’s cultural heritage and lineage. This magnificent edifice towers over Kolkata’s skyline and blends fine indigenous architecture with contemporary design. With its passion for perfection and its pursuit of beauty and grace, ITC Royal Bengal represents the unique fervour of the citizens of Bengal to celebrate and nurture the finest across the myriad facets of life. The 456-rooms and suites including 82 serviced apartment property with five F&B outlets and seven banqueting and meeting venues are helmed by General Manager Gaurav Soneja.
A member of the pre-opening team in 2019, Soneja says Kolkata is home to him. “When I joined ITC Sonar in 2016 as the F&B Manager, I did not realise it is a city that grows on you, it is a bastion of bhadralok, always gracious. I have spent six years in this city as an F&B Manager and then as a Cluster Hotel Manager for ITC Royal Bengal & ITC Sonar. For me, it’s a homecoming and I’m looking forward to my journey here. The people are extremely warm and welcoming and they make you a part of their lives,” he says.
A rise in numbers on domestic leisure travel front and the onset of wedding season has boosted occupancy and average room rates, feels Soneja. “The past two years were challenging but the hotel has stood tall in its glory and come out more resilient than ever. The business is pursuing digital transformation with the recent launch of ITC Hotels App. It allows guests easy access to room and F&B reservations, cuisine delivery offers as well as loyalty membership management. Responding speedily to the challenges and disruptions arising out of the pandemic, we had launched a host of curated offerings for in-home dining which are now immensely popular,” he says.
Soneja shares that apart from the thriving F&B outlets at the property, there is a growing demand in the MICE segment. “ITC Royal Bengal offers the largest venues in a luxury hotel in eastern India with a sprawling 16,400 sq ft pillar-less magnificent Bengal Stateroom. It also offers versatile banquet options for business meetings and events, with a total banquet and convention facilities covering an area of 61,000 sq ft,” he informs. Responsible Luxury and Sustainability resonate with the minds and hearts of discerning sections of society across generations. The guest, he puts in, is now more mindful and is consciously seeking out dining options recognised for their sustainable and responsible practices.
ITC Royal Bengal, shares Soneja, is committed towards delivering world-class luxury experiences that address the most critical needs of wellbeing and safety through responsible practices. “Our DNV Platinum Certified initiative ‘We-Assure’ is a unique programme designed in collaboration with medical professionals and disinfection experts to further enhance the existing hygiene and sanitisation protocols.
Our ethos of Responsible Luxury translates into a unique service culture where associates intuitively create moments of delight through planet positive experiences. With sustainability being the bedrock of all operations, ITC Royal Bengal is a LEED Platinum Certified Hotel. Recycling water, treating solid waste, local sourcing consumables to eco-sensitive architecture and design protocols are the measures in the journey for a brighter tomorrow,” he says.
Talking about introducing changes to the offerings at the restaurants of ITC Royal Bengal as he comes with a strong F&B background, Soneja says, “F&B is the soul of ITC Royal Bengal through its outlets – Grand Market Pavilion, Ottimo, Royal Vega, Darjeeling Lounge, The Brass Room & Skypoint. People are exploring new cuisines and dining is not limited to weekends anymore. We are witnessing bigger turnouts now that people are moving out of their homes. We will soon launch ITC Hotels’ signature brand, Avartana. It promises to bring to our guests an exclusive blend of traditional and progressive renditions of South Indian cuisine. Our newly opened rooftop bar, Skypoint offers breath-taking views of the city skyline. Skypoint and The Brass Room have made ITC Royal Bengal a music hub. While The Brass Room hosts new-age bands which plays jazz, blues and Western music, Skypoint offers the best of Retro classics played by the city’s finest bands.”
The pandemic has been the biggest global economic as well as health emergency in recent times and the impact on travel and hotel industry has been unprecedented. Organisations developed rigorous contingency plans to limit its impact on employees, guests and communities and a huge focus on hygiene, cleanliness as well as sanitisation remains strong. “At ITC hotels, offering our guests experiences that are in harmony with the best environment and social standards is integral to our philosophy. Our ‘WeAssure’ initiative launched during this period is an industry first in enhancing hygiene and safety protocols within our hotels,” shares Soneja.
The challenges for the hospitality industry in wake of such unpredictable events, he adds, is how fast the industry can react and adapt. “While several businesses have traditionally not factored such threats into their continuity plans. I believe that working out a broader, more resilient approach to risk management will function to protect employees as well as operations,” he says.
“With the changing environment, guests have taken a strong liking for our home delivery menus – Gourmet Couch & Flavours, serving the best from ITC Hotel kitchens. We will soon have Avartana and our exclusive members only Club Prive too. F&B is thriving and it is extremely dynamic in the city. The people of Kolkata are adventurous when it comes to exploring new cuisines and they don’t mind spending for a new experience. My endeavour is to increase the market share in keeping with the new inspirational upmarket trends while ensuring the ITC flag keeps flying high in its own city,” says the ITC Bengal General Manager, adding that the endeavour of a successful hotelier should always be to cultivate and maintain the finest hotel operations and to develop and maintain strong relationships with the guests. “He or she should be driven by creativity and quality of new inspirational market trends,” he opines.
This article was published in BW hotelier issue dated '' with cover story titled 'BW HOTELIER - THE TALENT POOL SPECIAL'
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