‘Local element the key differentiator in our design and offerings’

Our focus, says Rajesh Radhakrishnan, General Manager, THE Park Chennai, is on embedding sustainable initiatives in all aspects for a more conscious approach to hospitality

It was around two decades back that Rajesh Radhakrishnan began his journey in the hospitality industry when he joined THE Park Chennai as a Sous Chef. A few years later, he helmed the kitchen operations as the Executive Chef and then donned the role of a Regional Chef. 

“It was an exciting first part of career as a celebrity chef and I was recognised with multiple awards,” reminisces Radhakrishnan. Then came the second part of his career with him transitioning into the role of a General Manager. 

“Even today, not many chefs take on the role of a General Manager. However, I consider myself fortunate to have got this opportunity,” he says. Radhakrishnan was, thereafter, sent for a professional course in Hotel Operations at Cornell University which he says helped him learn hoteliering from some of the best in the business. “Having a great connect with guests, an intricate knowledge of hotel operations and business dynamics including cost structures helped me in this successful transition. Making people happy and providing the best of hospitality has been a passion all my life and remained a constant in both the careers,” he shares.

Radhakrishnan says ‘working with THE Park Hotels taught him to constantly evolve and explore the path less taken. Elaborating on the same, he says, “Being a luxury boutique hotel brand, we have always strived to keep up with our brand promise of ‘Anything But Ordinary’ in all that we do. This can be challenging at times as one needs to constantly push the envelope. The brand’s vision is ‘Leadership through Differentiation’ and the teams are consistently urged to think and do things differently. Be it food or events, it is about thinking ahead and create something which piques curiosity and is inspiring!”

The pandemic was a period of learning for most and it was no different at THE Park Chennai. Like many others in the business, delivery took a front seat for Radhakrishnan and his team. “With various limitations of dining implemented during the pandemic, the food delivery business gained momentum, leaving businesses with the need to quickly move to the online space and focus on the food and other parameters like hygiene protocols, packaging etc,” he shares. He adds that this resulted in the dine-in to takeaway transition progressing quickly. “Our patrons wanted to relive their dining experiences at our restaurants in the comfort of their homes. We ensured that we served anything they wanted. We curated an array of dynamic offerings taking the hotel’s experiences to our guests! The food delivery including bakery and patisserie products is witnessing a steady growth and will remain a key business segment going forward,” says Radhakrishnan whose favourite restaurant at THE Park Chennai is the multi-cuisine restaurant, Six ‘O’ One.

“Its key focus is on locally sourced ingredients and inventive cuisine. Moreover, the culinary show enacted by the chefs at the restaurant’s Show Kitchens keeps one entertained apart from dishing out fresh and delectable food. The fact that chefs are available at the live stations also gives an opportunity to interact and customise the food to one’s preference,” he says.  

Expressing his thoughts on guest preferences fluctuating every other day, especially after the Covid19 scare, Radhakrishnan says that they have been highly flexible and dynamic in their business approach at THE Park Chennai. “The pandemic has accelerated the move to a more digital way of functioning. Contactless check-in, checkouts, QR code menus to name a few. In many ways, this has helped the hotel achieve better efficiency and more seamless experience for guests,” he avers.  

On changes made at the hotel during the pandemic which have stayed on, THE Park Chennai General Manager shares that it has been the implementation of SHIELD, safety and hygiene programme introduced with the onset of this global pandemic. SHIELD covers all facets of the hotel’s operations in adherence to the government norms and protocols,” Radhakrishnan says. Elaborating on the same, he says, “Like the phrase goes ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’, this global pandemic has stimulated creativity and drawn focus to offering dynamic and newer offerings. From weekly theme-inspired Brunch at Home boxes, meal boxes for weddings and corporate virtual meets to bar takeovers, bespoke outdoor caterings for parties, product launches etc… These innovative concepts that took off during the pandemic are still the ones that guests request for till date.” 

Radhakrishnan says the hotel has always positioned itself as ‘The Destination’ for innovative cuisine, fantastic and cutting-edge wellness. “This is, of course, apart from providing a great stay experience. As a company, we have always wanted to provide something more to our guests than just a great stay. Our Chairperson, Ms Priya Paul, has always focussed on offering interesting dining options, the best in nightlife and events and an immersive spa experience to our guests. Today, travellers are looking for much more than just a comfortable bed when they are visiting a city or location, whether for business or leisure. ‘Bleisure’ is certainly in trend. Business travellers are combining work, while exploring the local culture, other city attractions and ways to relaxation and unwind,” he shares.

Over the next five years, Radhakrishnan says that THE Park Chennai would further strengthen its positioning. “F&B has been generating more than 50 per cent of hotel’s revenues and we see this getting progressively stronger as a segment. The local element in everything we do is a key differentiator in our design and offerings. Local community has patronised us since the day we launched in Chennai and we will strive to keep them engaged through differentiated cuisines, events and experiences. The focus would be on embedding sustainable initiatives in all aspects. We are a proud Indian brand aspiring to showcase contemporary Indian hospitality to the world!” says Radhakrishnan who loves the Smoked Chicken Penne with Crispy Slivers of Bacon and Freshly Grated Parmesan at THE Park Chennai. 

Radhakrishnan says if he was to enter the kitchen today, he would love to make a hand-tossed thin crusted pizzas. “It is great fun tossing up a pizza, loading it up generously with mozzarella, toppings and getting it baked in the wood fired oven. Just watching the mozzarella bubble up in the oven can fire up anyone’s appetite!” he says.

This article was published in BW hotelier issue dated '' with cover story titled 'MARCH-APRIL 2022 F&B SPECIAL'

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