November 18, 2021 9:10:11 am
Are the crowds back? Do you think the worst is over?
We have guests walking in different formats — for leisure, work and staycation. Domestic travel is positive and booming. Our long stay base has also increased, which is another positive sign. As for food, the demand for authentic Chinese and Italian is back, more than the fusion food. It’s a sign the regular guests are back.
What has changed in the reopening and what hasn’t, on your table?
All of us have become more conscious in terms of menu planning, offering cuisines and creating experiences based on the guests and their expectations. Re-opening has come as a learning of creating possibilities in hospitality and seeing the glass half full and not half empty. Even during the lockdown, I was running the kitchen every single day since we had guests staying at Leela Residences and also the in-house team of more than a 100 who had to be fed all meals. It took a special survival skill, I would say — sometimes the raw material would be a problem since transport of all sorts was shut. So, each day went in inventing something out of what was available at that particular time.
During the lockdown, you also launched the Flying Chef home-dining experience. How is it doing now, since the diners are back?
Behind launching Flying Chef, the idea was to offer guests an access to the signature cuisines of The Leela Ambience Gurugram during the lockdown, wherein our signature recipes from Diya, Zanotta and Spectra travel in our own sanitised vehicles to people’s homes. The concept was well received by our guests and today is a strong contributor to the overall revenues. Even now, guests prefer to have a quiet meal in the comfort of their homes or celebrate special occasions with their loved ones. In Flying Chefs, one has the flexibility to customise the menu, the convenience of getting it home delivered safely and the comfort of dining in your own space — I even made samosas and gulab jamuns on request. We still do!
Do you plan to carry on with it? How did you build a client base for it?
We are very keen on building the Flying Chefs property further and would like to amplify it. Apart from our regular guests, various marketing activities and word of mouth helped in promoting it. The idea is to be open to rustling up anything the guest wants, and to never say no because you are a five star, unless it’s totally out of my zone. The greatest learning from the pandemic is to keep moving and take each day at a time. Challenges are a great way of learning and making the best with what you have.
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