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Saturday, August 08, 2020

How will your dining experience change post-lockdown? Hotels weigh in

While some hotels admit sales have plummeted, they are catering to the needs of customers through their home delivery services now.

Written by Prerna Mittra | New Delhi | Updated: July 4, 2020 3:09:26 pm
fine dining experience in unlock, second phase of unlock, hotels and food, healthy food menus, changes in food menu in hotels, hotels in Delhi NCR, eating out, home delivery services, indian express, indian express news Many hotels are now bringing in newer and more interesting food options even as the health aspect of their customers are on top of their minds. (Source: Getty/Thinkstock)

As people gradually step out of their houses in the second phase of unlock, they are realising the world has indeed changed. What was being touted as the ‘new normal’, has now assumed form and structure, with new guidelines and social norms. Going back to how things were at the beginning of the year is just not an option. At least, not for now.

Among other things, many people have missed eating out the most. Which is why, as the restrictions were understood to have been eased, hotels and restaurants came up with their own plans, too, to give people a novel experience even during such unprecedented times.

Food menu overhaul

Naturally, the food menu is something that people first check out before they dine at a new place. And this is the reason that many hotels are now bringing in newer and more interesting options even as the health aspect of their customers are on top of their minds.

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The LaLit in New Delhi, for instance, has revised its entire menu. “One restaurant has several cuisines, offering to cater to different palates. With health and hygiene becoming the top concern for all, we have even incorporated a ‘health kitchen’, with drinks and delicacies that help boost immunity — vitality bowl, beetroot juice, among others,” says the General Manager of the hotel, Mr Shukla.

In terms of dining experience, the hotel has recommended ‘in-room dining’ for in-house guests. 

“The restaurants’ settings have changed to ensure physical distancing. There are no buffets, only à la carte. Tables are only set once a customer arrives. We are providing contactless dining, and encouraging digital payments. The service team has been trained to wear masks and gloves,” he says.

Additionally, the hotel has also set up a food truck, which is parked at the porch — from where customers are encouraged to take away their orders — besides providing home delivery services.

Just like The LaLit, many other hotels across Delhi-NCR have undergone a complete refurbishment, too, in terms of their catering services. Among them is Taj City Centre in Gurugram. Its Executive Chef Abhijeet Thakre tells indianexpress.com that there’s a special focus on wellness-oriented food and beverages, post unlock.

fine dining experience in unlock, second phase of unlock, hotels and food, healthy food menus, changes in food menu in hotels, hotels in Delhi NCR, eating out, home delivery services, indian express, indian express news The food truck parked outside The LaLit from where customers can take-away orders. (Photo: The LaLit)

“The health section in the menu includes dishes like steamed chicken breast with spinach, grilled river sole caper, lime, olive oil nage and steamed vegetables, gluten-free penne with wild mushrooms, sun-dried tomatoes and olives, broccoli and cheddar soup with jalapeno croutons, citrus avocado salad and homestyle masala khichdi. Healthy beverage options include immunity boosters like turmeric tea, green juice made with baby spinach, mint, coriander, cucumber, apple or pear, and hot lemonade that has ingredients like garlic, lemon, honey, cinnamon, mint and basil leaves, or the ‘Evergreen Smoothie’,” he says.

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Most hotels have brought in new rules for their customers as well, keeping in mind their safety. For example, Taj City Centre has been doing a non-invasive thermal screening of all entrants including guests. It has also redesigned seating arrangements in restaurants as per physical distancing norms, with menus being accessed by means of simple scanning a QR code. “Guests are offered hand sanitizers and face masks, and alcohol wipes are also available at the restaurant,” says Thakre, adding that customers are being drawn more towards vegetarianism and plant-based diets.

Something similar is happening at the popular Taj Palace in New Delhi, too. It has started a Hospitality@Home service, wherein it has created a special menu featuring favourites from their two popular restaurants, Spicy Duck and Capital Kitchen.

“Our endeavour has been to create a menu that incorporates healthy, immunity-boosting and nutrient-rich dishes. We’re using a lot of local, indigenous superfoods along with fresh, seasonal produce. Our breakfast selection, for instance, has offerings like Greek salad and grilled corn-fed chicken breast. Our menu also includes a selection of delightful indulgences like pastas, burgers, rich biryanis and North Indian delicacies, along with bestsellers from Spicy Duck for that ‘restaurant-like dining experience’ at home. In addition, we’ve also incorporated an array of wholesome, home-style everyday delights like curries and lentils that are ideal for hectic work-from-home days,” Executive Chef Rajesh Wadhwa explains.

Taj Palace is currently only offering only essential services like Hospitality@Home and food takeaways, etc. The hotel and the restaurants are not open to the public yet.

Amanpreet Matharu, Director Food and Beverages, The Westin Gurgaon and New Delhi, tells indianexpress.com that with this pandemic slowing down the dine-in experience, “strengthening the delivery channel was a must-do”. “The Westin Gurgaon, New Delhi started delivery and takeaway services, while ensuring that the latest guidelines on heightened sanitation practices, hygiene and clinical cleaning are met at all times. Our delivery menu features classic favourites from all our dining outlets including EEST and Prego. To further our reach, we also tied up with online food delivery portals such as Zomato and Swiggy,” he says.

fine dining experience in unlock, second phase of unlock, hotels and food, healthy food menus, changes in food menu in hotels, hotels in Delhi NCR, eating out, home delivery services, indian express, indian express news Most hotels have refurbished their food menu to bring in items that are both palatable and immunity boosting. (Photo: The LaLit)

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“While we have always had an ‘Eat Well’ menu, keeping our guests’ holistic well-being in mind, we now have a dedicated space in our menu for special dietary requirements like Keto and vegan items. The menu also has options of healthy bowls like organic quinoa and summer vegetables bowl and marinated shrimp salad bowl. We also have keto friendly dishes on the menu such as thyme-roasted corn fed chicken and eggplant and zucchini parmigiana,” he adds.

Takeaway and deliveries are slightly more attractive in the current scenario in Delhi NCR, Matharu says. 

Multi Property Executive Chef Anurudh Khanna of The Westin Gurgaon, New Delhi, and The Westin Sohna Resort and Spa, believes that going forward, customers will be more inclined towards making sustainable choices.

“We see people opting for more farm fresh, organic and locally sourced items, and that has been the ethos at Seasonal Tastes – multi cuisine food and beverage outlet at The Westin Gurgaon, New Delhi and The Living Room – multi cuisine food and beverage outlet at The Westin Sohna Resort and Spa.

“The flavour of fresh crisp seasonal vegetables and fruits is something that I personally love a lot. Guests will also seek to indulge in super foods high on anti-inflammatories, and antioxidants that boost immunity and their overall health,” he says.

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But, what about the sales?

While The LaLit admits that sales have plummeted, it is catering to the needs of the customers through its home delivery services, and its food truck.

Matharu says that The Westin has seen a steady flow of orders for delivery ever since it resumed services. “Cook-at-home meal kits, catering packed meals to organizations and offices are other services that should gain better traction for some time,” he believes, adding: “Though there is no taking away from the fact that the immediate future of guest service in hospitality will be very different — no more handshakes, tikkas on the forehead, and garlanding — the warmth in our heart remains the same.”

“Gradually, we are adapting to a new way of life, to ensure a safe experience for both team members and guests,” Shukla concurs.

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