As the global hospitality sector struggles for recovery from the impact of the pandemic, some hotels are staying afloat by strict compliance with health and safety protocols, which is gaining guests’ confidence and patronage. In this interview, Christophe Noel, director of food & beverage, Radisson Blu Hotel Ikeja, speaks to Obinna Emelike on his job, how safety is improving patronage, recovery of the sector and other related issues.
For those who do not know the inner workings of an average hotel, who really is the Food & Beverage director and why is his job important to the hotel?
Let me give you a brief of my job as the Food & Beverage Director in Radisson Blu Ikeja. I am responsible to ensure, oversee the quality of foods and services and maintain the guests’ overall satisfaction on their dining experience. I do manage also menu selections and analyse current food trends to meet our guests’ demands. As well, I make sure that we are complying with the quality and safety standards of Radisson Group, especially during this complicated period.
The F&B is a key revenue area for hotels, in the face of the challenges the industry is facing courtesy of the pandemic, is the section still rolling in revenue?
Definitely, we have been impacted by the pandemic like many others in the industry; we are managing it, hoping for better days ahead.
Going by safety protocols, the bars and restaurants are to operate within certain capacity, but not full. How do you make up for the seeming half capacity?
We are privileged that our in-house guests make up for that. Due to the ravaging Covid-19 pandemic, we have no choice but to abide by the safety protocols in order to curb the spread. Sometimes and at some point, we have had to cancel bookings to maintain social distancing in the outlets. Clearly, it is a matter of safety for our guests and staff. We are hoping that one day we will all be able to go back to normal.
Did you retrain your staff to meet the current operation demand in the F & B section now?
We have been training our employees since the beginning of the pandemic to enable them to adapt to the new methods and steps of cleaning, disinfection and sanitation of equipment for their own safety and for our guests too. This kind of training is mandatory not only for the food and beverage department, but all employees and management of the hotel.
Often, guests can be stubborn, in your view are they complying with safety protocols in bars and restaurants and are there situations that warrant enforcement of such protocols to save others?
We are not going to compromise with guests on this issue; all guests have to follow our protocols strictly.
Amid the health and safety challenges, what are you doing to improve on patronage?
I think because we are extremely active in cleaning and sanitation, guests can see that we take the matter seriously, they feel safer in our place and it encourages them to patronize us.
Again, because of our Covid-19 protocols that are in place, our guests feel more secure in our hotel than any other place. Our commitment to health and safety is a priority for our guests.
Industry stakeholders are hoping for recovery of the global hospitality sector this year. With the second wave of the pandemic, do you still hope for recovery and how is it going to impact the business?
We should think positively, but I do believe that 2021 will still be a difficult year with a lot of challenges. I am hoping that by the last trimester of this year, we should be back to normal business activities.
Most guests think that beverages are overpriced in hotels when compared with retail prices of the same products in the open market. Do you think so and why?
No. I do not think so; beverages are not overpriced in hotels. When you come and consume beverages in a hotel as a guest, you are expecting high service, a serene environment and atmosphere that justify the difference.