Verner, Owner of Calamari Bathe and Binge, Candolim
A Goan by origin and resident of Candolim, Mr. Verner runs a beach side restaurant known as Calamari Bathe and Binge in Candolim itself. He graduated from IHM, Bombay and worked with Taj Hotels Mumbai after that as Catering Supervisor for 2 years followed by the profile of Restaurant Manager.
In 2003, he opened Calamari as a 10 seater restaurant. Currently they have almost 50 covers and are operational throughout the day. The restaurant timings are from 12.00 noon till midnight. No breaks in between, no holidays. Calamari opens for the season on the 15th of October and closes on 1st June every year. Post 1st June the entire structure is demolished, put under lock and key and until the next season. So basically, Calamari is in operation for 8 months every year.
Mr. Verner expresses that his staff, that is, his main chefs, waiters and managers who have been with him for over 15 years, are the key secret to his success. His wife, Leanne, who has been with him since 2004 is the backbone of calamari. The got married in 2007. The success of the restaurant equally goes to her as well and they are running it together now.
There are many things that guests like the most during their visit to Calamari. The restaurant is known for its seafood and hence they stress on their fresh catch and fresh produce every day. The prawns, crabs, lobsters etc. are mouth-watering and also the live entertainment, live bands that play every day, add to the charm. Calamari is right on the beach. Hence they provide all the facilities that sea viewing restaurants must have. They have showers so that the guests can shower and relax, separate ladies and gents toilets, cloak rooms, fully functional bar which is fully stocked with Indian as well as Foreign Liquors. They also cater to the needs of all ages of guests. Be it families with children for whom they have baby chairs and high chairs or elderly couples. They take care of all their requirements. In the evening the place has a more elegant setup. The atmosphere changes and the lights go dimmer, with tables placed on the beach so that you can enjoy a lovely meal by the beach. This too adds to the charm.
Mr. Verner strongly believes that his guests are his marketing. He further says, “The guests who come to Calamari year in and year out will propagate Calamari to the whole world. Our guests are our biggest mouthpiece. There are other mediums such as Instagram, Facebook etc. as well but the customers are the biggest sell point. They are the ones who market Calamari to the whole world. Customer service is the most important. I believe if you keep one guest happy then they get 10 guests in return. We are happy if our guest does not like something and tells us about the issue. We make sure that it is changed or not charged to the guest, or we give them another option to chose from. Guest is king, Guest comes first at Calamari irrespective of the nationality.
He is of the opinion that the location of the restaurant influences the guests the most . It is something you just cannot beat as it is right at the beach. They also have a good parking facility wherein it is a minute’s walk to Calamari from the parking. The atmosphere of calamari right from the main road till you drive down to the restaurant is absolutely stunning. The greenery of the plants on either side, the ambiance and the location of the restaurant is its USP. He can proudly say that Calamari is the go to place in Goa. When you come to goa the name Calamari strikes out amongst the competitors.
He inspires or motivates his staff to perform better by just be nice to them. He says, “You be good to your staff, you treat them as a member of your family, they will stay with you. For a lot of my staff money is not a driving force. You can pay them as much as you want but if they are not happy, they will leave. My staff are the members of my family. If they are sick I personally ensure that they are taken to the hospital. If their family members are sick I make sure that they are back in time to see their family. If their children are sick I make sure that they are seeing the right doctor. I help them when they want advances or any kind of help. Treat your staff as family and they will always be with you”.
In order to retain guests, we provide certain discounts to guests who are regular at Calamari so that they come day in and day out. They give them personalised service. Verner believes that personalised service is very important and is one the keys to have your guests coming back to you. He says in this case his training at Taj proved effective as the training is very guest centric. This training is incorporated into him which he passes on. “When you come to calamari you should feel like it is your second home. There are some guests who arrive in Goa and come to Calamari straight from the airport since they find it to be their second home”.
In order to enhance the guests experience even more, Verner would like to provide valet parking service for the guests in the future. He also wants to make facilities for any specially abled guests who visit Calamari, such as a ramp or other facilities. He would also like to introduce a few more international wines, international cuisines, get more internationally acclaimed dishes on the menu and go for more international clientele.
He expressed, when asked about his suggestions for improvement in IHMs, that they need to introduce more training facilities. They need to try and have a system where in the students who are studying can go abroad for a month or two, to train there and also have students studying abroad coming into India, to train here. They need a bigger approach and a bigger focus in India.
According to him there are many key areas to be focused on by the authorities to make Goa the preferred tourist destination. Firstly garbage. It is a menace that has to be managed with every day. He is thankful to the MLA of Calangute/ Candolim, Mr. Michael Lobo, who has made many garbage collection and disposal facilities. If each and every village in Goa does this then it will help a long way in keeping Goa clean. Secondly he says is the issue of stray cattle. That too is a menace. One cannot jog on the beach in peace today. Verner himself does not like to go for a walk on the beach due to the cows, buffaloes and dogs. There is a need to have more dog and cattle pounds, where they can be looked after and cared for instead of letting them loose on the beach where the tourists are not very happy to see them. Overall, cleanliness is the key.
In the end Verner would like to quote Mr. Vijay Mallya who was a regular guest at Calamari. He would say, “Live life king size”. So, come to calamari and live life king size.