Prasad Paul, Consultant and Business Coach
With 32 years of experience in the hospitality industry, Chef Paul says that he actually had no clue about this industry while he was in school. It was his father who directed him to join IHM Chennai. Upon completion of his course he joined the Oberoi Hotels as an Operational Trainee. He says, “People told me that I would not be able to do anything great as a chef but my dream was to become an Executive Chef in a leading five star hotel. By God’s Grace I was able to reach out to my dream in 10 years. I got the opportunity to work in leading hotels like Club Mahindra, Le Meridien, Oberoi, Cidade de Goa. During my last tenure in Cidade de Goa as a senior Executive Chef, I had the opportunity to do a series of cooking shows on Television channels. I also won the Silver Hat Chef Award in 2009 at a national level.
I quit my job at the age of 45 as I had a strong aspiration to start up my own business. Some of my close and well wishing friends advised me not to get into business as they felt that I was not cut out for business. Leaving their opinions behind, I began my freelancing as a consultant and completed more than 15 winning projects in Goa, Bangalore, Chennai and Kolhapur in the next five years. Having experienced the success as a consultant, I wanted to start my own restaurant chain. The very well known Pan Asian Hut at Mall de Goa was my first QSR and Macedonia, the second one is getting popular among the new generation now. My new cloud brands like Momo.in, Acts 10 and kebab shop are already active online and offline. God willing, I am planning to expand in to other cities too.
“It has been a passion deep in my heart to train, coach and mentor the younger generation for future leadership and entrepreneurship in the hospitality and food & Beverage industry. I would like to teach the enthusiastic youngsters the secrets of starting up, sustaining and scaling up of food business. Besides teaching at Goa University, I have already been mentoring a few young chefs and restaurateurs for their successful professional and business career.
As a consultant, Chef Paul advises the professionals in the hospitality industry to serve the customers with passion to create an unbelievable experience to them. Chef Paul says that the primary focus in hospitality business shouldn’t merely be making money but creating an exciting experience to the customer. Money will eventually be just a number on the score board.
Regarding the current hospitality and culinary education systems, the educational institutions need to update their syllabus as per the current and upcoming trends as the food styles and the food business have changed a lot and going to be different in future. So the institutions need to counsel the students to diversify and thrive into new career possibilities.”
The budding chefs don’t have to restrict their career focus just within the boundary of hotel kitchens and cruise galley alone. They can start preparing themselves to be Master Chefs, Media Chefs, consultant Chefs, Marketing chefs, Chef Entrepreneurs, food critics, food bloggers, Food stylists and culinary trainers. The budding young entrepreneurs in the hospitality industry should diversify and thrive into various opportunities like Events, Party catering, Quick service restaurants, Cloud kitchens, Online restaurants, Food studios, Food trucks, Food packaging and so on.
What does a guest expect the most during their stay in a hotel?
According to Chef Paul, “Every single guest staying in your hotel or dining at your restaurant deserves a personal touch and a service with smile. Customers do expect something new, something more, something better and definitely value for the money that they are paying. If your principle is to exceed the expectation of the guest, your business goal would easily get accomplished. Guests check in to your hotel not just for the sake of staying and dining but for a greater experience. If a family is dining in a restaurant the steward or the captain is expected to sense the need of each one at the table including the child and the elderly people. The extra care given to the children and elderly ones is an exemplary sign of hospitality. Good hospitality, great food, friendly service, pampered treatment will bring the customer back to your hotel.
Since you started your career with the Oberoi group of Hotels, what makes the Oberoi Hotels so unique in the industry?
Chef Paul replied, “Now our country has so many good hotels owned or managed by international leading brands. 30 years back there were only a very few Indian chains of hotels like Welcome Group, Taj Hotels and The Oberoi were existing in our country. It was a privilege for me to start my career with Oberoi group of hotels. What I learnt in The Oberoi was “finesse” in service at every touch point of customer’s service. There is no compromise on quality concerning any product or service. Continuous training, grooming and motivating the staff is visibly seen in the high level of hospitality services, product standards. When you enter the lobby you can feel that sense of excellence in the air. That journey of excellence started with their first hotel in Shimla and well maintained even today.
What are the challenges you are facing in the restaurant industry in Goa today?
One of the challenges we face is paying GST on purchase of ingredients which cannot be claimed input under the current 5% restaurant taxation. His suggestion is to source locally grown / farmed ingredients to save tax and help the local farming.
Price escalation of some fresh ingredients during off season affects the food cost badly. Non availability of skilled manpower is yet another challenge. Retaining the skilled and trained manpower also is another challenge.
What would is your recommendation to the Hospitality industry in Goa today?
Impart technical and behavioural training to staff continuously to maintain the quality of your products and services. Retain the trained staff by motivating them appropriately. As we are living in the digital era, Chef Paul recommends using ecommerce space for marketing and advertising to make an impact in the business. He said, “People of all ages use social media like WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and blogs. People do check the ratings online before they choose a restaurant for dining. Chef Paul recommends optimizing the usage of artificial intelligence to streamline the processes, build up customer data, and provide information and to respond to the queries.
Lastly Chef Paul said, “Make the regular customers your Brand Ambassadors. The secret of my success in the restaurant business is my satisfied customers who/that are my brand ambassadors who spread the word around to their friends and relatives.
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