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Here’s to service

education Updated: Apr 14, 2010 10:20 IST
Pankaj Mullick
Pankaj Mullick
Hindustan Times
Highlight Story

The man watching over this plush restaurant has a lot on his mind. A head of state (who incidentally has diabetes and a heart problem) is about to check into the hotel. His dietary requirements and status require special attention. Another dignitary (he’s big in the oil industry) is throwing a party for 1,500 guests on the lawns of the hotel. In the heat of May, special arrangements are required to make that happen. Usually, the hotel uses its rosewater blowers to cool things down. But the host of the party is allergic to fragrances of most kinds, so that solution is null and void. If these posers weren’t enough, the banquet manager has also developed an allergy and is having sneezing fits. But the face of the man standing in the restaurant face doesn’t betray any bit of these worries. In fact, it lights up with a smile every time a guest passes by or nods a greeting.

Welcome to the life of a food and beverage (F&B) manager. S/he is responsible for getting one of the biggest chunks of revenue for a five star hotel, is responsible for 250-800 personnel, five to 15 profit centres and an inventory that would put most palaces to shame. This level of responsibility and stress could easily give ulcers to most people but that’s what it takes to carry the mantle of prestige that comes with heading the F&B operations of a large five-star hotel.

“The job of an F&B manager entails being the custodian for the entire department’s adherence to standards, procedures and quality of operations. Customer satisfaction is foremost,” says Virji Safaya, F&B manager, ITC Maurya, Delhi. Apart from this, an F&B manager is directly responsible for adherence to various government regulations, including the Prevention of Food Adulteration Act and liquor licences, etc.

Getting there
Becoming an F&B manager is not easy. One route is to rise through the ranks – assistant steward, steward, senior steward, captain, senior captain, maitre d’ and thereafter to assistant manager, banquet manager and finally the F&B manager. This can take anywhere from 15 years to 30 years, depending on one’s competence levels, perseverance and dedication to the goal.

The other way is to start the journey at a hotel management institute. After graduating with a hotel management degree, students have to apply for the management trainee post. Most hotel chains have a stringent selection procedure for their management training programmes and one has to exceptional to make the mark. Having made it to this stage, the actual journey starts and the learning, as well as the hard work, begin.

“In case the person is good at his/her job and works with passion and dedication, one may reach the level of F&B Manager in eight to ten years. For average workers, this path may take 12 to 15 years depending on the individual’s competence levels,” says Safaya.
Challenges ahoy!
Management trainees soon learn about the high number of variables one has to control while heading a restaurant, i.e. how seasons and various other occasions, like Navratras, affect revenues. One major aspect of handling F&B operations is controlling pilferage of both food and beverages (alcoholic beverages see the highest level of tampering and are a big drain on hotel revenues). They also learn control techniques, such as using a densitometer to check for dilution of spirits.

But perhaps the biggest thing that potential F&B managers learn is the vagaries of human nature – of guests as well as one’s staff. And satisfying both becomes important because while one set comprise external customers, the other form a sensitive group of internal customers. “One needs to have perseverance and a selfless commitment to the job. But what is perhaps even more important is an ability to have a strong command over individuals, assertiveness and an ability to delegate,” says Safaya.

What's it about?
An F&B manager heads all restaurants and banquet operations in a hotel. S/he is responsible for all aspects of catering inside and outside a hotel. S/he must take care of menu planning, staffing and service quality assurance. The F&B manager and executive chef together ensure profitability of operations

Clock Work
8.45 am: Arrive at the hotel
9-10 am: Check attendance records of various outlets, go through restaurant logs. Visit sales office to ascertain the day’s banquet bookings
11 am: Go through the sales previous day’s sheet. Meet HODs for internal coordination
12 noon: Round of all lunch service outlets
12.30 pm - 4.30 pm: Meet suppliers, guests, high-profile banquet clients
4.30 pm: Browse next day’s functions, important dinner reservations.
5 pm : Operations meeting with HODs and RM
6 pm: Round of banquet halls
7 pm: Check all dinner outlets
7.30 pm: Rounds of restaurants
9 pm: Send out end-of-day report
9.30 pm: Leave for the day, if nothing else is lined up

The Payoff
. As F&B manager at a leading hotel, one’s salary can be anywhere between Rs 80,000 to Rs 2.5 lakh per month

Skills
. You must have good management and team skills. You could be managing older, more experienced or less literate people than you
. High level of people skills
. Ability to handle the stress and still remain cheerful.
. Work long hours
. Awareness of the monetary aspects of each decision
. Foster great relationships

How do I get there?
You will have to earn a recognised Bachelor’s degree in hotel management and then join a management training programme. Else, one can rise through the ranks starting with assistant steward

Institutes & urls
. Institute of Hotel Management, Catering and Nutrition, Delhi
www.ihmpusa.net
. Indian Institute of Hotel Management, Aurangabad
www.ihma.ac.in
. Oberoi Centre of Learning and Development
www.oberoihotels.com/careers/html/career/index.htm

Pros & cons
.

Opportunity to travel and work anywhere in the world


.

Hones your interpersonal skills to a very advanced level


.

You could have the opportunity of serving state dignitaries


.

The role demands long hours


.

One might not be able to give time to family

A positive attitude is a must for success

Take it from one who’s made it as an F&B manager quite early in life

What are the responsibilities of an F&B manager?
A food & beverage (F&B) manager of a hotel is similar to a head of a small business unit. His primary role is to ensure the smooth functioning of day-to-day food and beverage operations within the hotel. He’s not only responsible for guest satisfaction through quality food and beverage offerings but is also responsible for watching the costs and marketing F&B outlets.

All in all, the controlling quality and purse strings of the department lie in the hands of an F&B manager.

What motivated you to take up this field?
As a child, I often accompanied my grandfather, who was the then-president of the Rotary Club, to various functions at five-star hotels. The glamour of this industry struck me instantly, though I did not realise the hard work that went into making this picture so pretty. Once I chose to be a hotelier, it was only during my industrial training at a hotel that I realised my fascination for food & beverage service. It is a very challenging and interesting field compared to others in the industry. It is one aspect of a hotel that is always changing. The great thing about F&B service is that one can completely customise the experience for a guest, the way he or she likes it, adding great flexibility to what you deliver.

What lies beyond the post of an F&B manager?
An F&B manager generally starts out at a smaller property after which he moves to a larger property. From here, s/he would move on to become a resident manager of a large property, where he is the second-in-command to the general manager. After a stint as a resident manager, one takes on the charge of a smaller property as general manager. Depending on how one performs as a GM, one can than move on to a hotel chain’s headquarters as vice president of a division. For an F&B manager, the sky is the limit.

What is the success mantra for this part of the industry?
For an individual to be successful in this role, the main attribute required is a positive attitude. Without having the right attitude, it’s difficult to work hard, which is a close, second vital attribute.

What do you enjoy most in this role?
There are many things to enjoy. One is meeting someone new every single day. One is always called upon to solve problems, whether they concern your department or a guest. You learn to handle great amounts of stress. The biggest advantage is that one is learning something new all the time.

What advice would you give to aspiring F&B service personnel?
The two most vital attributes for the food & beverage industry are a positive attitude and hard work. One cannot do this job without being passionate. The pressures are high but they need to be dealt with it in the right way and only then can one emerge victorious. One needs to be flexible and prepared for change because this industry changes every day. Life is tough initially, but it’s a matter of a couple of years before you’re able to settle down and reap the rewards of being an F&B manager. Twelve years in this industry and I can’t say that I could be happier!

Rishi Raj Singh, F&B manager, Sheraton New Delhi Hotel, Delhi As told to Pankaj Mullick