AlumniRoad to F&B Success: Making every experience count

From Disney World to Las Vegas and a stint as a professional golfer, Rahul’s hospitality career has taken him through some career defining twists and turns that have shaped him into the entrepreneur he is today.

How did speaking German help you land a role with Disney World?

A recruiter for Disney Cruise Line and Resorts came to César Ritz Colleges Switzerland looking for German speaking students. I was offered the role at Disney World as I did my internships in Zurich and Sulzer previously where I picked up the language.

I was with Disney World for about four years and then I decided to further my education. I enrolled at UNLV in Las Vegas while working part-time at the bar at Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas. After graduation, I joined the Four Seasons’ Hotel Management Programme and continued working for Four Seasons Hotel Las Vegas for five years before joining Four Seasons Hotel Austin.

What did Keanu Reeves have to do with you becoming a professional golfer?

When I was working at Four Seasons Austin, I got bitten by the golf bug. I also had the privilege to meet celebrities like Keanu Reeves, Woody Allen and Bruce Willis. They made a bet that I will return to India to play golf professionally.

In fact, Keanu Reeves even gifted me a golf set! That’s how I decided to become a professional golfer in India.

I played professional golf until I had a serious accident which left me bedridden for two years. With my injury I couldn’t return to playing golf nor to the US as my visa had expired.

How did all of these experiences bring you to F&B consultancy?

In the early 2000s, India’s hospitality scene was growing at a slow pace. People were travelling abroad and coming back with new ideas, but the knowledge base was not there. As someone with hospitality and specifically F&B experience and training, I started talking and offering advice to people and that blossomed into a consulting business.

 

Binny Varghese Bachelor of Arts in Hotel Management.

 

Having a background in Swiss hospitality has given me an edge in my career today. This is largely because of the endurance we go through. My training in Switzerland taught me a lot about craftsmanship, attention to detail and discipline. I inculcated these values into every stage of my career.

After being in the industry for over 22 years, I felt the time was right for me to start sharing my knowledge and experience by consulting. I’ve seen a lot of owners and operators who have a lot of money, but they don’t have the right information to succeed in their businesses. That’s where I come in.

What are the elements of a successful F&B business?

There are three elements: great food, great ambience and experience. The experience starts right at the door when the customer walks in – from how the staff greets you to how the food is sold to you. Everything comes down to the experience. It’s the people that make the difference.

In India, we still have this British Raj colonial mindset. When we see a waiter, we think of it as a subservient job. But I think that is going to change. To be a successful restaurant in India today, your service team is a crucial factor to your success.

How can a restaurant stay relevant in a competitive market?

With the popularity of social media platforms like Instagram and Facebook, people are constantly looking for trendy places to visit. Your place may be trendy now but six months later, the interest dies down.

 

Binny Varghese Bachelor of Arts in Hotel Management.

 

You have to keep innovating. You can’t say I’ve got great food so I’m going to run it like this for 10 years

It also depends on who is your target market. If its millennials, you have to keep them excited. If you’re targeting people in their 40s or 50s who will go to the same restaurant they went to 20 years ago, then you have to consistently maintain a certain standard. You always have to be on your toes, both literally, and figuratively.

Tell us more about your latest project, The Bier Library.

Bangalore was known as the pub city of India in the 80s and 90s but this pub culture went away. In 2007 to 2008, the trend of brewing beer picked up and this trend has since revitalized the F&B scene in the city.

We opened The Bier Library to serve craft beer and modern Indian food with a twist. What we wanted to create was a laidback atmosphere where people can come wearing their flip-flops ¬– it’s not pretentious at all. We didn’t have that in Bangalore before.

We’ve been in business for about five months and we are seeing a strong growth in terms of revenue and it’s going to grow more. On average, we are catering to 400 to 500 customers daily. There has been a lot of change in the brewery business and I see the trend growing.

What is your advice to aspiring F&B professionals and F&B owners?

If you want this life you have to have a passion for it. Expect to work long hours and don’t expect immediate results. .

Give the industry 10 years of your life and you’ll see the returns later on. Also, be professional and be willing to learn the business through and through.

If you’re an F&B owner, you can’t look at this business like an investment in the stock market. Think about what is scalable and how you can make more money. For sure, it’s a great business. F&B businesses are always going to be there. Lastly, have patience, perseverance and passion.


Bachelor of Arts in Hospitality Business Management

Rahul Mark graduated from Cesar Ritz Colleges Switzerland in 1997 with a Bachelor in Restaurant Management and F&B.

Bachelor of Arts MA in Hospitality MA in Entrepreneurship
 
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