I’m celebrating my 20th Anniversary in this industry. Over the course of two decades I have seen many changes (for better and for worse). So what has changed between when I first put on my waistcoat and a bow tie, with a crisp long apron training in 40°C Mumbai heat, and now when I wear my suit to work at Rockliffe Hall?
AI - it has taken over!!
All my modules that were taught to me at IHMCTAN - Mumbai have all been replaced with A.I. - or there is software for it. My first manager used to carry a ‘notebook’ with all the ‘important’ guests. It had all the information in it, what they like to eat/drink, where they like to sit, what water they prefer, etc. Nowadays with just one click of a button, I can not only find out all of the above, but I also know their anniversary, birthday, favourite wines and this is before I start adding my own ‘notes’ to the guest. This is for all the guests every night, every time. We now have accounting software, purchasing software, booking software, staffing software, the list is endless.
Social Media & my love/hate relationship with online reviews.
This field has revolutionised every industry, the restaurant industry is no exception. A screaming shouting chef on television/in the kitchen only had to worry about the professional critics who could make or break their restaurant. The professional opinion is still extremely important, however, every guest coming through the doors has a similar tool at their disposal in the form of online reviews, which could lead to a similar outcome. Hence my mantra - everyone is a VIP, everyone is a critic. Yes we eat with our eyes; the focus has now shifted on how the food looks on Instagram feed. #food 273,483,562 posts #foodie has 88,991,310 posts #foodgasm 34,34,6875 posts (going up as you read this).
Guests are more educated than ever.
The positive aspect of all the exposure from the television and travelling is that the typical customer’s palate is a lot more diverse and they are comfortable with different flavour combinations. Guests are more adventurous with their wine choices and are more open to the sommelier’s suggestions. Fortunately, flavour combinations that would have been reserved for the elite 20 years ago are found on a smart/hard working chef’s menu on a daily basis. Some foodies are so up to date with all the ingredients and the trends, that it takes the fun out of the dining.
Availability of produce.
Once again with the help of technology and the cosmopolitan nature of the world, everything is available everywhere. I remember learning about Stilton in 1998, however I only tried it in 2006 (I hated it at first, it now happens to be my favourite cheese). It is nice for a chef to have a world of ingredients at his or her fingertips; I do believe that the best ingredients come right from our own backyard, like a lot of our herbs and shoots grown on-site at Rockliffe Hall.
Eating out is not reserved for special occasions; more and more people eat out on a regular basis and leave the ‘special restaurant’ for the ‘special occasion’. We serve more and more single diners and it is ok to be seen as a single diner. In fact everyone gets excited thinking that it could be a hotel/guide inspector - in reality 99% of the time it’s a businessman/woman just enjoying a good meal.