• Tuesday, July 16, 2024
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‘The F&B department is a key contributor to our hotel’s positioning within the market’

‘The F&B department is a key contributor to our hotel’s  positioning within the market’

With over 20 years experience and proven record in managing large scale Food and Beverage (F&B) operations, Mariam Ogbolu, director, F&B, Radisson Blu Hotel, Lagos Ikeja, has paid her dues in the hospitality industry.

In this interview, the recently appointed F&B director tells Obinna Emelike the imports of her new role, the dynamics of F&B and role in sustaining hotel business, her passion among other industry related issues.

Congratulations on your new appointment, but what is the job specification of the new role?

Thank you. The role as with any professional one comes with major responsibilities in ensuring the quality and highest safety standards of food and services to guests, in maintaining their overall satisfaction during their experience. My daily routine involves managing menu selections, analysing current food trends to meet with guest demands, budget allocation, ensuring high quality produce from dependable suppliers alongside observing strict sanitary and hygiene regulations, also ensuring adherence of all personnel to regulations, during daily operations. In addition to these, I keep eyes on identifying marketable opportunities for our menu at the hotel so it can be promoted to guests amid promoting our indigenous food to both local and international guests, including unique offers at our Sunday brunch such as Amala Abula, Kunu Zaki among others. The goal is to ensure all moments and events are memorable for our esteemed guests.

How important is the food and beverage department in hotel business?

It is widely said that eating is as important, if not more, to human experience as sleep. Therefore, I will state emphatically that the Food and Beverage department for any hotel is no longer an after thought but the focus. In hotels like ours, our restaurants and bars set trends, not following them because my department is a key contributor to our hotel’s positioning within the market. We play a critical role in helping to transform the hotel, mostly from room revenue generators to free standing food and beverage outlets. When competition is high among hotels, the weight of the F&B department can be felt as we help the property stand out and attract much needed foot traffic and spending guests. Operations from a strong and well-equipped F&B department like ours, equally help boost and increase the meetings/events/banqueting business of our hotel, thereby achieving great margins in revenue. The food and beverage department in a hotel is important for overall guests’ satisfaction levels and at the core of our profession is delivering quality customer service thus, we are important contributors to how guests feel during and following visits to our hotel and restaurants.

Read also: Nigerian Hotel and Catering Institute congratulates Umo Eno, A’Ibom gov-elect, tasks on tourism development

Bearing that in mind, what are your strategies to boost the department’s contribution to the growth of the hotel’s business?

Our strategies are overall tailored to suit every guest and whilst some may feel our strategies are not overtly different from the norm, successful implementation of them at our hotel is down to efficiency of our team, which is borne out of repeated trainings and consistent upskilling. Some of our successful strategies include publicising each restaurant section as an independent business. Anyone familiar with our hotel brand knows that the core of our business strategy is innovation. As a result, we constantly adopt new technologies with which to effectively manage our operations and boost efficiency. With high competition in our sector, providing exceptional customer service is topmost for us. Thus, we are constantly reviewing processes on how to elevate our guest experience always. Equally important is enhancing our menu options and providing healthier options for our customers. We have seen this change over the years that many guests are now more conscious of what and how they eat and as it impacts their health, our menu options are created to help our customers eat right and also encouraging international travellers to try out our local cuisine. These are some of many strategies we deploy.

Are guests going to see new offerings, especially at the restaurant?

Absolutely Yes. It is in line with all I have mentioned so far, providing fresh and new options is at the heart of what we do, and we do not wait until guests are tired of what we have to offer before we refresh. A recent inclusion to our main restaurant menu is the vibrant introduction of Asian styled cuisine. The food is colourful and mouth-watering to the taste buds. We also have an addition of the Amala Abula corner which has equally proved successful in giving our guests the comfort of home away from home. It is currently Ramadan season, with Iftar meals to be shared in kindness with loved ones, we have unveiled our menu for this season and the one we have planned for the Eid Fitr celebrations are special meals from far away central north all in line with ensuring our guests from all regions, experiencing the warmth and atmosphere of being at home, yet away from home.

Are you going to work with the kitchen to ensure that local offerings become more appealing to your international guests?

I work directly with the chefs and procurement team to ensure that our local taste is appealing to all guests, including our international guests. It is important to ensure food, which is well sourced from local farms, go through the right preparation methods and arrive on the plate of every guest as it should. In other words, yes, I ensure that our food is appealing to guests in that, the Salmon they request for arrives as the freshest Salmon possible, the T-Bone remains of high-quality steak that they expect and so on. We also incorporate local foods in the menu and encourage our international guests to try these foods, so they can enjoy the rich taste of our local cuisines and culture. It is important they leave with positive mementos to remember us by.

Sourcing quality food items seems a challenge for most hotels, how are you going to ensure quality in the offerings?

True, the business of hotels, especially in Nigeria is not without its challenges, sourcing being one, storage of the produce is another, coupled with the issue of epileptic power supply in our region. The success of our restaurants is testimony to our deft expertise on the job and this business, which we have been in for so long. In ensuring the best quality for our produce, we have learned to plan, ahead of time with our suppliers, this keeps us well stocked always. We also have our local farm in Offa, Kwara State where we organically source our high-quality protein, vegetables, grains among others. All these measures and more, are in place to enable the best meals to our esteemed guests, local or international.

For the health-conscious guests, what safety measures are place in the restaurants, bars and lounges?

The safety and comfort of every guest is of topmost priority to us, and we do not just say this. At our hotel, as with every hotel within our group. We are certified by SGS, which is the world’s leading inspection, verification, testing and certification company, recognised as the global benchmark for quality and integrity.
Under this program and having complied with all protocols, we received an official label of cleanliness and disinfection issued by SGS, upon completion of a comprehensive audit. In addition, our local owners, Avalon Intercontinental Ltd, ensure compulsory
periodic training of all team members in my department and beyond, on the most up-to-date health and safety protocols. With the presence of our onsite certified nurses and first aid team alongside the use of industry-leading, high quality cleaning products,
our team members provide clean and safe stays that our guests feel confident in.

For the first timers and the guests who may want to meet you, who really is Mariam Ogbolu?

My name is Mariam Ogbolu, I am a hotelier. I sleep and dream hotel as the business of it has been a part of my life for twenty plus years now. I co-opened the well-known Park Inn by Radisson situated in Victoria Island. I am a simple and lovable person and I share a warm bond with my team members. I have a passion to see young ones in the business grow, so I love to train and coach them, including the young ones looking to come into the industry with little or no background in hospitality.