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    There’s a new kid on the block. Rather, a new hotel on the city’s skyline. This week, the Shangri-La has joined the growing pantheon of swanky multi-starred hotels in Bengaluru

    Shangri-La has lots of figures and facts going for it — 397 rooms including 30 suites, 19 storeys, 8 food and beverage outlets, a 900-guest capability, 361 parking spaces, a 740-square-feet grand ballroom, 12 elevators to the banquet floor, the largest brigade of chefs in the city and a giant, double-heighted lobby for starters. So says Jens Corder, general manager, as he sits sipping peppermint tea in the sprawling B Café, with its giant (and real) show kitchen. Corder is no newwbie to Bangalore: he’s been here 19 months and watched the hotel take shape even as he sussed out the food and beverage (F&B) scene and made his assessments. He says he’s well-equipped to deal with the city’s foodie brigade with their quicksilver loyalties, along with mega corporate bashes and lavish weddings. The Shangri-La is going to stir the hospitality trade’s pot, quite vigorously.
    Corder has a firm eye on the food side of business – he believes this is the path to success. He should know. A career F&B man, Corder started his work life with hospitality training in his native Australia, and over the years, he’s done it all – from wine waiting to executive chef. “I like the discipline of the kitchen and am aware of its pitfalls,” he says. “An F&B background makes a person enterprising. You can change quickly, take risks, think and adapt as you go – and lead people.” It also helps to have the might of the Shangri-La brand behind him for support.

    “An F&B background makes a person enter-prising. You can change quickly, take risks, think and adapt as you go – and lead people”

    useitIn his early days, Corder was spotted doing the rounds of the city’s top restaurants, attending soirées of the Skål Club and the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs, all with the purpose of understanding Bangalore better. Then, market surveys were conducted on dining out and the decision made to stick to authentic styles of cuisines with an eye open to local preferences. Their Chinese, Mediterranean, Japanese, North and South Indian restaurants, bars, patisseries and coffee shops will regularly be tweaked to suit local tastes. I met him shortly before the launch, and Corder was hectically busy with tastings, stimulations, reviews, project supervision and more — his day starting at 7.30 am and running breathlessly through until 10.30 pm. So what about his family? He smiles. Family, who moved with him to India, consists of his wife (a dab hand at adapting to different countries and cultures), two sons studying in Australia and a Burmese cat named Oscar. They’ve now added two kittens – Sidney, a tabby, and George, a ginger. His day includes a brisk walk down to work not far from home. He even makes time to cook, clean (when his wife is away), and look after the kittens. When he has time — rarely these days — he enjoys cricket and occasionally rides his bicycle down the airport road. (“It can be a little hairy cycling through Hebbal,”he says, deadpan. What should the food lovers try at the hotel? He thinks. “I tried a gorgeous slow-cooked chicken roulade with basil and thyme last night. I love the hand-rolled pasta our Italian chef makes, and can vouch for the Chinese food’s authenticity as I’ve lived in China. Oh, and the soft, rich German cheesecake.” Take it from the boss. He’d know.
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    “Rely on strong fundamentals”: An insider perspective
    How does Bangalore’s hotel industry grow? With a steady surge in numbers of premium hotels and F&B outlets over the last few years, the market is constantly changing. While the consumer is spoiled for choice, where does it leave the hotels themselves?
    25SocietyPageKunalChauhanKunal Chauhan, general manager of The Leela Palace, one among Bangalore’s older, established 5-star hotels, believes that Bangalore like other larger Indian cities, is already changing, and fast. “Like Delhi, it has already begun moving towards micro markets, smaller zones catering to their own catchments.” A game changer was the movement of the airport to an area outside the city, creating more micro markets. “Location is very important for a client, and someone who works in Whitefield will likely frequent hotels and restaurants in his area rather than driving into town every time. So room rates and buoyancy will remain high.”
    Having said that, Bangalore’s top hotels offer some of the most competitive room rates in the world. “Where else would you get a 5-star hotel room for €150-175 in Europe or the US? During the depression of years past, rates came under stress. Now occupancy in the city has grown 20 per cent in the last year itself. Room rates will rise in the next year or two. Where I do foresee competition taking place in the coming years among the 5-stars is for what’s known as MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions) bookings. Yes, newly-launched hotels might offer competitive rates to initially draw in clientele, but selling an introductory buffet for `500 indefinitely doesn’t contribute to business or make any sense eventually. No brand can survive on this for very long.” Hotels must hold fast to their USPs, do what they do best, and show this to their customers, adding that 85 per cent of The Leela’s clientele comes from referrals from their existing clientele. So how does one survive the crush? A long-term strategy is called for, he says. The Leela, for instance, believes in holding firm on its strong F&B fundamentals – location of F&B outlet, size, design, service, food quality, presentation. Too much pricing competitiveness can result in a compromise in quality, which will eventually have a trickle-down effect to the customer. “Strong fundamentals on basics in F&B outlets are non-negotiable.”

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