Paulo Coelho in his bestselling book, The Alchemist, said, “It’s the possibility of having a dream come true that makes life interesting.” The Accor group of hotels in India, which includes Novotel, Ibis, Fairmont, Grand Mercure and Raffles, has taken a leaf out of Coelho’s book to dream and inspire its teams to grow its food and beverage business in India. 

The French hotel chain, which has 54 properties in India, has named Supreet Roy, the General Manager of a Novotel hotel in Chennai as its Master Alchemist. Ask Philip Mahoney, VP, F&B, for IMEAT (India, Middle East, Africa and Turkey) region, what this means, and he explains, “Our vision is to make food and drink the heart and soul of our hotels, and the way to do this is by having every one of our ‘Heartists’ play a part in making that come true. While present-day alchemists routinely transmute gold on a daily basis, we aim to curate the best F&B experiences at our hotels.”

Food to the fore

Novotel’s Roy says he’s working along with Accor group CEO, Puneet Dhawan, to make each of the hotel’s F&B a strong functional area. “There’s another colleague I am working with, Sachin Maheshwary, GM, Grand Mercure in Bengaluru, and two of us have this task of making sure everyone is on the same page from a business point of view. We’re going to make F&B a passion for the teams with an interesting story for every hotel. We have formed a team in the entire hotel network comprising the F&B head and one culinary head of each hotel,” explains Roy. They will be the alchemists who will work with Supreet and Sachin.

Sachin Maheshwary

Sachin Maheshwary

The crux of the idea is for the group hotels and the teams not to look at F&B as an ancillary service, but as a good revenue earner, says Roy. Roy did exactly that with the Novotel on the bustling Chamiers Road in Chennai. This Novotel hotel has become well known for its food and beverage offerings, and was one of the first hotels to launch do-it-yourself food kits, which were a hit during the pandemic when people were stuck at their homes. The cocktails as well as the sushi menu at KooX, its restaurant, have become very popular with the hotel’s patrons.

Supreet Roy

Supreet Roy

Its cloud kitchens launched during the pandemic have bolstered revenue from F&B, which Roy says is now almost a 50:50 mix along with rooms. Novotel launched as cloud kitchens The Degh Story, for Lucknowi cuisine; Fudged, a range of sugar-free desserts; Tossed, which offers do-it-yourself pastas and pizzas; and Cake Boutique, an exclusive cakes brand. “I want to drive F&B as an entrepreneurship venture in all our hotels and make it a good revenue earner. Of course, it also depends on the location and space of each hotel and its business plan. The ratio in our hotel has gone up of late towards food,” adds Roy.

Co-creating in the kitchens

As Mahoney explains, the Master Alchemists empower and push the commercial ambition of the various Alchemists, a group of F&B professionals who are business drivers in group hotels within the region. “We currently have 41 commercially-driven creatives active throughout the IMEAT region that are enabling the communication between hotels and our regional office to increase the speed-to-market of initiatives, driving good practices, sharing successes and co-creating new standards.”

Mahoney says the key focus areas for the Alchemists will be to deliver on the three pillars that make up Accor’s F&B strategy: living the brand promise for its guests; cultivating the talent of the staff; and creating added value for the owners.

“With dining offerings in the market on the rise, competition is fierce, and leveraging on the knowledge, creativity and know-how of our teams is more important than ever. We’ve seen some exciting initiatives fruition out of the Alchemists. Our endeavour is to make our hotels the top dining destinations in their cities,” says Mahoney.

Ask Mahoney if other hotel chains have something similar like a Master Alchemist, he says Accor is probably not the only hotel group that’s built up a team like this, as everyone would want to leverage the talent that they have in their hotels. “If they’re called F&B Ambassadors, Specialists or Area Restaurant & Bar Directors, they all have the same purpose: delivering only the best experiences for guests,” he adds.

If Alchemists had the Midas touch as well, Accor would indeed be glad.