A Peek Behind the Curtains

Ever look forward to spending thenight in a hotel, where you can come back to a freshly-cleaned room andclean, folded laundry? Where friendly attendants go out of their way to respond to your needs and you have access to amenities like a fancy restaurant, a swanky gym, and a spa to relax in afterward? While these features tend to be top-of-mind for lots of hotel stayers, the industry isn’t really all about crisp sheets and plush carpets. The associates of a hotel often work long hours doing everything they can to improve the quality of a guest’s visit. From the moment you walk into the hotel until you complete the checkout formalities, the cycle involves many people,departments, processes, and constant vigilancein order to provide the best possible customer experience. Ask any associate about the best part of their job, and you’ll hear something about how they contribute to a positive environment, while making guests feel safe and secure.

Those who believe that hospitality is just about taking reservations, plating up delicious food and bed-making, may not have ever visited the backend of a hotel. There’s more than what meets the eye! In the interest of knowing what goes on behind the scenes where you stay, we got in touch with the main departments that
are responsible for the smooth running of a hotel, and asked them all about their role in maximising the guest experience.

Engineering

If a guest has a delightful experience during his stay at a hotel, then the credit is shared with the engineering team as well. With the guest’s safety and comfort taking precedence over any of their responsibilities, the role this department plays in the running of a hotel goes unnoticed by many. While their primary task is to provide all facilities without any downtime – like electricity, water and air-conditioning – the responsibility of upkeep of all the machines and equipment
lies with an engineer.

Electrical Repair Work, Taj Krishna

Equipment that is in proper working order helps save energy and reduces the likelihood of failure or danger. Sharique Khurshid, Director of Engineering,Taj Krishna, says that the most important step of preventive maintenance is religiously following a disciplined maintenance cycle. Having a proactive approach for solving maintenance issues often mitigates more significant issues down the road.


If on one hand engineers multitask their technical and operational duties, then on the other they control the property’s carbon footprint by monitoring the energy consumption pattern on a daily basis. “It’s important for us to have a vision for environmental sustainability. It’s our fundamental responsibility to take care of the environment,” says Sharique, who believes that it’s time to reduce, reuse,
and recycle.

The team’s goal is to optimise expenses without compromising too much on the scope, quality or timelines. Where maintaining a positive attitude every day is a
must, Sharique concludes by saying, “The best results are achieved by a multi-disciplined team with experience and expertise relevant to the task. This stream of work is not a sprint; it’s a kind of marathon. To really achieve long-term results, we have to perform at a certain level every day.Focus and discipline are the key!”

Security

The main goal of the hospitality sector is to consistently find new and better ways to enhance the guest’s comfort. The security department, which is often taken for granted, plays an instrumental role in trading risk for a secure and harm-proof premises. Considering the potential for terrorist activity, which is a challenge for every hotel today, security policies and procedures need to be
constantly reviewed and revised, and properties must be prepared for addressing any crisis.

Tight security at Taj Krishna

“Hospitality security can be categorised into two – the before and after 26/11 Mumbai attacks,” says Ghosh, Security Officer, Taj Krishna. Before the tragic event, the security department primarily handled fire-fighting, loss prevention, material control, lost and found, first aid, and resorted to CCTV recordings, primarily to serve the purpose of loss prevention.

After the 26/11 attack, there was a paradigm shift in the role of hospitality security, with added responsibilities of checking the guests and materials by means of door frame metal detectors and baggage scanners. CCTV control rooms now monitor real-time events and staff take immediate action as required. Vehicles entering the premises are checked using underbelly mirror or scanner, and vehicle barriers are employed to prevent any attempt of forced entry.

Ghosh, who shares that security is so stringent that even employees are subjected to the norms of security,like profiling and checks, shares rather positively, “The inclusion of technology demands suitably-trained and certified staff to handle it.” He adds, “Nevertheless, the well-designed internal and external training programmes help us to integrate ourselves with the machines. Training programmes on soft skills, like profiling of visitors and contractual employees and their entry procedures also hold paramount importance.”

The security department is also responsible for training the employees of all departments on fire-fighting, first aid, and various response mechanisms in the event of emergency. Conducting mock evacuation drills helps the various departments act confidently and tactfully during emergencies. Ghosh concludes by saying that according to his Security Manager, Rakesh Pai, hospitality security today is all about making a guest’s perception of a safe and secured environment a reality by all means.

Security during a VVIP visit calls for liaising with law enforcement agencies and beefing up the security level within the premises. The hotel’s large banquet events and exhibitions attract many guests and vehicles. As challenging as that is, the parking and safety of their cars are always a priority for this department. Using finer aspects of profiling, without intimidating a guest or a visitor, the team succeeds through meticulous planning.

Human Resources

While the magic of a hotel is created on the front end, it’s also thanks to somegreat teamwork by the entire hotel staff on the back end. This is by virtue of the core support department: Human Resources. From handling the entire life cycle of an employee to creating an environment in which associates can collaborate and stay motivated, the HR department works somewhat like the backbone of the hotel.

Showing the path to a successful career within the company, HR offers ample opportunities for associates to complete internal management training programmes for moving up the ladder. “With reward and recognition programmes, the associates are applauded and are also appreciated when they go beyond the call of duty and leave a mark with their performance,” says Ramu Vemulapally, Director of HR, Taj Krishna. This is the team that is also responsible for the ‘onstage associates’, meaning those who work in the front line. Ensuring that they are always in a crisp uniform, with a shiny name badge and wearing a genuine smile, the department identifies the training needs of the frontline associates and helps improve their confidence to handle all kinds of situations.

Ramu enthusiastically shares, “Whoever said that food is the way into a man’s heart surely implied that treating your associates with a great meal goes miles in making them feel comfortable. With the regular meetings and brainstorming sessions we hold at the associates’ dining restaurant, we ensure that every meal leaves the associate feeling enthusiastic and energised!”Talking about their CSR activities, he adds with a hint of pride, “HR holds yet another hat of being the CorporateResponsibility Champion of the hotel, by engaging or leading in various CSR initiatives on behalf of the hotel and the team.”

“All in all, a great service is like theatre – you need to ‘perform like you mean it’ and this holds true in the world of hospitality, where every associate yearns to give great service. But the truth is, great service always starts from behind the scenes”, Ramu wraps it up on this closing note.

Front Office

The front office is a department that helps a hotel make its best possible first impression. Being the most visible department, it’s the first and last point of contact for the guest. Hence, most front offices (or the lobby or entrance area) is made to look inviting in every way possible. In addition, being the communication centre, the front office department plays an important role in maintaining the hotel’s image.

Lobby at Taj Krishna

Front office operations in a five-star luxury hotel combine planning, training, detailing, understanding personal needs, enhancing the luxury quotient, and much more. Customising every guest’s stay is a fine art the front office must master, and they strive to provide an experience of home away from home. This department is broadly divided into reservations, reception, telecommunications, concierge, and bell desk.

The main function of reservations is to book rooms in advance, maximising the sale of rooms, and gathering guest information while making their reservation. While reception welcomes the guest, processes check-in and checkout, assigns rooms and issues keys, the telecommunications team helps guests make calls, schedules wake-up calls, DND, and interconnecting phones. Concierge and bell desk are responsible for lodging and other arrangements for the guest, and for dealing with guests’ luggage.

Front Office Manager, Gautam Valli, ITC Kohenur, says: “Front office managers are in charge of curating magical moments because they know that luxury is a way of life for our guests, and they must experience nothing less than the best with us.” Ensuring they check and certify each experience for their guests – everything from welcome formalities to lobby music – the team works tirelessly round the clock to create unique experiences.

Housekeeping

What’s your experience when you walk into the public area, restaurants, rooms or the washrooms of a hotel? Pleasant or not, your very first reaction to what you feel will surely define whether you’ll frequent the property in the future. The thin window of opportunity to make a strong impression on a guest is addressed primarily by the housekeeping department. This department is often invisible, leaving behind clean, attractive, comfortable, and welcoming surroundings. Simply put, they’re the magic squad!

A Tidy Deluxe Suite at Taj Krishna

Housekeeping, as the word suggests, refers to the excellent upkeep of a place. It being a crucial part of the hotel’s operations, team members know that a property is judged by how it’s kept. The world’s best hotels can vouch for their excellent cleanliness standards, and everything else from flower arrangements to fragrance in various spaces – all part of ensuring that the hotel is supremely inviting
enough.

Presidential Suite Room at Taj Krishna

Radha Madhavi, Executive Housekeeper, Taj Krishna, shares, “Housekeeping is much more than stocking towels and toiletries, changing linens, emptying trashcans and vacuuming rooms. It’s about creating an experience that stays in the mind of the guest, even after they leave the hotel. This experience begins from the moment they enter the hotel and is something that makes them want to come back.”

A room needs to be welcoming, which can happen by carefully cleaning and arranging the space, keeping in mind the guest’s preferences. “Good housekeeping is an art that’s perfected by careful placement and handling everything gracefully. A housekeeper adds to the allure of the hotel, by making it look good and keeping it upgraded with modern amenities, while still retaining its distinctive charm,” says Radha. She believes that no level of service or glamour is equivalent to the sensation a guest has upon entering absolutely spotless and tidy areas.

Food & Beverage

The F&B department is responsible for maintaining a high quality of food and service in restaurants and bars within the property, along with managing food costs and expenditures. The stay of a guest is personalised through a hotel’s signature services, starting with breakfast and coffee to personal butler service. The most specific of guest preferences – whether food allergies, palate preferences, wine choices or food pairing details – are recorded to provide the best services, not only for the present stay but for return visits as well.

Encounters at Taj Krishna

F&B Manager, Vivek Batra, ITC Kohenur, says: “More than being a manager in F&B departments, we play the role of lifestyle manager, handling guests’ food and wine preferences. At ITC Kohenur, we believe in customising and delivering rare and priceless moments through personalised guest service experiences. To best curate these experiences, the F&B department undergoes guest personalisation training to better cater to the clientele.”

With a sense of satisfaction, he adds, “Luxury is all about curating world-class menus while keeping the local foodstuffs alive, and that is what makes F&B as exciting as it is at ITC Kohenur. Our sommeliers create a list after going through various wine tasting and pairing sessions,understanding which wine labels will complement the branded cuisines of the ITC hotels.”

Firdaus at Taj Krishna

F&B outlets are divided into categories, like restaurant, lounge, bar, discotheque/nightclub, room service/in-room dining, meeting and conference rooms, ballrooms, and delicatessen. There are other outlets too, which may include fast food outlets to food courts and snack bars, which are usually either stand-alone or part of a shopping or food festival. From cozy seating in relaxed surroundings, like in the lobby, lounge, or the club lounge, to quick services at the pool, beach, and juice bars, and of course delicious food served in dining rooms, an epicurean feast is always promised.

-Sumana