With catering, and food and beverage bringing in more revenues for them than room rents, five-star hotels in India are finding new opportunities for this part of the business.
Setting up home catering units is one part of the strategy.
"Many big hotels in the top cities are now offering outdoor catering for parties at home for as few as 8-10 guests, charging a neat 3,500-5,000 per head," says Devesh Rawat, director of F&B at Westin Hotel, Pune. And with that, they have reached many hearts - average revenue from outdoor catering is growing 30% year on year.
The opportunities are immense and diverse - baby showers, kitty parties, bridal showers, birthday parties, theme parties and pre-wedding functions, even corporate gatherings. A businessman in Delhi called friends home for a jazz party to enjoy and discuss their favourite genre of music. He got a five-star hotel to create the ambience through food and lighting in keeping with the theme.
Movenpick Hotel and Spa Bangalore recently catered at the private residence of a socialite in Bangalore where the brunch event was extended till dinner with the hotel recreating its entire coffee shop, from the decor to the buffet layout to the table placements. "The hotel takes care of all aspects of the event right from planning, sourcing and execution," says Biswajit Chakraborty, general manager of the hotel.
With this business now bringing almost a 10th of total revenue and growing at a brisk pace, hotels have started setting up special teams for this line. Hyatt Hotels has a division called Hyatt@Home comprising seasoned chefs and event managers specially trained for residential events. Novotel Pune has a specialised Events and Food & Beverage operations team which executes outdoor catering. Others like Movenpick, Westin, Hyatt, Novotel, Marriott and Jaypee have also jumped into the fray. Courtyard by Marriott, Pune, where the executive chef leads the effort, has seen its outdoor catering business grow 46% in 2013 and expects growth to be around 60% in 2014. "Though we agree to cater to a smaller number of people, we charge a premium because of the resources and transportation involved," says Rawat of Westin Pune. The hotel caters to around five private parties every month and expects this segment of the F&B business to grow significantly.
"Outdoor catering is an add-on to the F&B revenue of a hotel and this is becoming significant especially in the current market environment," says Achin Khanna, managing director, South Asia, at hotel consultancy HVS.
It is also an opportunity for hotels to showcase their service quality to members of the upper crust that attends such parties, he adds.
Shivanand Kain, senior executive chef at Jaypee Greens Golf and Spa Resort, Noida, says there's sometimes a demand at these parties for top chefs to demonstrate live cooking of certain dishes. "It adds a fun element to the party," he says.
"The trend definitely looks very promising with the growing awareness among guests," says Nikhil Gandhi, assistant director of F&B at Hyatt Regency Chennai. The hotel has catered to unique requests such as a mystery box event where guests engage in a cooking session with the chef from the hotel.
While such parties give the hosts a high, for many it is the luxury-in-privacy concept that matters. Aneesa Dhody Mehta, a luxury brand consultant, who threw such a birthday party for her husband, says she wanted the party to be private and special. "Going to a hotel would not have given us the same privacy," she says.