8:15am: Bright and early and the Jumeirah Beach Hotel conference centre is already buzzing with the good and the great from the region's F&B industry.
Having a quick chat with Aku Patel, co-founder, Paperchase Accountancy who is in Dubai for a few days to host this afternoon's workshop 'Developing a return on investment plan'. He counts celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal among his clients. He says he's enjoying his stay in Dubai, but as a vegetarian, he finds there is a lack of good vegetarian options on menus.
9:00: A warm welcome from ITP Business hospitality group editor Louise Oakley before the first panel session kicks off.
9:10: The start of this morning's Great Debate: Can hoteliers run restaurants?
Moderator Stefan Breg, founder, Tribes Restaurant Creators welcomes the panel comprising: Markus Thesleff, co-founder, Okku Luxury Japanese Restaurant and Lounge; Walter Hall, chief operating officer, RMAL Hospitality and Duncan Fraser-Smith, director of food and beverage - MEA, IHG
The panel sessions will all be covered in detail in Caterer Middle East, but here's a snapshot: One hot topic: celebrity chefs. Breg asks: "What happens when a relationship turns sour?"
IHG's Duncan says: We view relationships with chefs as they're brought into the hotel rather than them coming in to run outlets. They will come in and help shape the outlet, but it’s our guys running it.
"So if we had a falling out with Pierre - which isn’t happening, but just as an example – because Pierre is out here two or three times a year he helps develop what’s on the plate, but we have an incredibly talented team of chefs so Reflets at InterContinental Dubai Festival City is an outlet that stands on its own two feet .
"We view it more as a joint venture arrangement, we wouldn’t give it completely over to a celebrity chef. From a hotel outlook – if there’s a complaint – who’s responsible for the outlet, you need ot be be able to manage the customer experience the whole way through."
10:10: Next onto the burning issue of 'Recruitment, retention and renumeration' with moderator Mark Patten, VP culinary, Atlantis The Palm Dubai introducing the panel comprising: Uwe Michel, president, Emirates Culinary Guild and director of kitchen, Radisson Blu Hotel, Deira Creek; Joseph Chalfoun, area GM, Food Fund International and John Cordeaux, executive chef, Fairmont Palm Jumeirah.
Chalfoun says in Europe often restaurants will have half the number of staff compared to a restaurant of the same size in the Middle East, reflecting training and recruitment flaws.
Michel: "We’re a victim of our own success – there are too many hotels and restaurants opening – we have missed the training part of it. We’re under pressure with budgets, do our owners think our staff are valued. I think [the answer is] no. In a lot of companies the stock holders are the most important. We have to go back to focusing on our people. We have a lot of people on the floor that haven’t been trained. When a new hotel opens they get a promotion, another opens they have another promotion – thre are a lot of management-level people who aren’t ready for their roles."
Patten: John, you’re recruiting – just about to open a new Fairmont. Does you have a philosophy behind you’re hiring? What is it?
Cordeaux: "At the end of the day we hire for passion, not neccesariy skill but the ability to deliver a great guest experience. We hire those who are excited and motivated. Training is what it’s all about. Up to 60% of our time is spent in training, mentoring and delivering skills."
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