Chef's Platter

‘Curating menus for a theme park is a different ball game altogether’

Chef Veeraj Shenoy, VP – F&B, Adlabs Entertainment, in a detailed conversation with Steena Joy speaks on the diverse F&B offerings at Adlabs Imagica and the challenges associated with theme park catering

Chef Veeraj Shenoy

How different is it to curate menus for a theme park vis a vis a mainstream hotel or restaurant?
Understanding the sensibilities of different segments at Imagica, we are dealing with numbers not only in thousands but millions and hence the entire curation of the menu becomes very sensitive. We have to take care of the aspects of how we create the ‘wow’ factor, within the entire segment and even a comfortable approach to the consumer is most important. Hence, it is completely different from designing menus for a specialty restaurant or coffee shop or a cruise line, where there is a set menu – curating menus for a theme park is a completely different ball game altogether. There are a lot of different types of meals which need to be served from the morning. We have different formats right from restaurants to kiosks, and a range of versatile products, so that is the key feature when we design menus.

What are the various F&B outlets at Adlabs Imagica?
We have a centralised kitchen which feeds into the satellite kitchen in a hub and spoke model. Understanding the crowd distribution in the park and also the time, and then feeding it is very challenging. Overall the F&B space at the property is 90,000 sq ft which comprises of over 9000 sq ft of the various core kitchens. There are also various restaurants which are divided into food courts as well as specialty restaurants. We have the Zeze Bar+Grill, which serves Indo African cuisine and is an important element in the theme park. Red Bonnet American diner serves pop American cuisine. There is another veg food court called Roberto’s which also has a Jain Box. We have an all-you-can-eat kind of buffet that is very high on popularity. The buffet keeps changing – if it’s monsoon, then there is a monsoon special buffet spread at Imagica Capital, which on an average does 800-900 covers a day. Accordingly, we do it for Diwali and other festivities too. Apart from that, we have three full-fledged bars as well which stir up a range of mocktails and cocktails.

What is the procurement challenge in a theme park like Imagica?
It is a little difficult because we have an annual tendering process when vendors come and supply to us. The quantum of the raw materials that we need, like we have over 50,000 kilos of rice being consumed, 80 tonnes of poultry coming in. So, with that huge numbers and to cater to over 1.6 million people a year, with over 10 million meals that we do, it’s a very difficult process. We see to it that all our vendors are quality controlled to ensure the standards of the ingredients throughout and also timely delivery of the same. From the use of internal temperature-controlled storage systems to delivering the semi-finished to finished products, the entire process is a complex process of the supply chain. As we handle a lot of perishables and non-perishables, there is a lot of training that has to be given to the team members.

What about waste management at the theme park?
When we designed the kitchens and the facilities, we ensured that they are made keeping in mind international standards, because as a leading theme park in the country, we give special focus to our F&B offerings too. When it comes to wastage, we have separate log books that we maintain for scraps, disposal of greens, etc. Also, the whole engineering department monitors streamlined waste management. Our wastage is minimal in terms of food as we do a lot of batch cooking because we forecast certain number of people for certain peaks in the day, like the lunch hours receive a higher number of covers than in the case of snacks time in the evening.

What is the experiential element that you are adding at the food outlets?
Today’s guests are all well-travelled across the world and they have visited international theme parks too. They understand how entertainment dining can bring in the wow factor. Year on year we have been seeing a graduation in receiving people who understand food.

What are the challenges and opportunities while creating a MICE and weddings related menu at Imagica?
We cannot ignore the destination weddings or banqueting segment. We have about 1.4 lakh sq ft of outdoor banqueting space, and also 14,000 sq ft indoor banqueting space. We position ourselves as a fairytale wedding destination. Also, we have accommodation through classical marriage with the Novotel hotel next door. So apparently, the challenge is to understand the vision of the person, how they want their function to be. Once you get that right, the execution is not that much of a problem.

What is the team strength at Imagica?   
We are a team of about 180 chefs as well as food personnel. In the Indian hospitality industry, aspiring individuals must once work at least once in a theme park to grasp various skills including time management, quality control, etc, which will help them in their careers.

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