To be in F&B

Even though a career in the F&B industry is lucrative, the curriculum has not matched industry requirements. A few industry veterans highlight the growing concerns and trends By Kahini Chakraborty

Vernon Coelho

Over the last 10-15 years, the food and beverage (F&B) industry has boomed due to various factors. Easy travel both in India as well as international, the popularity of social media and internet, several trade shows, the availability of international produce, has contributed to the awareness of cuisine. “Larger disposable incomes and the fact that young couples both work means that more people are eating out. The plethora of cookery shows have made people curious and a career in the F&B industry now seems to be a preferred choice,” says Vernon Coelho, head of department, food production, Institute of Hotel Management, Catering Technology & Applied Nutrition. As menus are becoming a lot more varied, there has been a growing interest in fusion cooking, which includes the cooking styles of two regions. Customers have grown health conscious which has lead to a spurt of interest in health food. But Prof Irfan Mirza, director, VM Salgaocar Institute of International Hospitality Education points out, “Regional cuisines are diminishing to a certain extent. A good example is Goan food which is widely known for its fish curry and rice, but the cuisine is more than just that. And there is a growing interest for international cuisines.”

Prof Irfan Mirza

So how are hotel management colleges in India adapting to the industry changes and expectations of customers? It has been given to understand that while some colleges and institutes have tried to keep pace with the growing demands of the industry, unfortunately most government run institutions are following old syllabi/ curriculum for the past 20 yeas. “Here is where the private/ international institutes are playing a major role by continuously introducing updated syllabi to meet the requirements of the hotel industry globally,” highlights Coelho. Echoing the same sentiment, Mirza adds that even though colleges have tried to keep pace, but not as fast as it should considering the growing demands of the market. Syllabi are not changed and updated as often as the industry would like it to. “But changes have happened especially in the production area. More regional Indian cuisines are being taught and international food is also being included. An awareness of these cuisines is created among students. Indian and international food festivals help in the understanding of the intricacies of modern food,” mentions Mirza.

Career demand

Nowadays students want logic for everything, and hence Mirza informs that VM Salgaocar Institute of International Hospitality Education ensures that examples are given while delivering the theory and practical components. Students are also exposed to problem based learning (PBL). While Coelho says that not much has changed in the theoretical and practical syllabus for students over the years, the institute teaches the basics which cannot be changed much. He adds, “In much experience of teaching in the hospitality industry for the past 25 years, more than 60 per cent of students opt for a career in the F&B department.”

Knowledge, skill, attitude and personality are the quintessential parameters that have been the changing demands of the hospitality and retail industry in India. Moreover, guests are aware of hygiene standards and want more innovations in cuisines which are value-for-money. Nutritive and health menus are now more in demand. Keeping all these factors in mind, colleges are seen to be trying their level best to groom their students. When asked about the starting job position that a student begins during his first job in the F&B industry, Coelho replies, “Students normally join at an entry operations level. Many get in at the supervisory level and a very few would join as management trainees.” “In the F&B career industry, one always starts with the lower jobs like waiter, but the career growth is fast compared to any other department. But again it all depends on the performance and attitude of the student as well as the reputation of the institute,” says Mirza, adding that, “To become an F&B manager of a hotel, a student has to study for a minimum of two years.” But Coelho highlights, “It really depends on the scale of operations and the size of the hotel especially the number of F&B outlets and the banquet facilities. But I have seen students rise to the position of F&B manager in a five-star property in 12 years.”

On the remuneration scope in the F&B industry, there is always a huge demand for skilled and trained people. This is one of the reasons why the remuneration in this field is very high compared to other industries. While Coelho says, that even though the pay package has increased many would say that it is not enough. However, this cannot be a general statement across the board as there are always good and bad exceptions.

Trends & challenges

With the F&B industry being fascinating, the biggest challenge is seasonality of raw materials, getting trained personnel and controlling the food cost because production and delivery takes place at the same place unlike any other industry. “The aim of the college is to train the students in order to improve the big lack in knowledge whether it is theoretical or practical in the world of F&B service. This is a real need as one can observe/ realise these frequenting public establishments to see how poor the service is when it comes to applying knowledge and practical skills,” opines Mirza. Giving another perspective to this, Coelho mentions, “Motivation and mentoring students has become a big challenge. It seems that the attitude for a service industry is lacking. When they complete their industrial training, many have made up their mind that the industry is not what they expected. They complain of the long hours and low salaries. To make matters worse, there are many options open to them now with better and faster rewards. Several of them leave the industry after a few months, pursue further education/ MBA programmes and then switch careers. A revamp of the selection process is urgently required.”

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