The Hospitality Knowledge Exchange panel discussion on ‘Goa’s Wedding Banquet Scene’ highlighted the uniqueness of Goa as a wedding destination. Chefs and F&B managers from leading hotels in the beach destination discussed various challenges they face while catering to their clients’ high-end demands By Saloni Bhatia
The Hospitality Knowledge Exchange at FHW Goa 2016 saw great participation from chefs, F&B directors and managers of various properties across Goa. The discussion focused on how Goa is transforming as a wedding destination with multiple venue options, extravagant food menus and grand decors. The panel members were Chef Abhijit Naik, sous chef, The Leela Goa; Kamaljit Singh, resident manager, Alila Diwa Goa; Chef Anupam Gulati, executive chef, Goa Marriott Resort & Spa; Joy Saldanha, F&B manager, Hard Rock Hotel Goa; Chef Sunit Sharma, executive chef, Cidade de Goa; Chef Sundar Rajan Sudharsan, corporate executive chef, Planet Hollywood Beach Resort, Goa; Sunil Mathai, F&B manager, Resort Rio; Chef Farooq Baig, executive chef, The Zuri White Sands Goa Resort & Casino and Chef Mangesh Palekar, executive sous chef, Lazylagoon Sarovar Portico Suites, Goa.
Goa has been a preferred wedding destination due to its beach properties and old churches. Chef Sunit Sharma, informed, “In the past three and a half years we have done about 120 weddings. The destination wedding market has grown by leaps and bounds as there is immense potential in Goa. The season goes on for about six to seven months and we see more of Marwari, Gujarati and NRI weddings. The guests are now more demanding and put in extra efforts to coordinate with the chefs to ensure the quality of food served.”
The new properties in Goa have added to the list of wedding venues with their unique interiors and catering options. Just over a year old, Planet Hollywood Hotel Beach Resort, Goa has already hosted 50 weddings so far, mentioned, Chef Sundar Sudharsan. He added, “In times when we do not have expat moments, it is the wedding revenue that supports the hotels. Word of mouth is a major way through which a venue is promoted. It is all about how satisfied your client is at the end of the day. We also make sure there are special ingredients and dishes like sushi at the weddings even if it is not in season.”
Talking about the support of a team during such events, Chef Mangesh Palekar said, “The whole team and their support helps us to make a wedding a success. The chefs have to be everywhere, making sure the food is well taken care of. That’s when the team steps in and takes care of the back end operations.”
Big ticket business
While destination weddings are a big ticket business, the clients always negotiate to get the best price. They demand the best quality of food and are not shy of shedding out extra money to retain the authenticity of various cuisines. Chef Anupam Gulati mentioned, “Goa might have moved to conducting a lot of MICE events but it is still known for its destination weddings. Since weddings book 70 per cent of the rooms in a hotel, they have a huge impact on the food and beverage of a hotel. The menus need to be designed keeping the guests preferences in mind.” Chef Sharma added, “There are clients who demand extra counters to be added at the furthest point at the venue. Some mention it at the last moment which is a challenge. But as a chef we agree to it since they are willing to shell out extra money.” The chefs on the panel agreed that they are ready to deal with demands if it fits the budget.
Chef Farooq Baig opined, “Sometimes it is difficult to deal with the clients’ demands as they stick to their menus and bring in last minute changes without the intention of spending extra money. People from different origins demand their regional dishes which requires twisting the menu to their preference. So one needs to know where to draw the line considering the restrictive budgets.”
The Leela has been hosting weddings in Goa for decades. There are 260 rooms out of which 150-200 are occupied during the wedding season. Chef Abhijit Naik, stated, “It is important to maintain a good balance between guests who wish to enjoy the wedding and inhouse guests who simply want to relax by the pool. The wedding guests demand vegetarian dishes in their menu but the other guests wish to experiment with the local cuisine. That is when we need to prepare separate menus in order to meet these demands.”
Hard Rock Hotel is one of the new offerings in Goa where people opt for themed parties instead of sangeet ceremonies. Joy Saldanha said, “The trend is shifting towards niche weddings where you are doing something different. We have hosted several parties for the bride and groom instead of the typical sangeet ceremony. We as a brand have some unique concepts like ‘sound of your stay’ where the couple can create their own music for the wedding. It is not necessary to have bigger venues but one can also host a themed wedding at our property of 135 rooms.”
Talking about the trend when a client picks different venues for various functions, Sunil Mathai, stated, “Nowadays people take up three to four different venues while they stay at the same hotel. But the location of the hotels and transportation time play an important factor in these decisions. Resort Rio as a property has the advantage of giving multiple venues like banquet halls, pool sides and lawns which becomes easy for the guest to host different functions.” Commenting on the vendors in the growing market, Kamaljit Singh said, “The market is not vendor driven anymore as the clients are more demanding and specific with their choices. There are many vendors who have not been able to sustain the change as price is as important as innovation in the product. But when it comes to the hotels, the chefs are the business managers on the table. They should be able to meet the client’s preference.”