By Nilanjana Sanyal
It seems like yesterday when I was transferred to manage the Banquet as a Sales officer under Mr. Anirban Simlai from the Reception where I was working under Mr. Ajit Singh Garcha. Honestly, I had no knowledge of how a Banquet functions. I guess our Managing Director, Mr Vijay Dewan had seen a potential in me then and hence I was entrusted the role. It has been 17 years since and there has been no looking back. In fact while collecting my Long Service award in 2014, I felt very proud but at the same time, I also felt that this makes me more responsible and committed to my job. I take pride in saying that I have evolved to be a better person overall, started thinking rationally which has helped me achieve targets every single year under the continued guidance of Mr. Dewan & Ms. Sujata Guin.
It is a well-known fact that Banquets bring in the maximum sales and profit to a hotel’s business. Sustaining in a competitive market with new banquets, with the newest infrastructure coming up every day, however, is no child’s play. Learning in banquets is an ongoing process. Every single day has something new to teach – with meeting so many people every day from all spheres of life and all kind of age groups, people with different temperament, learning to handle all kind of situations – each and every event is a learning experience.
I have a formidable body of experiences I have learnt from. An experience almost 10 years back was an important one. I am sure everyone has heard about a runaway bride, but its harder to have heard about a runaway groom! Well this instance is all about it. I was handling a Rajasthani wedding at our banquets. The banquet was booked by the girl’s side. On the day of the wedding, as discussed the boy’s side, ie the baarat was supposed to come till the courtyard and all the dancing, band and music was supposed to happen till there. However, without any information /checking with the hotel, they got the band till the banquet hall. There was a press conference happening next door and obviously the guests started complaining of the noise due to which they were unable to conduct the proceedings at their press conference. I went to speak to the wedding party to lower the volume of music, they got upset and the groom walked off saying that he will not marry as his event was spoiled, and his wedding rituals stopped. All the wedding guests were shocked. The girl’s family went to request the groom to calm down and please come back, but it was in vain. The girl’s side was really panicking since it was an extremely embarrassing situation in front of all the guests. Finally, my then boss Mr. Anirban Simlai came to the rescue. He apologized & pleaded in front of the boy’s family to please come back to the mandap and get married. Finally after a high voltage drama, the marriage was solemnized. The hotel gifted the couple a night’s stay at the hotel with special amenities. Later, the families felt that what they did was unjustified. This is still fresh in my memory but I learnt something very important from this incident – all conversations need to be documented and acknowledged by the guests to avoid last minute hassles which can happen with verbal agreements. In this case, I had no documentation to prove that I had discussed across the table of where the band baaja baraat stops. I also learnt to advice clients not to book a venue for any corporate event which is adjacent to a wedding function that we are hosting in Banquets.
The learning never stops. A few years back, when I was pretty much a Pro, there was another instance with a Pharma major. Generally corporates take a confirmation of the hall name at the time of confirmation, which may be ahead of the event as well. The Pharma major had done that for a dinner event with doctors in our Galaxy hall, 7 pm onwards. On the day of the event, in the same hall there was a Hi-tea event in the morning organized by a Chamber of Commerce with a minister giving the speech and was late in arriving. While we were worried , our Pharma major guest arrived by 6:30pm to check the hall setup arrangements and was shocked to find the morning event was still not over. His event registration was supposed to start from 6:30pm. Our Chambers guest was helpless as they could not ask the minister to get off the Podium just because they had a booking till 6:00 pm only and neither could we. We were in a fix. The immediate solution was to change the hall. We requested the Pharma major’s team to shift to another hall, which they were upset about because their printed invites had the venue name. But we made it smoother for them to shift. In 30 minutes we deputed people from the parking till the new hall to guide their guests, arranged a round of tea, coffee and snacks with compliments from the hotel in the pre-function area to keep the guests engaged so that the new hall could be set up. All of us worked as a team right from housekeeping to banquet operations to kitchen to banquet sales to the outlet managers to get the venue ready in half an hour flat. Our Pharma major guest could not even make out that there were so many last minute changes and his event went off extremely smoothly. While getting the bill signed we explained to the guest why we preferred to not give out hall name in advance – it is to avoid these last minute contingencies. Ever since then quite a few years back, this Pharma major guest is a regular with us and is a fantastic guest who simply trusts our decisions related to his event bookings.
It is very important to understand exact requirements of corporates, professionals and high networth Individuals and cater to them accordingly. Banquets cannot have one thumb rule for all. It is important for Guests to get value for the money they spend here at our hotel. Giving them that is what earns me and our brand their trust and faith. Since the main source of marketing for us is word of mouth, it becomes very necessary that my team and I give a great experience to each and every guest who comes in. This is our focus right from the outset of discussions. When we meet the guest for the first time, we understand his/her requirements, identify his/her taste and propose ideas accordingly. In this way, half the battle is won. All we need to do hereafter is deliver what we commit. I believe that. Then the magic works.
With Christmas and New Year round the corner, the city is gradually warming up for the festivities. Park street is well known for its Christmas and New year celebrations and The Park Kolkata is the heart of Christmas and New Year celebrations. It is no secret that The Park hosts the best party in town. We definitely plan a few delights for our banquet guests this year. As the song goes, special gifts for the 12 days of Christmas include wildly exotic gifts, homespun treasures and a partridge in a pear tree. Since we are “Anything but ordinary”, we design offers which are not repetitive but lucrative to the guests such as offering special Christmas month menu and encouraging customers to try our complete meals from appetizers and soups to luscious desserts. If not the entire menu, then may be a segment in the menu. After all, we are in the business of food and “our delicious food” is what draws people to us. I try giving out small denomination gift cards during the holidays. We also provide our gift card buyers with incentives for purchasing higher denominations which they can use in any for our properties only. Filming a promotional video with the Chef and the Christmas buffet layout is a good way of marketing it. We also include Christmas cake slices and cookies along with evening tea or coffee for Banquet functions and along with some Christmas carols and music in the background. During our brand’s 50 year celebrations which commenced here at The Park Kolkata, my most important responsibility was to advise on a good event manager for us to work with, one who can understand the specifications laid down by Ms. Paul and deliver accordingly.
For me, the most challenging part of my profession is being diplomatic since I am a very direct person. I guess the most rewarding part of my job is that today, I know I can face any challenge which comes my way. I would like to thank my bosses for having faith in me and giving me the platform and opportunity to grow in my career and maintain a good work life balance. I must also mention here that I would not have been able to do all this isolation without the support of my team members who backed me in all the tasks given on hand and delivered the same on time. It is very necessary to have like-minded people in your team to work with and in this part also, I am blessed to have a team which has equal commitment to their jobs. I can be rest assured that if something is deputed to them, it will be done. I am always assured that they will act vigilantly in case any emergency arises and that is why we all work seamlessly for a common goal. I would also like to thank the departments which work with me closely like the Banquet Operations Team, Kitchen Team, Housekeeping & Laundry Team & Security Team who work in sync with us every single day. They all have an important role to play in my team and my success!
Needless to say that where I stand today would not have been possible without the support of my family who stood by me in all my testing times. To de-stress and rejuvenate my self, the only tranquilizer I have is my best friend “Lucky”, my dog who means the world to me. Believing in myself and having a passion for what I do has been key to my success.
Nilanjana Sanyal is Director – Conferences & Events Sales, The Park, Kolkata