© Ravi Wazir, 2020

People: The Secret Sauce in the Food Industry

It was my first on-the-job stint at a five star while studying hotel management and I was about to get my first lesson on why the food business is called the people business.

The tick-tock of her heels through the hotel corridors had everyone in the banquet department suddenly standing more upright, appearing more purposeful and generally scurrying around to put things in place as they were meant to be. After her inspection... some corrected, some chided and on rare occasions even complimented; the sound of her heels faded away and a distinct sigh of relief heard from the team.

Since then, through my career I’ve studied people productivity both supervised and unsupervised with one singular purpose. To understand the impact that mindful presence has on converting business vision to reality, day after day.

It’s tough enough nowadays to attract and retain good talent in the sector. One must also evaluate “affordability” of people in relation to their performance. A financially affordable person performing poorly is actually quite unaffordable; while an “expensive” one who performs well, is inevitably affordable.

Over time, I’ve realized that to execute business vision, since I can’t be present 24x7, my own measure for success in the people department must be how well teams perform in my absence and in the absence of their other leaders, i.e. unsupervised.

While hiring, I look at 3 things – integrity, attitude and skill, in that order; because I can teach skill completely, attitude partially, but integrity... not at all.

I find that after screening through these 3 filters, giving employees what they expect and creating a good work environment usually leads to more engaged employees, thus more unsupervised productivity and mindful presence.

What the employee expects

Some components of a good work environment

An employee who drives the initiatives he’s responsible for, both mindfully and unsupervised is an intrapreneur, who can lead his area of the business’ vision to reality. Creating many such intrapreneurs within, makes for a business’ success.

For that final edge, you’ll need to bring in yet another, special ingredient.

People: The Secret Sauce in the Food Industry

The Special Ingredient of the Food Industry

I’ve served and been served by innumerable hospitality people across the globe, yet only a handful stand out as exceptional.

I can never forget those people and those brands, and I will patronize & recommend them as often as possible. What they all have in common is what we in India call “Seva”, a Sanskrit word describing the act of “selfless service”.

Professional service however elaborately and well done is inevitably in exchange for some sort of personal reward.

These incredible people however, whether entrepreneurs or the junior-most servers, put themselves so completely into the act of desire-less service, that you knew they would have served you with as much love and attention, as they would have even if they earned nothing in return... except for that feeling of fulfilment you get when serving another without an agenda.

Now imagine, if some people you hire were to have that true spirit of Seva at their core. How much more powerful your work culture and your guest experience would be and what it could do for your business goals.

Ready to find such people for your team, but not sure how? Khalil Gibran has a possible clue – “To understand the heart and mind of a person look not at what he has already achieved, but at what he aspires to”.