B Swaminathan (firstname.lastname@example.org)
The official LinkedIn page of ChefBharath, in the past two months, had received many requests from many chefs around India for exploring jobs as a ‘consultant’ after receiving a red alert from their employers on the current job. Thus our editorial team wanted to touch upon the most-discussed aspect in the culinary sector- hospitality consultant or kitchen consultant. Ramu Butler has close to two decades of experience unveiling more than 15 kitchens in the 5-star hotels alone in India and other Asian countries. For him, becoming a Chef was beyond making money. Someone from a defence background, when Ramu Butler expressed his desire towards joining the culinary course, he was first mocked by people. However, he stood by his passion, cracked the entrances of hotel management institutes and had today wears various hats ranging from Chef, mentor, teacher, entrepreneur and more. A Chef-turned-consultant and a social entrepreneur, Ramu butler consults for a handful of projects feels the need for clarifying the myths around consulting profession.
Current scenario of consulting as a business:
“Consulting is unarguably a great profession. However, it is a double-sided sword. One should not see it only as a money-making alternative for regular employment. Hospitality consulting is not a game of cards. It demands years of persistence, networking, and contacts over a period of time and build it which might fall overnight”, says Ramu who also added that the situation of consulting professionals are tough this year considering the COVID situations. “Post COVID, there were many cases where investors had to either shut down or downscale their operations. Many who lost their money are yet to recover them and many payments got chocked with the investors. Even we do not blame them fully, the fact remains that consulting is in a bad shape in India.” However, Mr Ramu is bullish on the market to bounce back especially after the vaccination is made.
How to identify the consultant in you?
Ramu notices the trend of many young chefs’ sans experience entering the consulting business. “Before becoming a consultant, one has to decide if he/she wants to become a food consultant or project consultant. Because, being a chef, one will have to deal only with the food products. However, once you become a project consultant, you will have to deal with various aspects of the business, people from various socio-economical, an educational background which you should be prepared for”, he says further adding that for all his projects, he deals with investors, plumbers, doctors (in terms of wellness cuisines) architects, designers, kitchen equipment suppliers and more.
A chef can jump onto consulting business when he/she has a good network of people and you get many requests from the market. “In my case, after quitting my full time job, I started my own restaurant. It is not possible to have all my ideas in my outlet and thus, I started doing it on others’ projects. Despite my experience and skills, it took ages to build my reputation and get projects on hand”, he says.
Common mistakes chefs do while consulting:
Being an employed, one will have good culinary knowledge and one might easily gain people’s attention. However, after becoming a consultant, a chef should have knowledge on other aspect like kitchen structure, cold room, seating arrangement, placing of dishes, point-of-sale and at times even 3-D design software to see the final output. “As a chef, we do not notice many things around us. A good consultant will never say yes to whatever his client says. We have to do a detailed study of the market. What might be suitable in a highway restaurant might not be suitable in an outlet in market. An oven used in an industrial catering might not be suitable for take-away outlets. Thus, it is our [consultants’] duty to explain the merits and demerits”, he says further advises the budding consultants to maintain transparency with your investors even if they do not listen, it is our duty to explain the merits and demerits.
Suggestions for starters:
After becoming a consultant, one should look at the detailing. “For example, architects might look at placing a dish wash at their convenience. The placement of that dish-washer far away from the work area might kill the productivity of the kitchen brigade. Thus, one should get into as much as detailing from signing the agreement till handover”, he clarifies. According to him, consultants in western countries ensure that rules and regulations are followed stringently while it might not happen here. Consultants should keep their eyes and ears open to everything happening around them and keep themselves updated on terms of the newer culinary concepts, latest equipment, and most importantly should attend as many exhibitions, hospitality trade fairs and webinar on Kitchen, F B services as possible .
Mr. Ramu also advises ‘wanna-be’ consultants not to find short-cuts for quick money. When we grow the ladder, there might be many avenues that lure you in terms of commission or gifts. The consultants should first be true to their profession and then to themselves. When someone is investing their hard-earned money in us with trust, it is our duty to do justice for that. “It is easy to misguide them being loyal to one supplier or equipment vendor. However, one has to remember that a reputation for a consultant is what virginity for humans. Once lost can never be gained back even if you are true”, he concludes.