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‘Right marketing can develop effective brand positioning’ : Chef Mahesh Padala, Cluster Director of Food and Beverage, Sheraton Hyderabad Hotel, Gachibowli

Asmita Mukherjee | Hyderabad

Chef Mahesh Padala, Cluster Director of Food and Beverage, Sheraton Hyderabad Hotel, Gachibowli believes that a brand should stick to its signatures rather than offering everything on the consumer’s plate. In a free-wheeling conversation with Asmita Mukherjee at the Sheraton Hyderabad Gachibowli hotel, award-winning Chef Padala shared a competitive scenario of the Hyderabad F&B scene and how the hotel is standing apart with its limited but signature offerings.

Being a Chef, Padala gives a lot of importance to consistency, as according to him in this competitive age, consistency is the key. He also believes that not only consistency but both service and quality are equally important. He said, “Being a chef has helped me a lot to transform into the Cluster Director of F&B role. As a chef, most of the time we only focus on bringing the cuisines to our patron’s plate and the focus totally goes into taste presentation and service whereas while being a Cluster Director of F&B the role has demanded me to bring innovation to the plate. But we also have to keep in mind the positioning of the brand so that innovations are in line with the brand messaging. It is imperative not to dilute the positioning of the brand and its offerings while maintaining pace with market trends.”

Chef Padala, who is known for his disruptive innovations in the F&B scene added that in marketing, telling stories about products is necessary these days, which sometimes gets neglected by a chef. “We keep on thinking and churning about the marketing pathway however our focus is more on social media now as it helps us to reach our target customers, and gain valuable insights. However, one has to be very careful about what they are projecting on social media as these days if people don’t see the same thing on their plate as it’s shown in the digital medium they lose interest and trust in the brand which can cause a boomerang for the brand. So visual impact is extremely important when it comes to F&B marketing,” he added.

Padala believes that marketing the right product is extremely important. With the mushrooming of various specialty cuisine focused restaurants the market is getting more competitive day by day. Padala believes that one should be selective with offerings rather than offering everything at once. “For instance, Zega, which is our Pan-Asian restaurant, has only certain signature dishes, whereas Pan-Asian cuisine is an ocean,with so much to offer, such as Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Malaysian, Vietnamese etc. We can not offer or master everything. However, we as an F&B brand only focus on our signature dishes and want to be the best in that so that our patrons keep coming to taste their favourites. We keep on doing pop-up events of various food festivals. We also host a lot of expat chefs to keep it more authentic. In my opinion one has to be focused while offering and positioning the right product is also equally important. Being a star hotel we always make sure that we make and project our category as premium. As Zega is known for its premiumity, we make sure that along with our premium wine, and whiskey offerings, we offer exclusives such as Toki, which is a blended Japanese Whisky, and Roku Gin which is also from Japan. These are actually relevant to my restaurants and is perfect with the food pairing.”

Speaking about the different concepts that the hotel has planned to launch, Padala stated that they have plans to bring ex-pat Chefs to Zega. “We are planning to bring a Chef from Malaysia for one of our pop-up events. We also have plans to bring Chefs from Sri Lanka, Thailand, and Singapore. For Feast, which is our all-day dining restaurant and promotes a lot of regional food, one of the key aspects that we planned is to showcase Home Cooked Food. We also planned a contest named Indian Culinary Treasures. We had a hunt for 8 home chefs from different cities. This is a concept which we want to continue for the rest of the year. We will make sure that in a month there is availability of Home Cooked Food in the restaurant for 20 days .”

Padala informed that as a five-star hotel, they have seen a lot of demand for home-cooked food from travelers. “Especially from corporates, who visit the city for work and want to have something which is light on the stomach and easily digestible and equally comforting. As their length of stay with the hotel is also quite long so the demand that we have been seeing made us introduce comfort food. We are bringing eight home cooks from eight different cuisines and eight different regions under one roof through the Indian Culinary Treasures Hunt. We are including Bengali, Punjabi, Hyderabadi, Telangana, South Karnataka, Karimnagar, etc. cuisines in our menu. They are going to showcase their regional cuisines at their own stall for 10 days in February from 7th February to 16th February. ”

While speaking about talent Chef Padala said that nowadays people are mostly looking for money and running behind it. “These days it is required to be the best at what you do. Skill is something that doesn’t go away with time but rather gets better.”

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