“Silly” Brexit puts British F&B industry in dilemma: Cyrus Todiwala [Video]

by | Mar 17, 2019 | Experts

C. Todiwala spoke exclusively to TOPHOTELNEWS about Brexit’s impact on British F&B, his take on improving hotel F&B, and why he thinks Indian customers are the most difficult in the world.

As a master chef, Cyrus Todiwala is as decorated as they come. As a person, he is outspoken and colourful.

Born and raised in Mumbai, India, Todiwala was the Corporate Executive Chef of the famous Taj Groups when he left India and in 1995 opened Café Spice Namasté in London’s Whitechapel with his wife Pervin.

The rest is history. The New York Times food writer Mark Bittman called it his favourite “no fuss” Indian restaurant in London. Café Spice Namasté is also the longest holder of the coveted Bib Gourmand standard in the Michelin Guide at 23 years and counting.

Todiwala was appointed Deputy Lieutenant for Greater London by HM the Queen in 2009, the first chef to be so honoured. A year later he was awarded an Order of the British Empire (OBE) for services to the hospitality Industry.

In 2011, Todiwala used his experience and reputation to launch Mr Todiwala’s Kitchen in west London. A second Mr Todiwala’s Kitchen is now open and located at the stunning new Lincoln Plaza London in Canary Wharf.

On the sidelines of TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR London at the Nobu Hotel Shoreditch on Feb 7, 2019, Todiwala spoke exclusively to TOPHOTELNEWS about Brexit’s impact on British F&B, his take on hotel F&B, and why he thinks Indian customers are the most difficult in the world.

Silly Brexit puts British F&B industry in dilemma

Todiwala: We need to really resolve the British problem with manpower today. The fear psychosis is already going in. Lots of Europeans are going back. It has already made it worse, it’s going to become worse.

70% of our industry depends on European and foreign labor. I don’t think we can be prepared for it. We will have to just wait and see what happens, and whether the right decisions are made. We hope foreigners working in our country are given the confidence that they can stay, they can work, they can enjoy the benefits; and they will still be treated the same way that they were treated before this silly Brexit ever happened.

But on the face of it, we are all feeling confident. Inwardly, everyone’s panicking, and everyone’s nervous, and everyone’s trying to think what’s going to happen. But you have no answer. You have got to take it as it comes, you have no solutions.

What will you do: will you recruit locally? Yes, we’d love to. But then, young, British, upcoming students coming out of industry are just not as keen. They’re not as motivated, not as focused. So they’re not career-driven. The industry’s in a dilemma.

Hotel F&B was treated as a step father. But that’s changing.

Todiwala: Hotels always love to have restaurants, but what happens is that the restaurant gets the last bit of love thrown into it, and that stands out. So a customer doesn’t want to go to a hotel restaurant because it’s typical. It’s planks of wood or it’s basic seating, and it does not have the feel of sitting in a convivial atmosphere, trying to enjoy a great meal. So people tend to move away from hotels.

Whereas where we come from in India, for example, going to hotels for dinner is actually a big thing. Whereas over here, food and beverage has never been the focal point for hotels. They see F&B as, yes, just putting a little bit of butter on the bread, and it’s always the step sister or step brother or stepfather.

This has lead to food outlets within, I would say, most of Europe even, perhaps, that they are not considered as a place to vie for or to go to. Things are changing today, big-name chefs are going into different hotels and satellite restaurants.

On why Indian customers are the most difficult in the world

Todiwala: If you can make an Indian customer happy, you can make anyone in the world happy. There’s no two ways about it.

This happened in India: I worked 15 years with the Taj Group of hotels. I was corporate executive chef. My biggest problems were my Indian customers there. My biggest problems today are my Indian customers. And that shall never cease, because, I think, when most Indians go out they think they have a right of a certain sort which I cannot fathom or understand. And yes, it’s not going to change; that belief doesn’t change.

Mr Todiwala’s gratitude diaries & team philosophy

Todiwala: I think the British public, by far, are the best in recognizing effort, energy, talent, skill, and the individual itself. I’m here because I made a point of who I am, where I come from, and what I stand for. I think it’s been a fabulous journey. If I ever get an opportunity to write an autobiography for chance, I think the story will be out there.

How interesting it has been. There are challenges now, challenges, of course, have been; but I think it’s been an amazing journey as far as I’m concerned. It’s hard work, it’s hard work. It’s passion, it’s compassion and passion both, it’s your team, and how good they are.

You can only be as good as the people that work with you. You are nobody in this world at all; you are nobody, and if I didn’t have a great wife to back me up and a great team to back me up, I wouldn’t be able to achieve what I’ve achieved. Simple, it’s just simple.


Todiwala: Yes, I think it’s a great event. I think this kind of networking works, and it’s controlled. So it’s controlled in two ways: you get 10 minutes to have an informal chat, and then, the gong goes, and then it’s a discussion, and then it’s a topic.

And I think these kind of topics energize people, and you get to know what the other one is doing, and you want to know, yes, I could do that, I could do that. I think that is very interesting.

Cyrus Todiwala was a delegate at TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR London. To attend future TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR events around the world, contact TOPHOTELPROJECTS’ Head of Global Events & Conferences Kayley van der Velde.


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