New tools are available for chefs to present their dishes, so that they look as good as they taste, says hotelier Arjun Abbi
Once an ambiguous manufacturer and exporter of stainless steel tableware products for international metal ware brands, Skyra has become the latest style in banquets and catering. The company has ignited the market with trend-setting snack service, food presentation, live cooking and warming stations. It has made the dull segment of buffet, suddenly very exciting. So what is the next big step for this New Delhi based disruptor? Skyra Professional is betting huge on the tableware market in the Indian hospitality sector. The company recently invested millions of dollars to upgrade their manufacturing facility in Faridabad, Haryana. They are using proprietary NASA space shuttle coatings on their chafing dishes to improve its durability and life. For 2015, they have prepared an exhaustive line of induction cooking and serving pans, mini tapas-style small wares, revolutionary vertical buffet setups, cordless food warming systems and other innovative dishes that will completely shake down the foodservice industry. Right from breakfast buffet to fusion fine-dining, the industry needs to carefully observe new product trends.
F&B service in India is in a confused place. Indian cuisine has a very strong identity. It is prepared in its own unique way, using traditional ingredients and techniques. Even other cuisines such as Chinese or Continental are tweaked ‘Indian style’ with some desi innovations. It is only natural that we Indians require food to be cooked to our preferred flavour and temperature, even if it may be served differently elsewhere. Now the confusion sets in when Indian hotels and restaurants attempt to use products from European and American brands for their food service. It doesn’t quite work. For example, westerners eat a lot of their starters chilled or at room temperatures. They do not have the habit of being served snacks and generally walk over to pick them up from the cocktail tables. And the European tableware brands develop their products accordingly. They do not have warm food display and snack servers in their portfolio. To create a snack server, a banquet will generally throw a bunch of table top items such as a toothpick holder, napkin holder, name tag holder, platter etc. on top of a tray and serve. In New Delhi area, something like this is called a ‘jugaard’. Trying hard to connect arbitrary items and organise a temporary solution. It is awkward and really not professional. It has too many moving parts and just does not come together like the favours of their food that is being served within. It does no justice to the delicacy of Indian cuisine and has no identity.
Skyra Professional Tableware has aligned with a number of F&B industry experts in India. Their consultation panel includes hotel, restaurant and catering entrepreneurs, F&B directors and celebrity chefs. The experts work with the Skyra design team to identify issues in professional foodservice and ideate on suitable solutions. The spectrum of discussion is large, from retaining food at the right temperature and texture, to breaking the monotony of tables and commercial gastronome dishes. The panel address’s back house related issues of maintenance, stack ability, logistics and real third world problems such as electric consumption, generator loads, labour training and ease of setup. Local F&B requirements and challenges are different from Europe and the products need to be built accordingly. The Skyra design team then initiates a six-month innovation programme to develop new collections of products that can address the gaps identified. The designs are aligned for practicality in manufacturing by Skyra R&D Engineers and the prototypes are created accordingly. The F&B expert panel reviews these initial models and suggests tuning in various ways. The process continues through the year until final versions are developed annually in December. The team prepares for large-scale manufacturing and launches the items with in-stock availability at the AAHAR Show each year.
While the practices to design products based on industry issues is good, Skyra’s greatest achievement has been in creating world-class manufacturing processes and techniques. Skyra’s core business since the last 55 years has been in production of tableware items for major brands overseas. These brands have worked with Skyra for over five decades to improve technology and systems by transferring knowledge of the latest in stainless steel manufacturing and hand-holding the company to new heights. They do this so that Skyra can build world-class products for them. The partnerships have been very strong and it has enabled Skyra to have the best international understanding of high-quality manufacturing. For 2015, Skyra has incorporated state-of-art laser fabrication systems and PVD Coating technology, a finishing technology that has originally been invented by NASA for use on their spaceship reflective panels. Skyra is able to leverage these advantages in its own brand and create high-quality innovative products that are designed according to Indian cuisine and Indian behaviour.
The Indian F&B sector is in need of products that meet the requirements of local challenges that are unique to India. It is a fact that sometimes our banquet hall generator sets cannot take the load of over 50 induction heaters together, or that our labour does not have the necessary education to handle complex modular equipment. We cannot always make do with items that are designed for western countries and we require innovations that meet our needs. Skyra Professional tableware has created such products that address our issues and they have used the necessary manufacturing technology to make its quality world-class. Whether it is a bistro, bar or lounge, that is serving Indian, Chinese, Continental or multi-cuisine, Skyra Professional Tableware can meet their service requirements with style.
The author is a hotelier, restaurateur and caterer. He owns and operates the Holiday Inn Jaipur and Vikram Hotel Group, 24hr Lounge and Cafe 1440, QSR outlet Wokstar and Catering service Asian Haus