Learn It On The Job

Posted on Front of House Dec 2008 - by Tandoori Magazine
Learn It On The Job

Rahul Kulkarni, manager of Indian Zing, tells Tandoori how there is no comparison to learning work skills on the job .

Progressing on from being a waiter to becoming a manager isn’t exactly a new story in the restaurant sector. It happens every day in the business. But it also takes a tremendous amount of hard work and to get things right in order for your boss to be impressed enough and entrust you with that responsibility.

As the manager of Indian Zing in London’s Hammersmith, Rahul Kulkarni was given that very promotion by his superior, chef-proprietor Manoj Vasaikar and now seems confident and very much at ease in his post.


“The first thing you have to bear in mind from being a waiter to being a manager,” says Kulkarni, “is that you have to assume responsibility for everything that happens, good or bad. It all weighs in on your shoulders because you are involved in all elements, whether it’s the kitchen and the food being prepared there, to how it’s presented, served and how customers are reacting and also whether they are being satisfied. The latter element is fundamental to what I do. If the customer is happy then that enhances the restaurant’s reputation.”


Of course, Kulkarni’s job doesn’t just end there.


“There is a level of unpredictability about it,” which he says is the most challenging aspect to his work. “This is specially true when for instance, we are short staffed and I have to roll up my sleeves and muck in as it were. This can also happen with new staff that we may have taken on trained, but who still find it hard to get used to what they are doing. I am very lucky though because I get a lot of support from Manoj.”


As is the case with any manager, one has to sometimes walk a tightrope between pleasing all the staff – currently Kulkarni oversees up to eight – to ensuring what’s best for the restaurant’s day to day operations.


“Some of the waiters who work at Indian Zing are students and they require time off here and there so I try and be as understanding as I can,” he notes. “But the other side of the coin is that I have to ensure that the restaurant runs smoothly. In the end, we all have to adjust.”


Born in Poona, in the state of Maharashtra, Kulkarni followed a hotel management course by coming to London to do a post-graduate course, where upon he ended up at Indian Zing in a waiter’s post, part-time.


“It was always my intention,” he states, “to work in some sort of managerial role in a restaurant or hotel. Being front of house is my strongpoint because I love communicating with people. I also like the fact that I have a level of know-how and position to be able to make a difference. A manager should his best to make a restaurant look and feel good. This comes from research and passion, and can include anything from what cutlery you are using to the trends and products which are available that you can use to the restaurant’s advantage.”


The key advice though that Kulkarni gives though, is that learning skills while being on the job is very important.


“When you are studying, you are a little cocooned from reality. It isn’t really till you are on the job that you gain a level of maturity and understanding of the workings of a restaurant. You are very much in the thick of it, learning things as you go along, being aware of what your priorities are and gaining valuable experience. So it’s best to learn all the core elements of how both the kitchen and the front of house operations work. ”

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