Food & Beverage Manager, Novotel Warszawa Centrum (Poland)

Aleksandra Źrałka

Aleksandra Źrałka's story

Hospitality has changed a lot since I joined 13 years ago. Then, in Poland, people largely ate at home, spending time with their families, and they didn’t like to go out much. Now, people not only like to go out with friends but they care much more about what they eat.

They are more focused on healthy food; they want to know what is on the plate and they want more choice. It is not about how big the portion is but how it looks, how they feel in the restaurant – they want to feel at home in nice surroundings and with warm people taking care of them.

I have a passion for Italian food and good wine and because we change our dishes regularly in consultation with the executive chef, so I have the opportunity to apply my passion to the menu. I am always trying to evolve the food. The head waiter is also involved in decisions because they are talking to guests and know what they like and expect.

I also like my team to be involved in the creation and development of the menu. We have gift vouchers for the team because I want them to go to other restaurants to look for inspiration, here and when they are abroad.

We have an Accor standard to maintain but we can still be creative on the plate and have a winter or spring menu. When guests are travelling, they want to see some of the same dishes, regardless of where they are; that covers about 30% of the menu, and they look for a consistent standard as well.

We have some traditional Polish food on our menu and guests are curious about that and want to know what is typically Polish. And, we have drinks from our region, including wines from the vineyard in Warsaw and people are interested because they are used to Italian or Spanish wine; they want to try it, it’s not only about the food.

Three years ago, I was in Bari, Italy, buying. I’m vegetarian and I had pasta pomodoro, pasta with tomato sauce; it is simple but made in a specific way. It was delicious – you need good ingredients and to know how to cook them but a good meal doesn’t have to be expensive.

If you are new in hospitality, you need to play with it. It’s really hard work but you need to feel it, to know what the guests want, so that after a day’s work, you can go home thinking, I did my best, I made a lot of guests happy. They need to know they are special; they may be missing home but they want to feel at home. After a couple of days when somebody is new in the hotel, you can see whether they are feeling this energy.

Now, we are sad because in the culinary school, there was a waiter class for a few years and this year they cancelled it because there were not enough registrations. A couple of years ago, the position of waiter was important, as much as working in a bank or a shop, and now people think anyone can be a waiter because it’s not so complicated. But it is really hard work – we have good employees who are not just serving food but are taking care of every detail, so that people not only dinner or a drink but they also get something special.

If this is your first job, it will give you vitality and you will meet a lot of people. It’s not boring; every day is an adventure and you never know what to expect. You will feel contented by making other people’s lives better – especially after Covid and with the conflict in Ukraine, everyone is a bit down and people are looking for a chat and a smile from employees; to feel welcome.

If someone can feel that and improve other people’s lives, they should join hospitality. It’s the same as giving a present, you feel better when you give a present than if you receive one.

  • Aleksandra Źrałka
  • Food & Beverage Manager
  • Novotel Warszawa Centrum (Poland)

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