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Customising hotel services to local tastes

CAN you imagine finding a hotel in China managed by Zambians that does not serve any Chinese food but only Zambian foods?  
It is different if you are just running a restaurant and decide to offer only Zambian food, targeted for Zambians in that area.
From the advertising or signage, one would know that it is a Zambian restaurant and only customers looking for Zambian food would patronise the restaurant.
In Zambia, for instance, we have Chinese restaurants, Italian restaurants, Greek restaurants, Indian restaurants and many others.
But when it comes to hotels and lodges, unless you are just targeting a particular nationality, if you are serious about attracting clientele and making profits, you need to consider as diverse a menu as possible.
I encountered some frustration in Southern Province the other week when I went for work.
I lodged into a very clean Chinese hotel, with spacious rooms and very friendly staff.
I learnt within minutes of arriving, at the hotel that one of the local chiefs had shares in the hotel and I immediately started salivating for Tonga delicacies.
My first shock, in the room, was the remote control for the air conditioner which was labelled in Chinese.
I had to use guess work to operate it and trial and error by pressing all buttons one after the other.
The air conditioner, however, kept going off every 30 minutes and when I called one of the hotel staff to help, she too was not sure which button was for what.
One would have hoped that if the remote was in Chinese, staff would be trained to understand it.
After the experience with the air conditioner, I turned on the television set as I was anxious to hear what was happening back in Lusaka and in the rest of Zambia.
Again most of the channels had Chinese programmes using languages I could not understand and without even any subtitles.
I did find one African news channel for a Kenyan station and one or two international news channels.
Then came time for me to order a meal. I was exhausted and had not had a proper meal the whole day and I was so looking forward to buhobe (thick mealie meal porridge) with tapi (bream).
When I checked the menu and also made an enquiry, I was told plainly that the hotel did not offer Zambian food.
The menu had nothing except Chinese food.
I do enjoy some of the Chinese foods and I must say the Chinese are great cooks, but I was certainly not in the mood for Chinese food.
Efforts to convince them to prepare for me a specific meal, on request, failed and in the end I had to go outside the hotel to a restaurant that was offering buhobe with tapi.
The next day, I decided to sample the Chinese food for lunch.
I ordered some fried rice with boneless chicken and quite enjoyed it but was not surprised that I was the only guest in the restaurant.
To some degree, being in the restaurant and in most parts of the hotel, made me feel like I was in China.
Even the piped music played in the restaurant was in Chinese.
I wondered if the authorities knew that some of the signs and information in the hotel was not helpful for non-Chinese guests!
How could the chief, who was the local partner, have failed to advise his partners appropriately?
My memory went back to the days when five and four-star hotels, in Zambia, only served western and oriental food.
Today, leading hotels have buhobe, shombo (cassava leaves) and mungolongwa (vegetables with peanut sauce) on their menus.
It is just a matter of time before this Chinese facility includes utumintesa (small dried fish) on their menu.
It is important to customise your services to the geographical area where you operate.
When you go to Rome, do as the Romans do.