Hotel hospitality in India – when five hotel workers get involved to cut open your coconut and get you coconut meat

During our last trip to India in June-July 2018, I had fond memories of how amazing the service was at the hotels. At the Jaipur Holiday Inn, which is not even a luxury hotel, they were so eager to please that when I asked for a fork, knife, and plate to cut some mangoes and lychees I’d purchased, and I said I wanted to cut them, the person at the front desk insisted that someone from the kitchen cut the fruit up for me and would have it sent to my room. I still think about that experience all the time and think, WOW, now THAT is service!

At the Kochi Lulu Marriott Hotel, where we have stayed while in Kerala, the hotel staff have also been quite attentive, especially at the daily breakfast buffet. There has been a cart where a staff member makes fresh filtered coffee and pulled (yes, REALLY pulled like on the street!) masala chai; another cart where pancakes and waffles are made to order; an entire station in the back where fresh parathas, uttapams, dosas, and pooris are being churned out to order, plus a fresh squeezed and blended fruit juice station. All of this is on top of all the other stations covering fruit, western food (ugh), endless north and south Indian specialties like kadala curry, fish curry, khichdi, puttu, idlis, and a large variety of sambars and chutneys. We asked the manager about what variety of cut mangoes were at the fruit station, and they insisted on having the chef send out a full plate of cut and skinned mangoes — two types every morning: neelam and himsagar — delicious, meaty, floral, perfumey, and super rich in flavor. We were in mango heaven and were completely spoiled.

One last thing that happened that stayed with me there: at the juice station, you also have fresh coconut water as an option. Usually, the juicer will cut the coconut and pour the water out for you fresh, but one morning, I asked for the whole coconut. I was obliged, but on the next day when I asked for the same thing, he told me that management said guests could no longer get the whole coconut at their table. I was okay with that, but I followed up by asking him if he could help cut out the coconut fresh for me after pouring the juice. He immediately smiled and said yes, then proceeded to try to use the same knife to cut the coconut in half. Unfortunately, the knife was too dull. He then called over a colleague to see if he could maneuver the knife better for him — still no luck. Then, as if that was not enough, a third person came over with a sharper knife, but the three of them STILL could not get the coconut open. Finally, the juice guy told me that they’d have to take the coconut to the back kitchen to get cut with a sharper knife, and he’d have the coconut flesh sent to my table. I was a bit worried; I didn’t want anyone getting injured or having a finger or two cut off just to get me my requested coconut meat.

Some time had passed; still no coconut flesh for me. So I asked the hotel manager if he could check to see if the coconut meat was still coming since we had to get on with our day. He came back a few minutes later with my cup of coconut meat. I took one bite — it was absolutely delicious — sweet, refreshing, meaty. I took another bite and felt a little bad that the hotel had gone to such great lengths to get this small cup of coconut meat for me, but I realized that well, they believe and know that they are in the hospitality industry for a reason: that is to serve customers and make them happy. And so for them, they’re just doing their job. I tipped the juice guy and gave him profuse thanks for his efforts. At that point, I was quite full from a full on Indian breakfast, so I brought the coconut meat back to our room and placed it in the fridge to enjoy after we got back at the end of the day.

The next thought I had was: as IF something like this would EVER happen back in the U.S.! They’d immediately say no, then expect a tip for doing very little. The people who work in the hospitality industry in India take true pride in their work and making customers happy. While I think that is likely what the average hospitality worker likes to think they think in the U.S., the level of effort and dedication can definitely not be matched to the high level I’ve personally witnessed in Asia. There is, frankly, a level of integrity here in hospitality that just doesn’t exist in the U.S.

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