The “Porta Hotels” in Guatemala are known for their high standards. The traditional company wants to offer its guests better value for money in its in-house restaurants. In order to revise its offer and processes accordingly, the company contacted the SEC and asked for the support of an expert. Together with a baker from Davos, two hotels developed new recipes and optimised their production process.
With its consulting assignment, SEC supports SMEs and institutions that cannot find the required expertise on the local market or cannot finance it. In 2019, SEC started a project in Guatemala with the aim of setting up a local expert organisation: “SEC – Servicios Expertos de Consultoría”. SEC Guatemala arranges short-term consultancies for Guatemalan SMEs, which are conducted by (mainly) Guatemalan experts on a voluntary basis. In cases where the expertise sought cannot be found locally, SEC Guatemala cooperates with its partner from Switzerland.
In autumn 2022, the SEC in Zurich received such a request from Guatemala: the managers of the “Porta Hotels” inquired about a baker who could advise two of the hotels on the development of new recipes as well as the optimisation of the production processes.
The hotels “Hotel Antigua” and “Hotel Porta del Lago” belong to the company “Porta Hotels”, which comprises a total of six boutique hotels in Guatemala. The hotels are known for their high standards, both in terms of quality and social and environmental sustainability. Accordingly, the main objective of the two assignments was not to solve a problem, but to come up with new products and to analyse and optimise the existing processes. The experienced SEC expert Sepp Schärli was very motivated to use his knowledge for the first time for the SEC Guatemala. And the SEC was pleased, as it strives for so-called double assignments whenever possible: If we receive two requests from the same sector, we try to serve both clients with the same expert. The fact that we only need one flight reduces the economic and ecological costs for one assignment.
With restraint gaining trust and a better insight into the business
In both hotels, Sepp Schärli used the first days to get to know the team and to get an idea of the operations. There was some potential for improvement in the area of hygiene. For example, the hotel restaurant had a dishwasher, but since that was not big enough, the remaining dishes and cooking utensils were washed by hand. In addition, there was not always enough washing-up liquid available. The SEC expert was able to suggest improvements in both areas – a second dishwasher was even purchased within two days. Another change Sepp Schärli suggested was the installation of a water filter directly at the ice machine connection. This is important because otherwise the water from the tap is not of drinking water quality and can cause stomach problems for the guests.
The second important topic of the assignment was the revision of the recipes as well as the introduction of new products. Here, too, the ideas and feedback from the SEC expert met with enthusiasm: both hotels introduced brioche buns for their burgers. In addition, Sepp Schärli and the team revised the recipe for the chocolate mousse. From now on, French-style chocolate mousse was offered. This means that egg yolk, sugar and rum are now added to the recipe. Since the mousse enjoyed great popularity, Sepp Schärli and the team also developed recipes for mousse with various local fruits.
Looking back, Sepp Schärli is impressed by the professionalism of the businesses and the will of the management to implement his suggestions: “It is not given that new machines are purchased in a business within a few days.”
The client: “Porta Hotels”
The Guatemalan company “Porta Hotels” celebrates its 75th anniversary this year. The hotel chain comprises six luxurious boutique hotels in Guatemala. It attaches great importance to sustainability, and three of the hotels have been awarded by the Rainforest Alliance.
Ana Maria Herbruger, manager of the “Hotel Antigua”, greatly appreciated Sepp Schärli’s efforts. She says: “We were good, but today we are better. Because of this support we have better techniques and our employees have the opportunity to grow in the company.”
Questions for SEC expert Sepp Schärli
How do you rate the results achieved in general?
Very good. I was received in a very friendly way. People are very open to new things. Everything that is new is different. I was surprised how quickly new recipes were implemented and work processes structured.
What impressed you the most during this consultancy assignment?
The client’s recycling project. Exemplary, just like in Switzerland. Also the multiple daily cleaning of the kitchen and bakery production facilities.
What surprised you or what did not work as expected?
I was surprised how much the Guatemalans work: six days a week and over nine hours a day.
I was also surprised how quickly you can organise new machines in a developing country: Within three days, the company acquired a dishwasher, a kneading machine and mixers – just great!
What didn’t work so well: the handling of water. There was no practice of collecting or saving water.
Where did you come up against limits?
I never actually came up against any limits. I am very flexible, open and always have a plan B.