6. Is it easy to find good talent for this industry? What is the entry level?
It is never easy. Leaders are made, not born. But some leaders are just better at it. Some are direct, some are introvert, some no-nonsense and so on. Leaders need nurturing, give them chance to explore, sculpt and grow them into the mould. Nonetheless, it is still hard to make them stay. When they become more valuable, they sometime poached by international hotel. Some open their own establishments but i always keep in touch with them. Give them morale support wherever i can. But hey, as long they make better living, happy and keep working hard, I am happy! J
Entry level usually service waiter or kitchen steward or commis cook. Everyone has to start somewhere. You know in Japan, a person can only be promoted only when he had gone through the entry level or basic work. Then he knows and can become better leader.
7. What has to be done to increase employability and career advancement in this industry?
Passion and interest. There are a number of associations around now such as sommelier association where they can join and participate in the activities. It creates bond, increase knowledge and widen their network. Besides, joining this type of organization is good for career prospect. In this industry, you need people to talk about you and know your expertise.
On personal basis, i do a lot of talks for universities, colleges and hotel schools. I gave small classes to my own staffs and occasionally to people in the industry. Honestly, we need more talent. A lot of hotel school graduates end up joining other field than stay on. Some of them said this industry is hard labour and not suitable for them. Some says the working hours are too long. During their practical training, usually they see all these and get cracked by some dysfunctional dudes. Worse they don’t get paid and that reinforce their belief what they see and hear. But if they change the way they see the job as a learning process and find meaningful reason for doing the tasks, they will find the same industry and work in different light. They will love it.
On the other hand, other important development such as training, sharing and also incentives are important to motivate people. We got to think like an economist sometimes. There is supply and demand. Incentives always drive people more. I want people with skills and they are hard to come by. They are special people. So when I spot them young, i will spend more time and create more incentives and reward them handsomely. They feel appreciated and work harder. after a while they surprise themselves to see how much they have progress over the years. I had gone through that experience, it certainly feels great!
8. Who is your role model?
I have a number of them but unfortunately none come from my own industry. As a businessman, my role model is Prophet Muhammad. When it comes to philosophy I have Khalil Gibran. His ideas are mind blowing. Then when i feel revolutionary and want to squeeze some creative juices, I read Napoleon Bonaparte, Christopher Columbus and Albert Einstein.
For example Einstein once said, “knowledge is power” and i believe in that. I remember when i was in Hong Kong many years ago, everyone has a laptop but it was not known in Malaysia back then. So when I came back i bought one and everyone was telling i was wasting time and technology is a fad. To make matters worse I didn’t know much about technology , so i got to learn the hard way on how to operate a laptop. Now, I am happy for that embedded curiosity i posses.
9. What are the Key Success Factors (KSFs) to be successful in this industry?
Firstly, attitude. When you are new, don’t give bad attitude because that will put off your bosses. When new, you need to work hard (brawn), learn a lot of skills and knowledge. You got to put the hours and labour because you are new. Quantity got to be there. You got to fill yourself up to a level you can do what your boss can do. The more competent and more skills, the more valuable you become. This cannot be achieved overnight and one must always hungry for new knowledge and skills. Besides, you got to give it time too.
Secondly, perseverance. When positive attitude makes you want to do it, executing it consistently every time you do it give an edge. Your colleagues and guests wow when they see you in action. In service it is all about delivery. Customers have been somewhere else, and what makes you so different? It is in the delivery and every each of us delivers the same service differently. It relates with our own personal experiences, knowledge and skills. When you have reached certain level, you need to ask yourself how to become par excellence? You need the brain to think about it. be creative only when you already know the ground rules. Then you try to work around those boundaries.
Thirdly, human skill. What is service without human skill? With human skill you can connect to your customers and people around you both emotionally and physically. That connection is important in your daily interaction because people will remember you for the impression that you give them. You see, in this industry you can only “bull” and lie for limited time period only. After you reach certain level, you need to be comfortable talking facts and at the same time not to be arrogant about it. People know. For example about wine or recipes, you can make one or two dramas but when you are caught, what you build the last many years gone in thin air. So be careful. Only when you have all these good traits you can become like me! J
There were a number of occasions where VVIPs or the royalties know you by name and introduce you to their friends, that feeling is out of the world!
10. What is your next milestone?
I want to do another revolution. That is going to be revolution in Malaysia service hospitality style. You see, when it comes to service people only refer to Bali or Thailand. Malaysian only in third or fourth placing, sometimes forgotten! I take responsibility and i will make sure of this. The Malaysian service will never be the same again in my next milestone. Watch me.
11. Can you share the latest trend/update in the F&B scene the last 3 years?
The F&B scene nowadays are far more exciting than it used to be. Product growth is double digit percentage and creativity juice is rushing in streams. You can see it in the menu, recipes, drinks, offerings and service too. Recent trend is mixology and molecular gastronomique. Service style also evolving coupled with a lot more concept restaurant. There is a lot of thinking behind all these new trends. It comes in design, architecture, recipes, interior and service style. we got to pick it up fast. Innovation is the word.
12. How to capitalize on it this growth?
Well, at Westin we have been the trend setter. We name our cocktails differently and thematic style. People follow them. Besides, we also invest a lot in our mixologist and making it a club concept. We promote it and we got a lot of feedbacks from our guests that they love it. For example at Prego its a fine dining restaurant but try to come on Sunday, we have brunch. We make it fun and relax. We use conceptual tools to capture people’s attention and interest to trying. We make change as part of our daily routine, so its fun and we are more resilient. Ultimately, all these have to contribute to increased in bottomline, where how we are measured.