Petrus Meintjes, director of F&B, Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar Resort looks at how you cannot fake a genuine love for hospitality…
I started writing this article somewhat frustrated with the status quo in the hospitality world, a world I have chosen to spend the majority of my days and nights. This world has built itself a false reality where people watching food shows see themselves as promising chefs and believe they have the right to tell a decorated chef how to produce a classic dish, just because they saw it on the internet or television.
Not because they read Larousse or one of Bocuses’ cooking books or because they’ve had years of extensive training. After being a chef for over 20 years, I often have people telling me that they are also chefs because they love to cook and religiously watch cooking shows.
Budding chefs and so called Trip Advisor gurus could perhaps appreciate that what is created in the kitchen and on the floor is a conviction to those involved, not a day-to-day chore.
The prospect of viral criticism means we’re always walking on thin ice, never knowing where the next comment will come from. Nevertheless, it also ensures we’re constantly striving for perfection to counter balance the wannabe Michelin star chefs.
It takes years to craft our trade to a level of acceptance within the luxury hotel sector, something we are all very proud of.
It is not just about the learning, but also the dedication, self-sacrifice and in simple terms, the absolute love of the job. And in today’s environment, finding a career that one loves is very difficult indeed.
When I interview there is one question I always ask because it was asked of me once, I got it wrong by the way, nonetheless when I was corrected a whole new world opened up to me. Who is the most important person in the hotel?
The answer is of course the guest. I always look for the right people for the job, not necessarily the most skilled or the most experienced, but people with the right attitude. People who naturally anticipate a guests’ needs, not because they are trained or drilled to do so, but because it is in their DNA.
Skills can be taught, and people trained but their core must be solid. Positivity, a willingness to learn and the understanding that we are all here for just one reason, to satisfy our guests, is paramount. As Richard Branson so famously once said; “If we take care of our employees they will take care of our guests”.
I believe, guests, especially in the luxury sector, are tired of the pretentious luxury environment, they want to feel understood and more than that, cared for.
The thing they can take home with them is the memories that they’ve created and will last a lifetime. Experiencing the “ahhh” moment, where someone understands what he or she is looking for, even before they know themselves.
Our guests are our livelihood so it’s important they are our number one consideration. Our chairman has a saying, which I strongly believe in, “Brands don’t build people, people build brands”. This is such a fundamental concept that is embraced by every team member here at Anantara Al Jabal Al Akhdar.
I love to see guests smile when they see my guys just having a good shift, genuine relationships forged though working together and new relationships forged through a genuine need to serve, and I say need not want for a reason.
In the 18 months since we opened, and we have managed to build an organisational culture of mutual goals, respect and an honest need to serve.
We have lifted many awards and our results speak for themselves. As my general manager keeps reminding us whenever we receive another accolade, “It’s all about the team”. The very real team we have built and nurture here on the Green Mountain, a place we all call home, our mountain home.