Renan Astolpho is hotel manager at the Four Seasons Hotel Dubai International Financial Centre.
In 2018, Astolpho joined Four Seasons Resort Dubai at Jumeirah Beach, in the capacity of director of food and beverage. After two years spent on the sandy shores of Jumeirah, he made his move over to sister property Four Seasons Hotel DIFC, in the heart of the city.
Tell us a bit more about your journey; when and how did you arrive in the UAE?
I moved to Dubai from Osaka, Japan in 2018. After spending more than 10 years in London and several years in Asia, with postings in Bangkok, Shanghai, Bali and Osaka, I was really thrilled to have my first appointment in the Middle Eastern region, in one of the most vibrant, welcoming and exciting cities in the world.
Have you adapted your management style to this property and part of the world?
I wouldn’t necessarily think that I’ve had to adapt my management style when moving to Dubai. Although I believe the dynamics and essence of hospitality are universal, there are certainly a number of elements within service, product and overall expectation in this part of the word, which differ from other regions and destinations.
Thus, it’s more about learning, exploring and diving deep into the local culture in order to maximise your ability to quickly understand what is more relevant in the respective destination.
Dubai is very fast paced and it’s crucial to focus on the right priorities and maximise efficiency.
What makes this hotel different from others in the UAE and region?Four Seasons Hotel DIFC is a very special and unique property, strategically located in the heart of the city. A magnificent boutique hotel which as we say, gives you a sense of a very high-end private club, with unparalleled views and Dubai’s hottest dining destinations right on your doorstep.
What major challenges have you faced in the wake of Covid-19?
If I were to express the impact of Covid-19 on hospitality with one word it would be ‘uncertainty’. It has been heart-breaking to see dear friends and so many colleagues and professionals losing their jobs around the world; most dare to read the news on a daily basis and see the number of families and their loved ones directly impacted…absolutely unprecedented and devastating.
From a business perspective, the uncertainty we have faced from the very beginning and throughout the past eight months has probably been the biggest challenge we have faced.
What’s the importance of reviews and social media feedback, and how much of it do you take on board?
Feedback is crucial to any business and in hospitality; we’re fortunate to have plenty of channels that allow us to hear our guests from other perspectives. I believe in connecting with people and, although we always strive to get close to our guests, for different reasons we will not necessarily be able to gather all feedback possible.
Social media and our own guest voice surveys are instrumental tools for our continuous commitment to excellence, be it for learning opportunities of improvement or often recognising our team for their remarkable work.
How do you keep your team motivated?
It starts with building a team with passion, only true hoteliers who are passionate for outstanding service and product can stay motivated with the level of expectation the top tier of luxury hotels demand.
We’re very fortunate in Four Seasons to be able to attract the best and most motivated talent in the market; by applying our Golden Rule and the strong culture and values of the group, it naturally results in maintaining good morale.
What systems do you have in place for resolving guest complaints?
We create an environment of openness where our colleagues are always anticipating guests’ needs and paying attention to possible shortfalls. Although we strive for perfection, we’re not perfect, and mistakes do happen as well as technical challenges.
Empowerment plays a critical role to allow the team to resolve complaints promptly and, not only recover the glitches, but also resolve the root cause and ensure improvement moving forward.
What would you like to tell visitors about the hotel’s restaurants, cafés and bars?
Food and beverage is about holistic experiences…a very dynamic business, and just one drink at the bar or a snack through in-room dining relies on several elements to come together.
At Four Seasons Hotel DIFC, our outlets have the full package, outstanding design and physical products, exceptional ambience, top-notch food and drinks…and the most important of all, the people. The care and attention of our team is what makes the whole experience unique.
How has your strategy shifted over the past few years?
Our strategy is to continuously evolve. Never rest and constantly look for new products and ways to provide excellent experiences. We have a very strong reputation, and it takes a lot of hard work to maintain it.
As the years pass by, we also start to get new generations of guests and it’s important to stay relevant, without compromising our historic essence of pioneering hospitality experiences.
What are some of the strangest situations you have faced during the past few months?
We’re used to creating experiences by being close to people, not only guests but all of our stakeholders. Wearing masks and keeping physical distance has certainly felt strange to us, particularly in the first couple of months of the “new normal” …but we had to adapt, and the show must carry on!
Looking forward to the days when we can remove the masks and get even closer to each other again, in group gatherings, internal team building, social events, etc.