Attract locals to your restaurant & travelers will be delighted: Accor’s Amir Nahai [Video]

by | Mar 10, 2019 | Experts

Stop focusing only on the traveler. Run great restaurants & bars to attract locals and hotel guests, Accor’s A. Nahai tells TOPHOTELNEWS in an exclusive interview.

As the AccorHotels group CEO for Food & Beverage and Lifestyle Brands, Amir Nahai oversees an empire of 10,000 bars and restaurants which employ some 80,000 people around the world.

F&B is one of Accor’s core pillars, generating about 5 billion euros ($5.65 billion) in business volume.

On the sidelines of TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR London at the top-notch Nobu Hotel Shoreditch on Feb 7, 2019, Nahai spoke exclusively to TOPHOTELNEWS about one of Accor’s core missions to be known as the best restaurateurs in the world.

On Accor’s philosophy behind “hotel F&B”

Nahai: The most important thing and actually one of the first things that I did when I came to Accor about three and a half years ago, is to stop using the word “hotel restaurant”. We don’t have hotel restaurants, we don’t have hotel bars, I don’t have lobby bars. I have great bars and restaurants. And I think that’s the key pivot, the key transformation that we’ve made.

The journey that we’re on is to stop talking about hotel restaurants and saying: Guys, we’re opening a great bar or a great restaurant and that’s it. And we will succeed if we are able to attract local guests, people from around the hotel.

Stop focusing on the traveler. If I can bring locals into my hotels then I guarantee you all the travelers will be delighted. So, I think the biggest difficulty, the biggest challenge historically has been to think about it as a hotel restaurant. To think that somehow it is different or special and it’s not. And once you make that pivot I think you can open up yourselves to lots more opportunities, lots more success. Frankly, lots more happiness for your guest.

Facts and figures of the Accor F&B empire

Nahai: Food and beverage is about 30% percent of our total revenue. So, we’ve got about 5 billion euros ($5.65 billion) in business volume. We have 80,000 women and men who work in food and beverage and I’ve got over 10,000 bars and restaurants. So, in addition to being a hotel company, we really view ourselves as restaurateurs. And we view it as one of our core pillars, core missions to be known as the best restaurateurs in the world.

What was your nicest, most positive hotel experience?

Nahai: It’s hard for me to think about the nicest but maybe one that impacted me personally in my life the most is. When I was in my early twenties in a previous career. I was fortunate to spend a long time at the Four Seasons in Bangkok for work. At the time it was The Regent, Bangkok. And we were on a very difficult project.

We weren’t sleeping a lot, we were working all the time with a tough client. And so we’d often be grumpy, and gosh the team at this hotel did an incredible job. And when we would get grumpy they would do everything they could to appease us. Even if we were totally being unreasonable, unfair and just sometimes not all that nice. And I remember the GM at the time a guy called John Fleming would also you know he got to know me, got to know what I liked in town. And he would personally take me to markets etc. to make sure that we had a moment of respite.

Lessons learned & key takeaways for the hospitality industry

Nahai: This taught me patience. I would often use this experience in my job to say we need to learn from hoteliers and how they’re able to absorb a lot of the stresses from the guests that come in. And make them feel more relaxed, make them feel more happy. I think that approach, the ability to do that is essential for anyone in the service industry. So that’s kind of a little anecdote that was impactful on my life for me personally.

It’s also why I’m so proud that at Accor, we have an internal program about basically how to behave, about our philosophy for team members called Heartist. And Heartist is all about kind of balancing this emotion that comes from the heart with the more technical skills that hoteliers focus a lot on. And so I think giving equal importance to heart and art is incredibly important and again something that impacted me early on.

Thoughts on the TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR

Nahai: Yeah, absolutely I’d recommend it. I think: great conference. Always good to connect with people that maybe we don’t see all that often. Lovely venue and great restaurant.

Amir Nahai was a delegate at TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR London. To attend future TOPHOTELWORLDTOUR events around the world, contact TOPHOTELPROJECTS’ Head of Global Events & Conferences Kayley van der Velde.

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