Çırağan Palace Kempinski Istanbul is the only Ottoman Imperial Palace & Hotel on the Bosphorus; a true landmark. Located on the European shores of the Bosphorus with 313 rooms scattered in the hotel building and the historical palace, it is a city center hotel with a resort ambiance with vast gardens and heated infinity pool open whole year, it is “the place to be” for prestigious social gatherings, weddings, and meetings.
Çırağan Palace Kempinski, recently having received the “Kempinski Best Food and Beverage Hotel 2013 Award” is also a flagship property when it comes to sharing Kempinski’s goal to become better known as a food and beverage driven company, a goal that brings the company back to its roots as restaurateurs, just like when it was founded in 1897.
Also the winner of “Kempinski Dessert of the Year 2012” with its delicious Bosphorale, the hotel has 4 restaurants all offering a balcony or a terrace overlooking Bosphorus, and 2 bars, which lie under Michael’s responsibility.
Michael’s experience goes back to an impressive number of years spent in the Hospitality Industry. He started his career as a Banquets & Conference Manager at the Grand Hyatt Berlin, Germany, moved to Dubai, Doha and back to the UAE, Abu Dhabi. He is an expert in regards to pre-openings and one of the few people with a great attention to detail. Michael has worked his way up the career ladder for well – known luxury brands such as Hyatt and Kempinski.
Here is the long awaited exclusive interview with Michael, where we wanted to find out what a man with his experience thinks about customer service today.
SE:”First of all I would like to thank you for your time today Michael, and the interest to share your thoughts on the hospitality industry, exclusively with Servicexcellence.
Before we start with the actual interview questions, Michael, please introduce yourself briefly to our followers and readers?”
Michael: ”As you had so nicely introduced me to your followers and readers, there is not much to say. Living abroad for the past 9 years from my home country Germany, I have very early understood that the hospitality industry is ‘my cup of tea’ and a very interesting and diverse profession. After some training, an apprenticeship as hotel expert and some years in hotels in Germany and Switzerland, I have moved in 2004 to Dubai then Doha and afterwards Abu Dhabi. Since August 2012 I have joined the Ciragan Palace Kempinski Istanbul as the Food & Beverage Director.”
SE: “How did you develop your passion for hospitality?”
Michael: “When travelling as a young kid with my parents. Hotels and Restaurants always were magic and I wanted to know how ‘It’ works. From where does the food come, how does the service work in restaurant and who is taking care of what task….! So a little later when thinking what my future could look like – the hospitality was my No1 choice! I developed the passion out of curiosity for sure!”
SE: “ What does “customer service” mean to you?”
Michael: “Customer service – the ability to deliver a service in terms of hardware, software as well as emotions that satisfy our guest. Difficult to explain but expandable in all directions and for this we first need to know ‘who is our customer!”
SE: “In what way does your role of a being a Director Food & Beverage influence “customer service”?”
Michael: “I believe in many. On one hand it is the right selection of equipment, the selection of the right quality of food and beverage items as well as small details that are part of a complete customer service such as maintenance, the temperature in our restaurants, the right choice of music, the mood, the setting and so on. But most important having the responsibility for the team, those colleagues who deliver the emotions on a daily basis. Understanding their needs, giving the tools to perform, creating a respectful work environment as well as building teams that are balanced. This to me is a key point to influence customer service.”
SE: “What is more important for a guest, the food or the service? Or is it both?”
Michael: “The importance varies – there are great places where everybody runs to see and be seen but the food and service are actually nothing special. And then there are great small restaurants that struggle but deliver great food and a very personalized service. I think this purely depends on the customer’s desire – that what makes our job so interesting isn’t it?”
SE: “What was the funniest or most bizarre situation you have come across in regards to “customer service” in a restaurant as being a guest yourself?”
Michael: “Unfortunately or lucky me – there are many occasions that I experienced bizarre situations as a guest and during my day to day business. In the end it goes mostly back to the fact that hotel staff is trained like robots and any attempt from a guest to go out of the norm is causing a step into this ‘grey’ area where you can differentiate the professional from the robot.”
SE: ”What is your favorite restaurant of Café in UAE, and why?”
Michael: “Being away from the UAE now for almost 1 year I can only talk about my past time favorites. I loved the Rib Room at Emirates Towers for their steaks. Lime Tree Café on Jumeirah Beach Road for a relaxed breakfast on a day off in Dubai – the place just feels right, has a humble service and great pastries and snacks.”
SE: “Where do you see “customer service” in UAE 5 in years from now?”
Michael: “I think it is already amazing what happened in Dubai & Abu Dhabi over the past years and to me it looks like the trend continues. As a destination it is easy accessible, great airports as well as two very well respected airlines with great customer service and most probably any F&B concept you can possibly think of.
What makes the UAE unique is that the service is super-multicultural and to me this has always made Dubai special as a guest and also to work, when I first moved there. Attracting talent from all over the world will continue as well as the addition of many new hotels, restaurants and service providers – a very promising 5 year outlook.”
SE: “Michael, once again I would like to thank you for your time and the interesting ideas about service and the industry. Servicexcellence wishes you all the best for your future success and we hope that our ways will cross each other again soon, somewhere between Dubai and Istanbul.”