When it comes to staying savvy in Bangkok Maitria Hotel Sukhumvit 18 – A Chatrium Collection certainly lives up to the property’s motto of “Stay Savvy” by providing the very best standards of first-class service and facilities in the heart of the capital’s famous Sukhumvit Road.
Bangkok Chefs Charity, a renowned annual event in Thailand, was held in the Mandarin Oriental’s Royal Ballroom organized by Gourmet One Food Service (Thailand) Co., Ltd. on June 29th. There were twenty of the city’s top executive chefs from 5 star hotels participating in this prestigious gastronomic event to create delicacies for charity.
Chef Andrew Brown, Executive Chef of Chatrium Hotel Riverside Bangkok, was one of the chefs who joined this event and created the Vanilla-Poached Lobster with Spring Salad and Apple Jaqueline Sauce dish along with Chef Gunter Angermann of the Royal Orchid Sheraton Hotel & Towers.
“Chef Gunter is a lovely guy and it was a pleasure to work with him. Once again, I had a great opportunity to work with a bunch of talented chefs, who aimed for the one goal of raising money for disadvantaged children. It did not take much for the dish to excel, a little care with cooking and the natural flavours just shine through with a few touches to accentuate the lobster. Just a hint of vanilla added to the sweetness of the lobster and really enhanced the dish, which was very light and refreshing with the flavours complementing each other so well and leaving the diner with a clean palate ready for the next course” Chef Andrew Brown said about his chef partner and their dish.
When molecular gastronomy first came on the scene, there was a lot of experimenting with it, changing the structure and even the flavours of food, probably a bit over the top. Things have settled down now, and while there is a place for molecular cuisine, food now seems to be moving back to the flavours and ingredients being the main focus of the dish. Chefs are doing little with ingredients; just letting them shine through naturally.
This year was more special than usual as Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn, presided over the event, celebrating the year of her 60th birthday. In commemoration, some of the dishes were infused with purple elements, and the venue was decorated with purple, too.
A ‘Grand Auction’ is held every year in which the highest bidder will get all or any number of the event’s chefs to cook a meal at the venue of their choice and will be invited to present their donation cheque to Her Royal Highness Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn on a date following the gala.
For this year the sum raised was THB 12,200,000 bringing the total amount raised to over THB 74,000,000 since the event began in 2009. The money raised will go to Border Patrol Police Stations and for improving the lives and education of underprivileged children in Chiang Mai’s Omkoy district.
Working as General Manager of Chatrium Hotel Riverside Bangkok since 2010, Adrian Brown has consistently provided excellent management. With his leadership, Chatrium Hotel Riverside Bangkok’s guests regard Chatrium as one of the top hotels in Thailand. Let’s look behind the scenes with Adrian Brown.
Over many decades the role of a Hotel General Manager has changed significantly whereby the demands put upon them has pushed the role more towards an administration role and where large parts of their days are spent in an office or in meetings.
To be successful, one needs to understand the needs wants and desires of the guest and to fully understand this, one needs to interact with them; which many fail to do nowadays as they become bound by administration chores. Managing by walking around is a very old concept, but by combining this with being totally engaged with ones guests, one can tailor an experience appropriate the individual guests needs while also building respect and loyalty amongst management and staff.
Positioning of Chatrium hotel?
To be recognized as the best value for money hotel here in Bangkok with a unique level of service that goes beyond the type of service one would expect from a more formal 5 star hotel level of service.
Highlight of marketing strategy for continuous brand awareness’s subconscious repetition?
One of our core strategies is to continually be engaged with our gu experience, one builds loyalty amongst the guest who in turn upsells your product and services through word of mouth, while we also encourage them to utilize the various social media forums such as Triests so as to understand their specific needs, wants and desires which in turn enable us to tailor our products and services specifically for the individual guest. By creating a positivep Advisor.
With over 16 years of hospitality industry experience in Thailand, Magne Hansen, General Manager of Chatrium Residence Sathon Bangkok, has brought a lot of value to his career. He is a good example of the leader that truly leads business to success. The latest award Chatrium Residence Sathon Bangkok from TripAdvisor, the prestigious hotel “Hall of Fame 2015”, clearly establishes Magne Hansen as a successful manager. Let’s get to know more about him and discover secrets that others should study to be successful.
It is very important to understand the environment, the people you are working with and your customer, and how to get things moving forward to reach the property’s vision and objectives. Here patience, understanding, respect and innovation are important attributes which determine your success. It is important to understand how the organizational culture works in the country you work in, how people are thinking and make decisions. Success is based on the entire team moving in the same direction. The goal has to be clearly understood among the team and as the team moves forward, the road to achieve the goal may change due to some uncontrollable external factors, but it is then important to stay focused on what you have set forth to achieve.
Do you still find it challenging to do the planning for ensuring the maintenance of standards or financial conditions even during the slow down? How do you plan for it?
With a downturn in occupancy as well as in the revenues, your predicted growth is halting and you have to implement measures which take care of the bottom line of the hotel. It’s difficult to increase sales or raise prices during economic down times so the inevitable happens, you are forced to cut cost. However, you need to focus on maintenance of your brand rather than growth, by continuing to nurture your brand and find ways to make it relevant during the economic slowdowns. This does not mean that we will spend a high amount on advertising, but rather keeping our brand message visible so that we sustain the brand expectations of our guests.
A true leader must be trustworthy and honest to build the trust of those in the team. Without trust, there is no leadership. It’s as simple as that. A leader must also be fair. Employees will respect a manager who is tough on them as long as they are treated with fairness. A good leader must also be a good listener and be open-minded and listen to what others in the team have to contribute. Leaders must see the big picture and have a vision in order to take the organization to the highest possible level, give it to the team and let them determine the methods and tactics for achieving the goal, and then step away. Our property’s vision is to be recognized as the Premier Choice for excellent and exclusive accommodation tailored to both short and long term needs of local and international business and leisure customers
So how exactly are you working towards this group vision?
The most important is the involvement and the engagement of our staff or my team. It can be time consuming, but it is outmost important they understand what goals our company want to achieve. Engaged employees put their heart and soul into their job and have the energy and excitement to give more than is required. Service must come from the heart, we emphasize on small moments of interactions between our employees and guests. I believe, at this property, we have so much to offer to travelers who want to be pampered while in Bangkok, from our fourth floor oasis and recreation facilities with spa, our big suites, awarded restaurants to the heartfelt interaction with our staff. You will step into a remarkable world of experiences, spacious design and luxurious lifestyle.
Originally from Northern England, Chef Andrew Brown, Executive Chef of Chatrium Hotel Riverside Bangkok began his culinary experience cooking in a hotel in the Yorkshire Dales while completing his catering studies at a local tertiary college. His passion for cooking was evident at an early age, but his experience at the hotel enhanced his ambition when he achieved early culinary success after the hotel was awarded a Michelin Red M, one step below a Michelin Star.
Longing for city life and having completed catering school, Chef Brown relocated to London and secured a job at the Ritz where he met and was inspired by accomplished Chef, Stephen Goodlad. Chef Brown joined Goodlad when he moved to Pennyhill Park in Surrey and later at the Grosvenor House Hotel’s 90 Park Lane Restaurant, which was awarded a Michelin star while Brown was there. Chef Brown later joined Goodlad again in Australia when he asked Brown to join a team of chefs at the Burnham Beeches Hotel in the Dandenong Ranges.
Chef Brown’s first experience of opening and running a kitchen took place at Blakes, an Australian restaurant based around the South Australian wine industry located at the then Hyatt Regency Adelaide. For his efforts, the restaurant won a Chef’s Hat tourism award. Brown moved on to the Grand Hyatt in Melbourne and then the Radisson Group in Australia where he landed his first multi-outlet operations.
After some serious globetrotting which saw Brown in New Zealand, China, Malaysia and The Maldives, Brown journeyed to Thailand where he first worked in Pattaya as the Excecutive chef for the opening of the Centara Grand Mirage Beach Resort before relocating to Bangkok as Executive Chef of the Chatrium Riverside Hotel.
At Chatrium, Brown introduced the Wow buffet, which includes items that are a real value for the money and allows customers to try styles of food that would not normally be included in a buffet; such as different styles of prawns, lobsters or foiegras. After the Wow buffet was introduced, Chatrium’s covers increased to over 200 per night on the weekends and 130 per weekday. To handle the demand for his cuisine, Brown supervises over 50 staff who work in the River Barge and Silver Waves kitchens at Chatrium Riverside. He states he loves Bangkok and Chatrium’s location by the Chao Phraya River. The river he confirms is beautiful, but the selling point of the location for him is its convenience to the rest of the city which can be reached without the hassle of driving.
Chatrium Hotels and Residences, a hospitality business within the empire of banking tycoon Chatri Sophonpanich, plans to open three new properties – hotel rooms and serviced apartments – in Bangkok and Phuket in the next three to five years to cash in on increased travelling after the Asean Economic Community takes effect.
This is part of its strategic business plan for domestic expansion, having yet to make any move to go abroad to take advantage of the AEC’s benefits.
“We are not focusing on rapid expansion,” managing director Savitri Ramyarupa told The Nation.
“Slow but sure” seems to be Chatrium’s strategy, as it takes a conservative business stance. Savitri, Chatri’s daughter, added: “We need to strengthen our growth in the domestic market first.”
It expects to open two new properties in Phuket and one in Bangkok’s Bang Na area over the next three to five years under its Chatrium brand, she said.
In Phuket, she said one of the properties would be a 200-room hotel and serviced-apartments complex on Surin Road in Muang district. The other is still in the planning stage, but will be on Rawai Beach.
Earlier, the group took over a 129-room hotel on Sukhumvit Soi 18 from a foreign owner and transformed it into the fifth property in Bangkok under Chatrium management. The hotel’s name was changed to Maitria, a new sub-brand that features modernity meant to appeal to younger guests who do not need full services, but do want easy access to transport and the Internet. The Maitria was just opened in mid-August.
After being assigned to oversee Chatrium six years ago, Savitri has carved out a niche in her father’s hospitality business, starting from the family’s own plot on Charoen-krung Road along the Chao Phraya River and building a hotel and serviced apartments. They were named Chatrium Hotel Riverside and Chatrium Residence Riverside.
Now, Chatrium operates five properties, including the new Maitria. They comprise both luxury hotels and residences in Bangkok in such areas as Charoenkrung, Sathorn and Sukhumvit, with a total of 1,700 rooms.
It also has a hotel in Myanmar that opened in 1998. It was renamed Chatrium Hotel Lake Yangon in 2011 after being part of an international chain for 10 years. The hotel has been profitable for two years and expects continued profit this year.
Savitri believes new technology and the viral effect of social networks’ “experience and share” phenomenon could enhance Chat-rium’s sales amid the intense competition of the hospitality industry.
Once she is ready to think about expanding overseas, she does not think using an international hotel chain would be the way to go. Though a chain could do better in terms of brand building, sticking with the family company would allow more flexibility.
Strategically, Chatrium has yet to rush into new markets while it has a small workforce of around 1,300 people. However, she said the firm had an in-house training unit.
“We aim for a mix of guests between those who come for business – 60 per cent – and the rest for leisure, as well as foreign guests,” Savitri said.
She believes the tourism industry will improve now that the government has set a target for 2015 as a “year of tourism”, with an estimated 22 million tourist arrivals. Thailand, especially Bangkok, is a destination that can recuperate from any situation rapidly.
After the May 22 coup, the group saw the number of guests, especially Chinese and Japanese, immediately drop, but after a couple of months it swung back to a more normal average of 70 per cent.
A nice welcome smile and natural friendliness of Mario inspired me that all the questions asked which I originally prepared totally ran-off my mind. I only listened to his warm and articulated presentation. Indeed an impressive character one must have as a professional hotelier I would say!
He is also seen by many as the leaders in hotel industry, he talks about leadership as he sees it and simply that a group of people who come together in a mutually reinforcing system to accomplish something greater than any individual. So leadership is not just for people who have ‘president’ in thier title. Leadership is an attitude , a disposition, and a way of approaching the challenges you face everyday.
MB: I was born in a small village in Germany. When I was in my teen years I traveled with my parents to a ski resort and stayed in a mountain hotel. I was attracted to the hotel service industry while experiencing the professional service they provided. The way we were pampered by the hotel staff was a deciding moment for me and I made a decision to join the hotel service industry. For the past 23 years now, I have worked my level up from a waiter in Germany. Later I was fortunate to travel to other countries, some years in England then to the United States and in the continent of Africa. I returned to the United States again for a short while and eventually saw an opportunity to come to Thailand where I started off in Pattaya and moved on to Bangkok in June 2011 as General Manager of Emporium Suites by Chatrium. It has now been 2 ½ years, quite differently but perfectly settled.
To what do you attribute the success of Emporium Suites by Chatrium?
MB: From the very beginning of its opening, Emporium Suites by Chatrium has always been very successful due to its location plus the added surrounding amenities of the adjoining fashionable shopping mall, direct access to BTS Phrompong Station and the convenience of ample parking. We are also catering to both short and long stayers. However, the big success of this property is mainly due to its extraordinary employees. They have made the difference with their friendliness and personal touch in welcoming the guests and making them feel remarkably at home.
Due to the slow down situations in Bangkok, how do you sustain the hotel revenue?
MB: Definitely many hotels in Bangkok have seen a drop in occupancy and so do we. However we do have a good number of returning and long-staying guests that trust and believe in our product and service. They also know Bangkok rather well. While they are concerned about the situation they have a positive outlook about Thailand. Thailand has gone through a similar situation in the past – a down economy, natural disasters, etc. – and Thailand has recovered quite well. We remain to be positive in every way.
Reference to the above answer, as a leader, how do you encourage the team on what is the best decision that you have taken, was that a challenge to you?
MB: Difficult situations come and go as part of this vibrant hotel industry. Each difficult situation can bring challenges as well as opportunities. As I have said earlier, we have a good number of returning and long-staying guests. Their loyalty has kept us afloat. The effect to our hotel and employees has not been as significant as to the other hotels in Bangkok. We always work as a team and our employees are clear about what we have to do in a crisis situation.
What are your strengths & what is your greatest weakness?
MB: I would say I’m an approachable person who inspires people to work together as a team. My outgoing personality and being open minded make it easy for people to come to me, open up and interact. I believe in encouraging my employees to make their own decision in their respective areas of responsibility. This is part of the team spirit. Also each employee has a set goal and as a leader of the team I see to it that we stay within these goals and that we grow together. This achievement is reflected in the recent award we received from TripAdvisor. We were named as Top Hotel along with four other luxury hotels in Bangkok. We are also ranked 16 out of more than 4,500 hotels in Thailand voted by the travellers around the world that have visited Thailand and have given their feedbacks during their visits.
How to get here in your position?
MB: (Lightly Laugh)…Well, I’ll make it short for you. There are people who work their way up from the bottom to the top, whatever that be. If you believe in yourself, certain things are achievable with or without the formality of an educational degree. In my case, I really made it to the top from work experience combined with formal schooling in between. Later on, I earned my bachelor degree. Having had the experience of working from the bottom of the hotel organization, I could easily understand employee’s various situations, solve issues and make appropriate decisions as necessary.
What’s your vision?
MB: I’m happy in my current position as General Manager of Emporium Suites by Chatrium. The culmination of my career, however, doesn’t end as a General Manager. There is more to reach and look forward to in the hotel industry like being a Vice President and CEO. Perhaps one day I’ll also open my own hotel, but let’s see!
By: Sunny Alisa
Photographer: Polthanawat Yonyot
Credit: Luminesce Magazine at http://www.lumimg.com/taste_page.php?id=453