Interviewing Joe Ghayad: Nile Ritz Carlton’s New General Manager

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Mr. Joe Ghayad has been appointed as general manager of the Nile Ritz Carlton a few months ago. He comes from a global experience to oversee the hotel’s operations.

Before joining the Nile Ritz-Carlton in Cairo, he held the position of General Manager at the Ritz-Carlton in Almaty, Kazakhstan, and prior to that he held several managerial positions at the Ritz-Carlton in Montreal, Doha, Qatar and Sharm El Sheikh.

Mr. Ghayad is also an alumnus of the Club Med Resorts that operates in a number of locations (usually exotic) around the world.

With his vast operations around the world, we opted to interview Mr. Ghayad, to find out what he can bring in his new position.

The Kazakhstan Hotel in Almaty won several awards while you were managing it. What did you do there to have it become one of the leading hotels in Europe?

Being the first International Company in Almaty was quite challenging, as brand awareness was very limited. However, there was a lot of potential. Almaty is full of young university students who were hungry to learn and build a career. The Ladies and Gentlemen of the hotel (employees) were excited and ready to give their 100% to the hotel. Because there is no school for hospitality there, we started from the basic of the basic, including sending them to Singapore and the Grand Cayman for training.

In general, the Kazak people are very generous in their homes, but outside everyone wanted to be a manager. We wanted our staff to feel proud to be part of the organization by giving them nice uniforms and we even provided the ladies soft makeup to put on. In time, they felt like they belonged to this family, and Ritz-Carlton being the first luxury hotel in central Europe, the hotel made a great impact.

Club Med is a completely different arrangement than managing a five star hotel in a city. What would you bring from the Club Med experience to the Ritz Carlton?

Club Med is a school of discipline. It is very systematic and everybody knows what to do. You put a system in place and you make sure it is working, and the important aspect is consistency. This is the system I am using, as it primarily helps with the culinary experience.

The Maspero Triangle project will place all hotels that are on the waterfront in another level. What will you do to outdo the competition that will be inevitable in the future?

The Ladies and Gentlemen of the hotel make the difference. However, we need to continue our training programs too in order to be ahead of the competition. Plus, the fact that we are an iconic hotel in an iconic location, which history talks about, gives us an edge.

However, this is not enough. I need the service behind it and the quality behind it and that is the process we are into right now and this is the path we are taking. Only last week, I sat with one of my executives to put a road map – a measurable one – to see how things will progress.

In continuation to the above question, what are your short-term plans?

In the first six months I will try to improve and put a system in order. I will be inviting high-end chefs from abroad to place a vibe in the market. We are also planning food festivals and will probably have a Lebanese festival in October. As for long-term objectives, every January we put a plan for the year and share it with the team so that they know where we are going.

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We heard mixed reviews on the interior decoration of the hotel, especially from those who know the hotel as the first modern international chain after the 1952 revolution. What are your thoughts?

I have to live with what I have. However, I can easily enhance the place. This means more modern lighting, nice greenery all around for a fresh feeling, and a touch of modern paintings. We can enhance the interior by playing around with small things so that the guest does not really see what is not modern. I am actually working on this right now.

How did you find the staff at the Nile Ritz Carlton?

I think I see that they are happy and we do a survey of all the staff to measure if they are satisfied, and what their expectations are. I already put a program for the coming six months; what we call lifestyle for the managers and executives to make sure that they all talk the same language. We are also thinking of bringing in new chefs onboard to move ahead.

Casuals are sometimes a problem in large events. What do you have in mind when it comes to this?

What we did is we picked a hundred of the casuals that will always be on call and created a Food and Beverage academy where we apply training on around 20 of them each month. That will definitely improve the service of the casuals.

How do you anticipate tourism these days?

I think it looks very good. We are hoping that 2018 will bring a bit of breeze from Europe and our Assistant Director in Sales and Marketing is on a tour in the United States and we expect good results next year. Another Assistant Director just came back from Saudi Arabia to visit the high-end families for their support and it looks very promising.

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