Macau Opportunities

A hotel for all seasons

by Lou Henry

This is the fifth article of a special series on the latest developments in Macau's booming hotel industry

Antoine Chahwan
general manager
Four Seasons Hotel Macao
Photo: Edde Ngan

World class reputation built on service basics

Demonstrating great confidence in Macau's long-term stability as a world-class tourist destination, the celebrated Four Seasons Hotel is opening its first property in the region. "There's no question it's an exciting city," says Antoine Chahwan, general manager, Four Seasons Hotel Macao.

The hotel, scheduled to open this time next year, will have 396 rooms, 304 residences, 27,550 square feet of meeting space, numerous bars and restaurants, a Four Seasons Spa and an executive floor, among several other facilities. It will also be attached to a casino and a shopping centre containing stores for all the top international brands.

Soft touch

In line with the Four Seasons' culture, the hotel will provide its guests with first-class service. "Service is the key to success," Mr Chahwan says. "Our business is built around people. A soft touch — people and service — is what counts in this business. Everyone asks about our service system but it is more than that. Four Seasons is a culture."

Part of being known for providing the best service comes with being reliable. "Today's guests are sophisticated travellers who have extensive international experience and excellent knowledge in food and beverage. People tell stories about their experiences with Four Seasons and our high service standards are goodwill for our future," Mr Chahwan says. Four Seasons' philosophy is that customers want reliability, not just "bells and whistles".

He notes that guests look for simple pleasures such as a good night's sleep, Internet access that works and hot water in the bathroom. To achieve this level of reliability the hotel puts an enormous emphasis on the process and execution of simple service basics. "If a guest wants skim milk, we make sure that's what he gets," Mr Chahwan says.

Quality assurance

To realise its exceptional standards demands top quality staff and the hotel will eventually employ around 900 people. According to Mr Chahwan, the hotel would love to hire all of its staff from the local Macau labour pool but with booms in several industries leading to a low unemployment rate, most likely people will also be hired from Hong Kong and overseas.

To identify its talent, Four Seasons uses its own style of behaviour – based interviews, requiring applicants to demonstrate their skills and aptitudes by tracing past behaviours.

Moreover, savvy interviewers often wander through the applicant waiting room, taking note of who smiles and who says "good morning" when they don't realise they're being assessed. "We can teach them how to set a table or how to predict guests' needs, but we can't teach them how to smile. That is something intrinsic, and that's what we look for in the screening process," Mr Chahwan explains.

Securing a position at Four Seasons is not easy and typically the process includes five interviews, from the first with a human resources department representative to the final with Mr Chahwan. This is indicative of the substantial investment the hotel puts into its relationship with employees. "Once we hire our staff it's our responsibility to make them a success and we do everything we can to help them along the way."

High spirits

Four Seasons provides a happy work environment for all its employees. They have excellent opportunities for career development and are appreciated and recognised for their hard work. "We are demanding of our staff but it is not a sink or swim situation. We invest a lot in their success," Mr Chahwan remarks.

Four Seasons will advertise in all the usual channels such as newspapers and the Internet but according to Mr Chahwan, many candidates are also found through word of mouth. "People have heard of our name and reputation, and they know they can have a good career with us. Our existing staff recommend us to their friends because we treat employees well. Our staff are not just a name on a piece of paper and they don't just work for a pay check. We put a huge value on human beings."

Mr Chahwan is testament to the career prospects at Four Seasons as he has been with the company since 1990. "I began in Newport Beach, California as a restaurant manager," he says. Since then he has travelled the world for the hotel, with placements in Philadelphia, Tokyo, Sydney and the Bahamas before moving to Macau. Career prospects are helped by the company's policy to develop its staff and promote internally. Its culture is preserved with all positions from general manager and above filled by existing Four Seasons employees.

Four Seasons Macao will be distinguishable from its sister hotels as it will draw on the local culture in aspects such as its decor and food. Other aspects, however, will remain consistent with other Four Seasons properties. "At our hotels we create a sense of place and you know you're in Bali, or Hong Kong, or Macau," Mr Chahwan explains. "But the bed linen and towels are of the same high standard, and so is the quality of service. Other chain hotels' service levels may vary from location to location but we at Four Seasons are very proud of our service excellence."

Distinguished hotelier

  • First-class service part of a respected culture
  • People and service a winning formula
  • World – class quality with a local touch
  • Reputation comes with reliability

Taken from Career Times 27 July 2007
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