Hotel / Catering

Japanese group branches out into fine dining

by Wendy Shair

Universal Entertainment - Business expansion
Yohei Nakamura, general manager, food & beverage operations Universal Entertainment Hong Kong Limited
Photo: Nolly Leung

Company to recruit around 150 staff for new Hong Kong food and beverage operations

Hong Kong's gastronomic spectrum includes cuisines from across the world and ambitious restaurant owners are coming up with varied new business concepts to challenge the competition and attract new customers.

Having established a strong business presence in the city, Japanese company Universal Entertainment Hong Kong Limited is expanding its rapidly developing catering business and is currently in the process of setting up three new restaurants. Yu Lei will be serving Chinese dishes, Kazuo Okada will be offering modern Japanese cuisine and Messina will attract customers that enjoy Italian food.

Located at the Harbourfront Landmark, Hung Hom, the new establishments are set to open in mid-February, covering an area of 3,000 square metres on one floor, says Yohei Nakamura, general manager, food & beverage operations, Universal Entertainment Hong Kong Limited.

"The space easily accommodates the three restaurants. We'll be using it generously, fitting in about 300 seats and abundant private rooms, providing diners with a luxurious atmosphere."

With most of Hong Kong's fine-dining outlets currently based in Central, Causeway Bay and surrounding areas, as well as Tsim Sha Tsui, the company is planning to gain a strong foothold in Hung Hom, says Mr Nakamura. "Our new ventures will be high-end restaurants located in an amazing building, fitting perfectly into our concept. Rather than only targeting a particular customer segment, we'll be welcoming anyone that enjoys fine dining and good wine."

Talent search

Universal Entertainment plans to recruit about 150 staff at all levels for its Hong Kong operation. "We'll be speeding up hiring in November and December in order to achieve this and offer competitive remuneration packages to help us quickly snap up the best candidates," says Mr Nakamura.

A deep interest in food culture is essential for newcomers wanting to join the organisation. "Our focus is definitely on the chef, the cuisine and the service," he notes, adding that the company's international chefs have broad experience and that many of its managers hail from five-star establishments across the globe. "With their different cultural backgrounds, they all contribute new concepts to our operation. We also buy top ingredients from around the world," he stresses.

In addition to this, the company is also dedicated to recruiting Hong Kong staff to draw on their profound understanding of running restaurants in the city.

Universal Entertainment is looking to recruit chefs, servers, receptionists, captains, department heads and other managerial staff. Newcomers will receive extensive training to enhance their skills and professionalism. "We'll be offering off-site coaching and running classes on wine, food and their characteristics, as well as on our philosophy and how to fit into our company culture," Mr Nakamura points out.

Finishing touches

Although an educational background in food and beverage would be helpful, relevant work experience is not crucial to apply for jobs with the new restaurants, says Mr Nakamura. "It's more about whether candidates have the right attitude. We want customer service to come naturally, and for our employees to believe in what they're doing."

Service delivery will be subtle but professional, he adds. "We want to offer seamless hospitality. It could be as simple as noticing that a lady diner is cold at her table and bringing her a warm shawl. It's the small gestures that people remember. Although this might sound simple, it requires solid training to get staff to this level."

Mr Nakamura was born and grew up in the US and has been working in Hong Kong for about nine months. In this time, he has noticed that local customer expectations differ from those in the US. However, this is not related to culture, but to people's behaviour, he says. "Some people want quality, some want quantity, and some look mostly at prices; whereas others are looking for the best food and service."

The company offers diverse career-advancement opportunities for the right calibre of professionals, depending on their positions and achievements. "We use a strict screening process to recruit people with the potential to grow at our company. We also offer competitive market-related salaries."

The Japan-based company has a wide presence in Asia, including the Philippines and Hong Kong. Although it has only recently moved into the hospitality industry, it is expanding rapidly in this area, in Hong Kong and beyond, Mr Nakamura notes. "We'll continue to grow in this business over the next three to five years."

Moving forward

  • Universal Entertainment Hong Kong Limited is setting up three new restaurants
  • High-end Hung Hom setting to cater for diverse customers that enjoy fine food and wine
  • Global and Hong Kong staff to work together to provide seamless service
  • Strong focus on chef, cuisine and service

Taken from Career Times 25 November 2011, B3

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