Thu, May 02, 2019 - Page 11 News List

INTERVIEW: New GM believes quality counts in hotel business

The Mandarin Oriental Taipei has installed new general manager Karan Berry to drive revenue and profitability as the luxury hotel turns five years old this month. With 22 years of experience in hotel operations, Berry aims to steer the five-star facility with a hands-on approach. He shared his management strategy with ‘Taipei Times’ staff reporter Crystal Hsu in an interview in Taipei last week

Mandarin Oriental Taipei general manager Karan Berry is pictured in an undated photograph.

Photo courtesy of Mandarin Oriental

Taipei Times: How would you characterize your management style?

Karan Berry: Presently, I won’t make structural changes, but will focus on fine-tuning, looking at small opportunities where the Mandarin Oriental Taipei (文華東方酒店) can improve in a short period of time. Once I get to know the hotel and market very well, I will make necessary changes.

It is important for me to make correct and strategic decisions, as decisionmaking is the key of leadership. I like hands-on management and lead by example, or walk the talk. I work with my team, showing and explaining my vision and communicating my strategies. We run this hotel together.

I am the kind of person who thinks it is important to focus on details, as the devil lies in the detail.

Today, things evolve at a rapid pace. It is important to have new ideas. I firmly believe it is new ideas that keep business alive. I encourage people to spend 99 percent of their time planning and the other 1 percent on execution. That way, they won’t have to spend time fixing problems.

TT: What are your business goals for the Mandarin Oriental Taipei?

Berry: I aim to grow the hotel’s revenue by at least 5 percent this year, under a total balanced scorecard approach. In terms of revenue, there should be growth in all segments, not just rooms, food and beverage, and other facilities.

One thing we can differentiate ourselves by is that for three consecutive years we have won the five-star award from the Forbes Travel Guide. We are the only hotel in Taipei with that distinction. Other properties might win only three or four stars.

The recently published Michelin Guide Taipei gave us its highest honor, the Five Red Pavilions award. Again, we are the only hotel to have that ranking. In fact, I meet with colleagues on a weekly basis to see if things are proceeding as desired.

In terms of profitability, I am not looking to cut costs, which could lead to comprising on standards, and affect customers and colleagues. Rather, I am seeking to boost efficiency and eliminate waste. For example, if we have booking for 40 people, there should be no need to prepare food for 100 people.

TT: Employee turnover is high in the local hospitality industry. How are you going to cope with the issue?

Berry: We don’t see a high degree of turnover at the Mandarin Oriental Taipei. The hotel employs 660 people and the turnover rate is below 5 percent so far this year — lower than for the same period last year thanks to our efforts to retain and groom talent.

We raise the payroll for employees in line with a performance-based scheme that factors in inflation and the cost of living. We also do team building, family gatherings and staff outings.

We are not just hiring for positions, but for careers. We are looking at their potential, training needs and personal development plans.

We also offer staff exposure opportunities at other Mandarin Oriental properties and cross-exposure at other hotels. It is important to work at hotels in different cultures to expand one’s perspective.

I would describe my Taiwanese colleagues as energetic, humble, eager to learn and yet willing to accept challenge. They embody the concept of service with a smile, a positive quality for the hospitality industry. It is my top priority to identify people who can train to fill senior management positions in the coming years.

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