The Unsung Heroes
How does a hotel run up to five events a day? We ask Grand Hyatt for their secrets
Behind every successful event, there is a small army of dedicated people who make it their mission to ensure that things run smoothly. Praise Poh talks to the peerless team at the Grand Hyatt Singapore and gets the lowdown on what goes behind the scenes of a spectacular ball or romantic wedding
One of the best luxury hotels in Singapore, the Grand Hyatt has long been synonymous with top-notch services and excellent qualities, making it the preferred choice for hosting all kinds of functions and events. The hotel is also committed to helping guests create perfect memories during their time here in Grand Hyatt, and numerous guests have been greatly impressed by the hotel’s immaculate attention to details that makes them feel special. Weddings, gala dinners and masquerade balls are joyous events that we all enjoy attending. While we’re busy partying the night away, a team of dedicated people at Grand Hyatt are ticking away backstage, running the show like clockwork – just to ensure that even when multiple events are taking place at the same time within the hotel, nothing is left to chance.
During peak season, the hotel easily manages up to five weddings or events in a day. With at least one wait staff serving at each table, a service crew of at least 40 staff members is required for a wedding dinner of 38 tables, according to Jerome Pagnier, assistant director of food & beverage at the Grand Hyatt. He adds, “The kitchen crew usually works with a brigade of a dozen chefs per event that exceeds 300 guests. In short, more than 50 staff, from frontline to kitchen, need to be mobilised for just one wedding.”
STRIVING FOR EXCELLENCE
Indeed, logistical preparations could easily be a nightmare with so many events going on at the same time. But executive sous chef Soren Lascelles is fully confident that his team can take on any challenge and easily overcome them.
He shares proudly, “We have five different restaurant concepts in the hotel, and three separate event kitchens, so we can accommodate almost anything anytime.”
To ensure smooth operation and allow time for delivery and storage, Soren explains that the kitchen will place order for the required ingredients three days in advance, followed by the necessary preparation and actual cooking. Small-scale events are prepared on the day itself. He adds that they always do mock-up presentations of each dish, so that the culinary brigade of chefs on duty that day will be absolutely clear of how the dishes should look.
Working hand-in-hand with the kitchen are the frontline staff – usually the ones who make first contact with the guests. While it is imperative for the servicing members to present themselves professionally in front of the guests, assistant training manager Mildred Lau believes that it is equally important for them to display genuine enthusiasm for
“The kitchen crew works with a dozen chefs for an event that exceeds 300 guests. In short, more than 50 staff, from frontline to kitchen, need to be mobilised for just one wedding.”
customer service. “The problem-solving mindset can be taught, but passion and enthusiasm is found within, such as the passion of an associate showing through his or her smile when interacting with guests and colleagues,” she shares.
Although one of the major attributes that Grand Hyatt looks for in their staff is a positive attitude, the hotel takes great pride in empowering their staff with training, so as to equip them with the right skills to better serve the guests. Besides on-the-job training, the staffs are also exposed to a wide variety of courses ranging from social etiquette and service skills to work safety and food safety management. A positive attitude may get a job done, but it takes a skilled person to accomplish it with flair and excellence – at least, this is what Grand Hyatt believes.
UNDERSTANDING THE NEEDS OF CLIENTS
With the hospitality industry getting more competitive in recent years, meeting the needs of today’s clients is more demanding than ever. For example, Soren and his teams are constantly being asked to create special menus for the numerous events going on every week at all three levels of the event space at the Grand Hyatt.
Recalling one of the most interesting themes his team had done, he says, “Recently we did an amazing event called #LivingGrand, which was a contemporary Alice in Wonderland meets Chinese New Year theme. There were actors, surprises, amazing food and wines, all intertwined with live theatre. Simply spectacular. Some of the highlights of the night included an array of delicate, mini desserts such as custard buns and bird’s nest tarts, served on a giant hand painted watercolour scroll that stretched across the entire length of the table where
The Grand Hyatt takes great pride in empowering their staff with training; they believe a positive attitude may get the job done, but it takes a skilled person to accomplish it with flair and excellence.
there were 20 people on each side.”
As for the greatest logistics feat they had accomplished thus far, Soren agrees that it would have to be the offsite catering for Formula One 2014. He continues, “We catered food for over 12 companies, both on the F1 circuit as well as for ‘viewing parties’ in office spaces in and around the F1 area. This saw our team of chefs cooking and transporting food to these locations, which had restricted access. We actually managed to create a cheese room in an office space at One Raffles Quay, prepared and served a full dinner buffet on location within the F1 circuit area, and even came up with a Kids’ Buffet, featuring cupcake decorating stations and burger assembly stations.”
To be at the forefront of providing what their guests want, says assistant public relations manager Nicole Loh, it is imperative to understand their needs as well as be in touch with styles and trends. Hence, the hotel has to constantly refine and renew their offerings to the guests. Nicole says, “For example, every year-end, we will be reviewing and refining our wedding offerings and packages to ensure that they meet the everevolving needs of our guests. No wedding is the same, and that is a philosophy we strongly believe in at Grand Hyatt Singapore.”
In spite of all the preparation work, man hours and on-ground excellence they strive for, surely the hotel has met with difficult situations? Jerome smiles and says, “There is no such thing as a difficult guest; it is only a matter of understanding what the guest needs and wants.
“As an international hotel brand, we encounter different guests with different backgrounds, viewpoints and expectations. This is why we customise so much of our services; because we believe we are responsible for ensuring their event becomes the best one they ever attended. We strive for extraordinary experiences and we ensure we never fall short of that statement.”
FROM LEFT Guests at the #LivingGrand event; pastry chefs working together in the kitchen; Jerome Pagnier, assistant director of F&B
CLOCKWISE FROM ABOVE Nicole Loh, assistant public relations manager; Soren Lascelles, executive sous chef; service staff meticulously setting the table for an event; the dramatic setup for the #LivingGrand dinner