Aloft Dublin City’s Food and Beverage Offering has a Goal: Cater for Everyone, But do it Differently
The success of a hotel’s food and beverage offering, and the quality of the guest experience, rests largely on the relationship between its Food and Beverage Manager and Head Chef. This relationship is symbiotic, and from it flows creativity, a commitment to service excellence, and a positive team culture.
Hotel & Restaurant Times was delighted to meet with Aloft Dublin City’s Food and Beverage Manager Conor Gavin, and Head Chef Krys Kania, to chat about their path in the industry, and how they are working together to create a quality guest experience in Aloft Dublin City.
For both Conor and Krys, their careers in hospitality were rooted in a passion and love for the industry. Conor, like many others, worked in the hospitality industry while studying in college in Galway, but he loved it so much he never left.
“I was studying to become a history teacher,” he tells us. “I was a day porter in the Menlo Park Hotel but ended up working five days a week in the hotel because there was so much to learn. I worked in conferencing and banqueting and weddings. Then I wanted to see how the bar worked to gain a deeper understanding about what service really was. After two years, I was drawn to the front desk. I wanted to see what the challenges were, the guests’ needs, how many rooms were going to sell, just the operation of it all.”
Two years later Conor went on to manage the property’s apartment complex, and two years after that, he became Duty Manager of the hotel. Conor finished his degree but decided the hospitality industry was more appealing to him than teaching. With a clear goal in mind, he made the move to Dublin to gain as much experience in the industry as possible, clocking up stints in The Shelbourne and Brooks Hotel.
For Krys too, this feeling that hospitality for right for him was apparent early on. A Polish native, Krys studied as a chef for four years in the Polish city of Kamien Pomorski, but his interest in cooking was piqued long before that. “When I was young, every Sunday my family would meet for lunch, and instead of going to church I stayed with my granny and helped her bake cakes and prepare food. That’s when I started to really like cooking. I always entered cooking competitions in school and felt my best when I was in the kitchen, so I knew it was what I wanted to do.”
Like Conor, gaining a wide variety of restaurant experience was important to Krys. He worked in a fish restaurant on a lake in his hometown for several years and moved to Germany to gain experience in Italian cooking. “I learned from every chef I worked with,” he says. “I always got something from them, for example, different cooking, timing, and management, and all that brought me to this level as a Head Chef.”
Krys and Conor’s hard work and commitment led them to their current roles at Aloft Dublin City. The hotel currently houses gastropub Tenters, which offers what Krys describes as “casual dining with finesse, with a focus on local products,” upstairs bar WXYZ, and Re:Fuel, a self-service eatery available 24-7. It’s clear Conor and Krys are both excited to pour their passion and experience into these offerings, but they both agree that delivering the best possible guest experience starts with the team.
“It doesn’t matter what Krys and I are doing in the background,” Conor tells us. “You’ll succeed if you’ve got a waiter out there who is an absolute hero providing an elevated guest experience. Attitude is the main thing; you can train people to do anything as long as they have the right attitude.”
Krys agrees: “I think we are building a good team and choosing the right people. It’s about the attitude more than experience. I’d prefer to get a person that will fit with the team and then just give them more training.”
Communication is also key and fostering an environment where everyone can talk to each other is important to Conor and Krys. The ethos in the hotel is akin to a family, they say. “Working in a hotel you’re never alone,” Conor explains. “There’s always someone with knowledge or experience you can tap into. You want to protect your family, particularly when new people come in. You want to encourage and support them.”
Good communication between Krys and Conor is, of course, also critical, particularly when it comes to innovation. “We communicate well and discuss ideas,” says Krys. He laughs: “They’re not always good ideas, but it’s important to be creative.” Conor agrees: “Ideas create ideas.”
This focus on creativity and innovation is central to Aloft Dublin City’s brand. “Aloft is different by design and definitely has that quirkiness,” says Conor. “Our goal is to cater for everyone but do it differently. If they’re an ambassador or someone from the local area, we are going to give them the same experience and service. The family feeling is also important. Mariott is a global brand, but it has a family focus, and we try to carry that into Aloft.”
Conor is excited about where he and Krys can grow and develop Aloft’s food and beverage offering. “You want to stay on trend and see what’s happening in the city,” says Conor. “It’s become so global that we are seeing things happening in NYC and London being distilled into Ireland. It’s not always going to work but it’s important to explore, entertain, and educate with the food and drink selections. There’s also an exciting food revolution with vegan and vegetarian. Usually if you went to a restaurant, it was pasta or veg korma. We want to excite people and offer something different.”
Of course, while innovation is important, quality must never be compromised. Aloft Dublin City places a focus on quality Irish produce. Krys tells us he is always searching for the best locally sourced ingredients, and he thinks the seafood and beef in Ireland are fantastic. Aloft’s seafood is freshly delivered by Wrights of Marino, and the dry-aged beef served in Tenters is from FX Buckley.
So, great quality ingredients, a strong team, and a yen to offer something different to guests. Are Conor and Krys excited for what’s to come for Aloft Dublin City?
“We certainly are,” Krys says. “Next we want to develop an exciting menu of upmarket snacks for WXYZ. I don’t feel creatively squeezed here, so whatever I want to do with the food is up to me, with no restrictions from the bosses.”
We’re watching this space!