Tugend Demir, Restaurant Manager, Hunter 486

The Staff Canteen

Tugend Demir is the restaurant manager of Hunter 486 at the Arch Hotel London.

Tugend joined The Arch London, a five-star 82-bedroom boutique hotel in Marylebone last year as Restaurant Manager.  He oversees the running of the restaurant as well as The Martini Library, Le Salon de Champagne, in-room dining, afternoon tea and private events.

The Staff Canteen caught up with Tugend to find out what attracted him to a career in hospitality in the Capital, why hospitality still isn’t seen as a viable career option - and dealing with demanding guests.

The Grace Kelly Cocktail at The Arch London

The Grace Kelly Cocktail

at The Arch London

What made you want to work in the hospitality industry?

I was born into it because my family in Germany had restaurants and shops. My aunt also owned a small hotel so I was exposed to the hospitality industry from a very young age. When I matured I decided that I wanted to study this field, so that’s where my interest and passion for the hospitality industry originated. 

You transferred to London to continue your studies, what made you want to come to London?

I was studying at Florida International University which was a fantastic experience.  I later transferred to London because I wanted to be closer to my hometown Berlin. When I moved to the US I wasn’t able to speak English properly, hence I wanted to continue my studies in a country where English is spoken.  I also love the whole atmosphere of London and the multicultural aspect of it, as I had visited this great City previously in my childhood. 

Having worked in both restaurants and hotels which do you prefer and why?

I prefer working in hotels because of the buzzing atmosphere.  Different departments work together as one to create a welcoming environment for the guests.  It is a 24 hour operation, starting at breakfast and seamlessly moving throughout the day to encompass lunch, afternoon tea and dinner.  There is also the Meetings & Events side of the business, as well as room service, which makes each and every day varied (and sometimes a little challenging) which personally I love! 

What does a typical day look like?

Usually when I arrive in the morning I check emails, attend a morning meeting, observe breakfast, speak to guests, supervisors and the team.  I always check the rota and ensure that the forecasting is updated. We communicate with the chef and if there are any special events such as a celebratory lunch or board meeting taking place, I will liaise with everyone involved to ensure it runs smoothly. It’s an ever changing environment with no two days being the same, and that’s what I really like about this role. In a restaurant it’s more about perfecting the service in that one space, but in a hotel there are far more challenges to overcome which in turn makes it more exciting.

The Bar Closeup, The Arch London. Photography must be credited to The Arch London

The Arch London.

Photography by The Arch London

What are the biggest challenges you face in your role?

From my experience I would say recruitment.  When I recruit UK citizens for hospitality, it is not often seen as a real career.  However, when you have people coming from other countries they tend to see it as an entry level position that they would like to evolve. Although this has its own complications as there often a language barrier which makes it difficult to find the right people. On top of that what I really look at is personality and attitude, because I don’t think you can teach those things. You can train newcomers with all the skills in food and beverage, but that personality factor, attitude and passion you can’t teach. If they don’t have it then it’s almost impossible to change that person.  

What can someone expect from a career in food/drink service?

It’s exciting! There are also a lot of opportunities because you can do so many things in the food and drink service.  It’s exciting in the sense of everyday being a little bit different - different clientele and different guests and of course returning guests!   It’s certainly not a normal Monday to Friday job where you’re doing the same thing. You’re also able to taste different food and drinks and increase your knowledge of alternative cuisines.  Once you’re a manager, you also have to be creative, plus you can sit down with the Head Chef and create different menus and promotions. You can also do this globally; you don’t have to remain in one city as the role is completely transferable. 

Info Bar

Kitchen Nightmares

It was a gentleman that was a little too intoxicated, so it was difficult to deal with that particular person. I remember me and the duty manager trying to help and approaching the situation really nicely. It’s very difficult to speak to a drunk person who doesn’t exactly know how to behave. So that was a nightmare and a little embarrassing.

There’s the old saying that the customer is always right, how do you feel about this?

I approach the situation this way: let’s say you come to my home and I really do care and I want you to be satisfied. In the end, especially with food and beverage it’s how you prefer things. You and I are going to go out and taste a steak that is on the menu – you might say that it’s not tender enough but I’ll say that it’s really tender so you can argue a little bit because of taste preference. That’s why if the customer tells me something then I will 100% take that on board and I will try and fix the problem right there and then. I will put myself in their shoes and empathise with them.  I don’t really look at it as the customer being wrong and I am right or vice versa.  Although there will be times when the customer is wrong, you just have to try and accommodate their needs and care for them so they leave happy and come back again.

Have you had any particularly difficult customers?

Not necessarily difficult ones, I would just say I’ve had some demanding guests where they have had special requests like ‘I like to drink this type of sherry but it’s not on the menu’. But you can always turn those moments around because you have the chance to wow the guest. In this situation I sent one of my team to get the drink for the customer rather than having to say we don’t have any or can’t serve it.  It’s just part of the industry - you are always going to have demanding guests who will want certain things in a certain way. 

So how difficult is it to stay positive if you’ve had a particularly demanding customer?

I’m quite a positive person so I’ll always try and turn a negative situation around. We work long hours and if we don’t stay cheerful we’re not going to last long in this industry. You have to stay really focused and happy to enjoy your job and if you enjoy it then you’ll stay positive even if you have demanding customers or general problems, it’s just a part of the industry. The team will also look up to you and if they see you staying positive in those situations it reflects on their performance. That’s why I say it’s so important to look for personality and attitude when hiring someone.  

Salon de Champagne, The Arch London. Photography by The Arch London

Salon de Champagne, The Arch London.

Photography by The Arch London

What’s your stance on online reviews and social media?

It’s a bit of a challenge for the industry because it can really make or break the hotel because now with Facebook, Twitter, etc. one person can post something to their 500 friends and then it can go viral. Even I can do it! When I go on holidays or book something you go on TripAdvisor to read the reviews so that’s something that businesses really need to keep a very close eye on nowadays. It also creates a bit of pressure because we are constantly being reviewed by everyone. So it’s definitely important to monitor your social media presence. If we have a bad review because if there really was a problem I would go back to the team so we can address the issue and try to change the situation. It’s feedback at the end of the day. It’s nice to get good feedback because I can send that to the team and they’re really happy. We’re all critics now as we all have phones and we’re all instantly posting information online, it’s just so easy.

Are there any other restaurants that inspire you with the standard of service they deliver?

I have been back to Quaglino’s where I used to work, as they have excellent service standards. I also went to Galvin at Windows, where I really liked the service as they were proactive and caring. There are so many restaurants in London that are good. I went to Hakkasan in Mayfair and they were very friendly and had a good attitude which really makes a difference. When you go out you want to enjoy your food and your company, but also the person that is serving you makes such a difference when they’re positive about what they’re doing. 

What are your plans for the future?

I would really like to stay in hotels, especially with AB Hotels. Long term I would like to become a General Manger for a hotel. 

>>> Read more in the Are You Being Served? series here

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 11th May 2017

Tugend Demir, Restaurant Manager, Hunter 486