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Interview with Ralph Frehner – Finalist for Corporate Hotelier of the Year

The BMW Hotelier Awards had the pleasure of interviewing Ralph Frehner, Vice President of Food and Beverage, Asia Pacific for Marriott International. Having set out as an Electrician, Ralph soon realised that his childhood curiosity of sneaking into the kitchen to watch chefs in the firing line was his calling. Mr. Frehner aspires to be an influential team leader by motivating individuals to be different and make their mark on the world.

 

Can you give us a brief insight into your education and career path?

My fascination with Hotels and Food & Beverage first began when I was just twelve years old. During the summer holidays I would visit my Swiss grandfather and sneak into the kitchens to observe chefs in the line of fire. Despite this, I ended up becoming an electrician and after one year I became very bored. A close family friend suggested that I check out the possibility of becoming a chef and I soon re-discovered my childhood curiosity. Ever since I have been fortunate enough to build up a multitude of skills and experiences, which have contributed to my success in some of the world’s most prestigious restaurants and luxury hotels in Zurich, Melbourne and Tokyo. In addition, I have always found myself to be in the right place at the right time; I have had the opportunity to experience diversity in my career, including owning my own business as a Dive Master on the Cocos Island and as a Ski Patroller in New Zealand!

After seventeen years with Hyatt International, I was involved with the opening of the MGM Grand Macau as Director of Operations. This became my home for the next four years of my career.

In 2010, I joined Marriott International as the Vice President of Food and Beverage Asia Pacific, where I took care of 541 operating hotels and the design and development of 465 new projects. I am now currently responsible for revenues of 4 billion dollars annually, 50,000 F&B associates and 2,000 restaurant and bars.

 

Can you share with us what you feel has been the most valuable part in your career development to date that has enabled you to get to where you are today?

I feel the most valuable part of my career is to try and be a role model and to frame the way you want to change working procedures, industrial practices and the world’s agenda. It is important to try your best to solve problems, whilst sharing the results with those around you. I would also suggest that you must believe you can be an influential team leader before you try to motivate individuals to be innovative in their own roles.

I focus my energy on creating “unstructured” time to explore alternative options and conduct various brainstorming activities in order to find solutions to challenging questions. It is also valuable for the development of your team to inspire them to do the same. However, I do appreciate the ‘small wins’ and I do not just recognise people who create comprehensive and detailed innovative proposals. It is important to provide recognition every day through informal interaction.

Great ideas come from continuous learning, by listening and digesting the information around you. This is imperative to make a difference in the work we do as hoteliers. Inspiration and passion cannot be learnt; it needs to come from the heart. You need to love your work to get to where you want to be… Work hard and dream big.

 

Congratulations on being a finalist in The BMW Hotelier Awards 2016. How are you planning on leveraging this opportunity to inspire the younger generation to work harder at developing their career in the hospitality scene?

While playing it safe might seem like the best thing to do, it may actually be hindering millennials and the younger generation from getting ahead. After all, risk-taking is an essential part of building a business, progressing in one’s career, being an entrepreneur and making your mark on the world. Some of the inspiration and passion I would like to pass onto the younger generation of hoteliers is to stop trying to be a people pleaser, as the desire to be liked by everyone can have you playing games. Your message might challenge people but this is actually a good sign. Be willing to rock the boat if you really want to shake up the status quo. This might involve being bold and sharing your voice, but if you are not willing to stir things up, you will not really achieve anything great or different. Do you want to just blend in and do what everyone else is doing? Opening up about your personal experience can seem terrifying and intimidating, but it might be what resonates most and inspires people. The more transparent and honest you are, the more impactful you will be. Shatter what you think is possible and don’t let society’s view of what is possible limit you. Approach your limits with the mindset that you can transcend them. The best guide for discerning when to take risks is our own inner voice, so check in with yourself and ask if you feel fully satisfied with where you are, or if something greater is calling you. You may be fearful of making the decision to take a risk, but remember that on the other side of fear lies something spectacular.

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