We speak with Yonatan Kachko, the recently appointed General Manager of Four Seasons Jakarta. He has worked his way up from various managerial and senior managerial positions, from Guest Services all the way to Hotel Manager, for over a decade in numerous flagships of the notable brand around the world, including the stunning Four Seasons Resort Maldives at Landaa Giraavaru and the iconic Four Seasons Hotel Hong Kong, which earned an extraordinary record of eight Michelin Stars – the most for a single hotel in around the world – under his wings.
Question (Q): Tell us a little about yourself – about your background and your journey as well as inspiration in the hospitality industry?
Yonatan Kachko (YK): From a very young age, I have always expressed to my parents that I wanted to be in the hotel business. I had this continuous desire to spend time with people. Every time I had seen someone who felt inspired or was extremely happy by the experience they had in a hospitality place, I felt energized by it.
I pursued an education in hospitality at the age of 21 and joined the Four Seasons brand in 2004. It has been 15 years since.
Q: Can you tell us how does the hotel industry and experience as a GM differ here in Indonesia as compared to other countries in Asia?
YK: This is a complex question; the reason why I say this is because every single culture in Asia is very unique in its own ways. So coming from Hong Kong, the culture was all about efficiency and getting things done quickly with determination. But before that, I was in Thailand and the culture was more about the service experience. They did everything from the heart.
Here in Indonesia I find it close to the Thai culture – it is very friendly, authentic and people here truly do things from the heart. For example, I just had a chat with one of our chefs and she wakes up at four o’clock in the morning every day to get here. She goes home pretty late as well, so that really takes a lot of passion. I don’t know if you could find that kind of determination in many other cultures – working purely out of the need and the desire to be in a particular industry.
Q: Tell us some of the unique points that make Four Seasons one of the best hotels of choice in Jakarta? How do you stand out from your competitors?
YK: I think when you look at the landscape of hotels in Jakarta that we compete with – although, I don’t really like using the word “compete” because in an ideal world we all are performing very well and I think the customer should be the winners – but we are a small, boutique, urban, all-suite type of a hotel, which is situated exactly in the middle of an eight-minute drive to SCBD and an eight-minute drive to Senopati.
The hotel is also designed and inspired in a French way, so it is simply beautiful. Other hotels are beautiful in their own ways but it could be quite commercially built, while this one is very unique. Space is very defined, and therefore the experiences in those spaces are very interesting.
Of course, I do believe all the five-star hotels provide exceptional service and we all compete at it but we all have our ways in doing so. The Indonesian culture is naturally service-orientated, thus the service experience in Jakarta is very good in general. So the Four Seasons service experience is really driven by that culture in addition to our internal culture of treating others as one would like to be treated. So whether I am dealing with a person like yourself or a guest or an employee, ultimately the service experience of that particular individual should be the same.
I would say the critical way of differentiating us with other hotels is the fact that we are a small, highly personalized hotel experience that is really focused on the details.
Q: Tell us about your typical day here.
YK: Woah, my typical day? The team would tell you that it’s driving them crazy *laughs*. But, at the moment, my typical day has been a little off. I moved here three months ago, so my day is still like a laundry machine, as in I am still going through it and I am still trying to figure it out. But it usually starts with a basic walk around the facility, saying hello to the team and guests, trying to find minor details that need improvements, and finally, work with the team to plan for the day, week and month. So a good portion of my time is spent on the floor, which is really why I love being in this business, and also a little bit of computer time where I catch up on my administration work.
Q: You have worked in numerous Four Season branches around the world, including Maldives, Thailand and most recently, Hong Kong. Tell us about your attachment to the brand and why?
YK: The reason why I have an attachment to Four Seasons is that I believe that the brand was built by its people. And since I had an interest in people at an early age, it really drove me to the ethos of Four Seasons, which is to “treat others as you would like to be treated”. Ultimately, my attachment to the brand is because I really believe in the people that are part of this organization and their cause of making sure their service is exceptional. Every single day we try our best to deliver to our guests as well as owners alike. It is a company that is built by people that are humble so you want to work in a company like this and be a good person.
Q: How do you think Four Seasons has maintained its reputation and standing in the hotel industry around the globe?
YK: As I mentioned, I believe that their reputation was built purely by its people. They carry the name, there is no real branding, and it’s just us who delivers it. It’s built upon a particular culture, golden rule and value that we have, which is to provide a quality service experience that is product-focused through our people.
Sometimes we make decisions that are not necessarily “good for business”, we make decisions that are more correlated. Like, let’s just say we have to sacrifice a little bit on “this or that” because we have to see that the bigger picture is right for the team, the owners and the guests. This cultural element has really maintained the brand since the early 1960s.
Also, we have over 150 hotels around the globe and are unique in every location. We try to build hotels that are authentic to the location, especially with their services and food.
Q: Can you briefly talk about your management and leadership style and how has it changed over the years based on your experiences around the globe?
YK: I am a person who gives high-attention to details. In the beginning of my career that would overcome me with the need to fix things, whether it is for customer experience or dealing with my manager or other minor details but over the years I have learned to manage it. I also spend a lot of my time trying to listen to what the team or customers have to say and work together with the team to improve on the business. Over the years my leadership has become softer, more intuitive, empathetic and understanding to people in front of me.
Q: You have traveled around the world, where is your favorite place so far and why?
YK: My wife and I really love three places: Paris, Florence, and the Maldives. These three choices are not important to me because of the place itself, but because of the unique memories that make these places special.
Q: What do you like to do to during your free time?
YK: I have a one-year-old daughter so my free time is dedicated to my wife and her.
Q: Do you eat to live or live to eat, and what is your favorite cuisine?
YK: Oh, I absolutely love to eat, I don’t think you can be in this industry if you just eat to get by.
I do love Asian cuisine in general. I am starting to understand a little bit more about the diversity of Indonesian cuisine – their taste and flavors are unique in their own ways and it is beginning to be one of my favorite choices. Some of my other favorites include Thai, Indian and Middle Eastern cuisine. Italian is also one of my favorite cuisines. I think I was lucky to grow in a place that was a melting pot with a huge Indian, Greek, Chinese, Eastern European, Middle Eastern community and so much more, so the food I grew up with was very diverse.
By: Divyha Pridhnani-Bhojwani