We speak with the Director of Food & Beverage at InterContinental Jakarta Pondok Indah Hotel, Jonathan Lallemand, about Indonesia’s Hotel F&B industry, his vision for InterContinental’s F&B scene and some personal insights.
Tell us a little about yourself – about your background and your journey as well as inspiration in the hospitality industry?
I was born and raised in Belgium and I started my career there. I was in the hospitality school for quite some time – since I was 12 until 18 years old – and I first graduated as a chef. Then, I thought to myself if I wanted to continue my career as a chef or work on the other side, as a waiter, instead because I really liked engaging with the customers. But finally, I decided to go into the hotel industry instead but on the service side. What inspired me the most was meeting people, seeing happy faces, organizing events and simply dealing with customers and those around me. I have also become eager to see the world so this is how I ended up doing what I am doing.
What are some of the challenges you have faced in the Hotel F&B industry since working in Jakarta, Indonesia and how have you overcome it?
Because this is a new hotel, some of the challenges include opening the hotel on time, meeting deadlines and maintaining the timeline and transportation of imported items. To overcome it, I believe, is to be eager and push suppliers as well as the whole team to get everything done on time.
It is also important to create a “one-team”. We do a lot of training so that everybody can be on the same page and on board to move in the same direction.
How does the Hotel F&B Industry in Asia differ from those in the Western world?
According to me, there are much more hotels of higher quality in Asia compared to the Western world so that makes the competition that much stronger in this side of the world. You can also see a lot of growth in Jakarta as more and more hotels come up so there is a lot of competition here too. It is good for us because that means you get to keep pushing yourself to the next level.
Also, people who come down from the Western world can see that the standards in Asia are much higher than expected. Hotels in Asia always strive to deliver services that are above expectations.
Tell us some of the unique points of Intercontinental’s F&B scene.
First of all, when you open a new hotel you get the privilege to choose your own staff. So, one of the main aspects that we are proud of is our staff. We handpicked each and every person in this team. It is made of many different kinds of people with different kinds of skills.
Second of all, the new hotel means great new facilities. We have very nice banqueting facilities, a huge ballroom, very nice meeting rooms as well as lounges and restaurants so we have set everything to provide guests with a great experience.
Lastly, I would say is the area we are situated in. There is everything around here such as a direct connection to Pondok Indah Mall and a golf course nearby so this hotel is a one-stop-shop for families, tourists and business people alike.
Can you share with us your vision and what is to be expected from Intercontinental’s F&B scene?
What can be expected is a personalized service and journey for our customers. We have set up these “journeys” from A-Z for our customers to experience and enjoy the moment they walk into our premise. And so we have trained our staffs accordingly to deliver this in a consistent manner.
For example, in the lounges, we have prepared coffee and tea trolleys, where the staff will go around the lounge to make the coffee or tea in front of the guests rather than making it behind. We do everything from grinding the coffee to filtering it in front of the customers. So it is really personalized. Another service is that every meeting room has their own butlers. So the idea of our service is to approach the guests, engage with them and be proactive rather than reactive – so a personalized journey is really what we are going for.
How do you keep up and stay ahead of competitors in the Hotel F&B industry in the city?
One of the ways is to visit other hotels and restaurants to find some inspiration from whatever they are doing differently. Then, we look at how we can implement it in a better and more creative way.
Being a new hotel is also an advantage because we have that space for some trial and error. If something works out then well and good, if something doesn’t then that’s ok, we can quickly move on and try something else. So it is important to keep trying to push and improve ourselves.
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?
I am a very hands-on manager and I believe that being a role model and leading by example is very important. If you show your team members and peers your standards then they can also follow that.
I have experienced quite a bit of different cultures, hotels, and countries so I take all of that knowledge, both the bad and good, then from there, I make my own style and also educate my staff to steal with their eyes. I tell them to look at what the people are doing and to remember what’s good and also what’s bad so you don’t repeat it.
I try to be inspiring to the staff and to drive them to the next level. Of course, it is not always easy for them but I believe over time they will realize the benefit that they get from being pushed sometimes.
You have traveled around the world, where is your favorite place and why?
I have been in South-East Asia for ten years now so I would say that this region is my favorite so far. It is so easy to go around and find beautiful cities and beaches just by traveling for a few hours here. I can’t really choose one place because you get to experience so many different kinds of culture in just two or three hours of travel. I feel very at home in this region too.
What do you like to do to during your free time?
As I mentioned before I graduated as a chef so I unwind by cooking and drinking a glass of wine. I like to stay fit as well so when I have the time I try to do some sports as much as I can. I also like to travel when I have a few days off.
What is your favourite cuisine and food?
Even though I like a lot of different Asian and Western dishes, I crave for my mom’s home-cooked Belgian meals because I rarely go back. Every time I visit home I will always make a list to make sure I don’t miss anything out. So I enjoy simple, fresh and full of flavor meals from my hometown.