Ivan Gutierrez: Caring for guests is what I most enjoy in my career
The Assistant F&B Director of Park Hyatt Tokyo on his career from the kitchen to the front of house, and what it means to provide top hospitality to guests
This is Part II of our series on New York Grill and Park Hyatt Tokyo. Read Part I here.
Perched on the 52nd floor of Park Hyatt Tokyo is New York Grill restaurant, a popular destination for diners who come here for a unique luxury experience while being surrounded by breathtaking views of the Tokyo skyline.
Assistant F&B director Ivan Gutierrez manages New York Grill as well as the other restaurants under the banner of Park Hyatt Tokyo. He mainly deals with international clients, while another colleague focuses on taking care of Japanese guests. This combined effort allows them to meet the expectations of all types of guests and provide them with none other than top hospitality service.
Ivan, who hails from Colombia, says there’s huge satisfaction in being able to serve and interact with guests directly at the hotel.
“I started in the kitchen and I went out to the service because, for me, contact with the guest is what I most enjoy in my career. I just love that [feeling] when the guest arrives. Maybe you have repeat guests or maybe you have to [deal with] a complaint and you just turn that experience around.”
Having studied both culinary and hospitality in Switzerland, Ivan chose the front-of-house path because of his passion for people. After his masters in Switzerland, he had the opportunity to work in five-star hotels in Latin America, the USA, Europe, Southeast Asia, and China before moving to Japan to work for New York Grill and Park Hyatt Tokyo.
Ivan says he came to Japan to learn about the country's culture of hospitality. He gives a nod to the "kaizen" Japanese philosophy of continuous improvement as part of the pursuit of perfection.
“The discipline that the culture has is something that you can learn a lot from. The Japanese will not do something without ensuring that it's going to go properly.
“I am from Latin America and sometimes we do the opposite,” he jokes. “We are passionate [people] but sometimes we just say 'well it looks good, let’s go for it' without maybe some preparation. [In Japan], You need preparation for every step you take," Ivan says.
" I just love that feeling when the guest arrives." – Ivan Gutierrez
The dining experience at New York Grill at Park Hyatt Tokyo
Asked to describe what makes New York Grill special, Ivan says: “It's a beautiful restaurant where people come to celebrate, to gather together friends, families, and business [associates].”
According to the Colombian F&B assistant director, the guest experience at New York Grill starts way before the guests arrive at their restaurant. By using a platform like TableCheck to record important rich guest data during booking, they are able to use guest information to level up their guest experience at the restaurant.
“The pre-arrival experience is very important so we know what they want [in advance]; we know who they are, we know what they need so we can create personalized care for them. By the time they arrive at the restaurant that’s the second contact. [At that point] we feel that we know them already. Then it is easy just to go for the full operation and to make a special experience for guests.”
Ivan says New York Grill is unique because of the distinct experiences they offer during the daytime and nighttime. “When you enter the hotel, [guest come] into the spacious lounge which is beautiful and super relaxing. It has bamboo. Then you can see Mt Fuji."
In the evening, guests are treated to a whole different vibe.
“At night time, you go up in the second elevator. The elevator just opens and then you get to see a view of the nighttime with city lights. You have the live music that is just pumping and it gives you all of this energy inside. Then you have our well-groomed staff that welcomes the guests.”
“We know who they are, we know what they need so we can create personalized care for them."
Full-on entertainment: from the views to the kitchen to the live music
When guests enter the venue, they experience and see Tokyo 360° degree view inside the restaurant. On top of that, they also get to see the open kitchen where they can get a glimpse of how their food is being prepared.
Paul Gajewski, Chef de Cuisine of New York Grill, explains that the open kitchen adds a level of performance to what they do:
“They love to watch us work. They love to see the energy in the kitchen, and how busy we are. We have regular guests who sit at the counter of the kitchen, and they've been coming to the grill for 28 years and they sit in the same seat because they just love to see the kitchen,” the Australian chef says.
“I also enjoy that because there's interaction with the guests. I can personalize their menu or give them something from us as a thank you for coming to the restaurant. A simple thing like shaving truffles on the day. They love that as well. So we are very much a show kitchen but we all love that. It helps drive the team as well,” he adds
Ivan says guests are treated to an array of food options plus the best selection of US wines in the country. With the aroma, the views, the food, etc, Ivan says it’s all a sensory smorgasbord. And even after guests are finished dining, the experience doesn’t stop there.
“Maybe they move to the bar and they have desserts there and they just continue listening to the music. It's just a full experience for them. This is a place to visit in Tokyo, Japan,” ” the Colombian Assistant F&B director says.
"With that data, you can make the restaurant operations better for the future.”
TableCheck platform, collaborating with Chef Paul Gajewski
Ivan says using a platform like TableCheck not only helps them create guest profiles to get an insight into customers’ preferences and special days but also optimizes the overall restaurant operations.
“It helps you to rearrange tables [before] someone is seated or when someone is delayed," he says.
“At the end of the month, all that information tells us what the restaurant had, who came and who is coming to the restaurant, and what these numbers are for. We have all the statistics that are essential in order to improve the management of the restaurant. With that [data], you can make the restaurant operations better for the future.”
While delighting guests is his utmost priority, for Ivan this is only really possible through team collaboration. Ivan says he and Chef Paul Gajewski operate as a team.
“We listen to each other, we use our experience, we put it together, and then we teach it to the team to be applied. We also learn from the team for us to apply it [in the restaurant]. We go hand in hand.”
About the Author
Tuesday Gutierrez is TableCheck's Senior Content Manager. She believes in the power of food and the dining experience to connect and build communities. At TableCheck, she explores the inspiring world of hospitality, restaurants, and the people behind them.
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