General Manager of Four Seasons
Standing at 68 storeys high and spread over 12 acres of its own man made island, the Four Seasons, located in the Business Bay, has joined Bahrain’s hotel industry with a bang. It boasts an impressive interior, reminiscent of the 1920s and 1930s as well as a lush outdoor area to match. With a promise of impeccable service and unmatched quality for its guests, the Four Seasons Bahrain Bay is officially on our list of hotels to definitely visit again. We sat down with the hotel’s General Manager Greg Pirkle to find out more about this new property and why it stands out.
Tell us a little about yourself
I’ve been with the Four Seasons for 25 years. I started working in Boston, and then moved to New York and after that I’ve worked on a lot of great properties in many different countries such as Singapore, Indonesia, the Bahamas, Langkawi, Malaysia, and most recently, I was in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. I moved to Riyadh about three and a half to four years ago and worked there for almost three years before moving to Bahrain. I have always worked in the hotel industry, it is my life!
How do you handle living and working in so many different countries amongst such diverse cultures?
The biggest culture shock for me was moving from Langkawi to Saudi Arabia.
The move from Saudi Arabia to Bahrain was exciting. I feel that Bahraini people are warm, friendly and it’s pleasant to do business within this part of the world. I like the community feeling of being in Bahrain.
Of all the properties you have worked on, which has been your favourite so far and why?
This one! This property is incredible, it was designed by the Architects of SOM (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill) out of New York and the Interior Designer was the very famous Pierre-Yves Rochon from France and you can tell by what he has done with the place, he’s made it very special. He has this Art-Deco feeling through the Lobby and even throughout the guest rooms. He wanted to make it reminiscent of the 20s and 30s era.
Tell us a little bit about the hotel itself?
The hotel has 273 guest rooms and 57 of those are suites. We have 5 restaurants and 2 bars, so a total of 7 food and beverage outlets. We have great facilities for our guests and we’ll be offering spa memberships as well because we’ve got an incredibly diverse spa. It’s one of the largest spas in the company, with a female-only section and a male-only section and a combined section as well. There is also an indoor lap-pool. Outdoors, we have got a beautiful 100 metre long family pool and a true oasis, the Azure Pool. We also have a floating dock, it has a roped off area which is being protected for swimming, we call it the “Saltwater Experience Pool”. We will also have non-motorised water sports such as kayaks and paddle boards which will be offered to our guests to use. And we also have a kids club, called Kids For All Seasons; our members and hotel guests will be able to drop their children at this activity centre, so the kids can have fun while the parents are at the pool, spa or having a nice meal. The children’s club is a designated block in the building which has two pools and a water player. It’s a wonderful area and for the size of hotel we have, the play area is actually of a very good size. Outside, there is an activity centre, where the children have their own cooking facilities, pool area and a jungle gym area for them to climb. The kids will definitely have fun and this is also part of the activities we have here for the spa members.
Please tell us about the Four Seasons restaurants and the chefs heading them.
We have three executive chefs, our main executive chef is Chef Stefano Andreoli and he has been with the company for many years. He is Italian and has worked around various Four Season properties around the world. Most recently he was in China and he is going to offer his skills in the Bay View Lounge, Bahrain Bay Kitchen, and Vento (pool-side Italian restaurant). Our big focus will be on catering on property as well as off property. Four Seasons, as a rule does a lot of outside catering, we’ve got a niche doing that as well, so we’re prepared to do so for Palaces, Embassies, and even for someone’s individual home. We’ve also got Chef Ben Small, he is the Executive Chef in charge of CUT by Wolfgang Puck, the steakhouse and it is operated by Four Seasons under the directions of celebrity chef Wolfgang Puck (one of our three Wolfgang Puck operations). We also have Chef Brian Becher, who is in charge of Asian cuisine restaurant called re Asian Cuisine by Wolgang Puck.
Tell us about the special ballrooms and meeting rooms you have here at the Four Seasons?
The large ballroom is called Al Bahrain, the smaller one (but still a good size) is called Al Manama. Four meeting rooms up on the 50th and 51st floor called Sky 1,2,3,4 are also available and I’ve got very nice executive boardrooms 50 and 51, up on the Sky Bridge – on the top section where we have the re Asian Cuisine, the Blue Moon Lounge by Chef Wolfgang Puck, our meeting rooms and two board rooms.
When did the work start on this property?
They’ve been working on this property since November 2011, so they’ve been building for 3 years, which, for a property of this size is quite fast. The general contractor is a company out of Belgium, SixCo, and they’ve done an amazing job.
What were some of the challenges that were faced before or during the opening?
All the challenges faced were anticipated challenges. This is my fourth opening, and what I realised is that finding the right staff is key, it’s not a challenge but it is important that we identify and hire the right people, because if you really want to open a hotel well, you have got to surround yourself with a great network of strong individuals so they can go out and pick strong staff. From our executive committee, to our Director of Public Relations, to all of the people that really help build the foundation, all are very important. After we have established that strong group, we then search for all the different people who will be running the different restaurants, clean the rooms, wash the dishes etc, as that is also important. We can never underestimate how important it is to get those people right too, because if you get the right team with the same goal: serving our guests and working together as a united team, then we will be able to do anything, even move mountains! If you don’t get the right team, you’re never where you want to be.
What is the number of staff you have currently?
Currently we have a staff of 550.
Once the hotel opens, what are your plans? Where do you aim to take it from there?
We want to continue being good community members. We always believe that we want to give back to the community; we strive for that goal. We want to provide our guests with good services, so having the best facilities with the best trained staff and to be able to deliver quality service is essential. We also want to have both sides of the market managed well, so that would be the social aspect which is the weekend traffic from the neighbouring GCC countries, functions and events such as weddings as well as the corporate businesses during the working week.
How do you find the hotel industry in Bahrain, compared to the hotel industries elsewhere that you have worked?
It’s a good industry to be in right now. Year after year, there has been significant growth from the hotel research we’ve done. There is positive growth here and we believe that Bahrain at this point is a good place to be for Four Seasons. We are very happy to be here and I feel it is the right time as we have to offer what is needed by the country right now.
As a leader, do you feel is it important to be liked or respected?
I think you can achieve both. It is important to be respected, but we also, at the Four Seasons, as a culture, believe that we treat each other with respect. Whether I am talking to a House Keeper or I’m talking to the Director of Public Relations or even to my Hotel Manager, we treat each other with respect and that is a two-way street. Everyone’s role is no less important than someone else’s role. I happen to be the General Manager, my role is important, but the person who cleans your room is just as important for what he does. It is the culture of the company too and that’s one of the reasons our company has been rated in the top 100 places to work for the last 18 years. That is largely attributed to our culture of taking care of our staff. When we all work together, there is a sense of achievement and that’s the ultimate goal. Everyone feels a part of the team, a part of the success. The success of this hotel is not because of me or my front office manager, success of this hotel is due to all of us put together working as one dynamic team. I have a mantra, “one team. one goal” and I truly believe that with that idea, we can all work together as one team and our goal is basically to be the best hotel that we can be for our guests.
What is your favourite part about working in a hotel?
Definitely the people. I come to work everyday and I look forward to meeting and greeting our employees, or ‘internal guests’ as we call them. It’s the most important thing. I think its a beautiful building, the restaurants are great, the facilities are fantastic, it is a great, fabulous product. What makes it special and what I look forward to is coming everyday to meet and work with the staff, and that is the most important thing to me.
People come here either for a social visit, or corporate or some just come to unwind after a long day, what do you to unwind or relax?
I love to play golf. I am not very good at golf but I enjoy it and I play at Riffa Views. Colin Montgomerie has designed a very tough, challenging course. I love to go out with my wife and have a nice meal somewhere, and now that Four Seasons has opened, my nice meals will probably be here.
Are you enjoying your time in Bahrain?
I absolutely love it! My wife and I are cat people – and dog people too – so we are involved at the BSPCA and some of the things they do.
For more information about the Four Seasons or restaurants:
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