Interview: Four Seasons Doha's Manuel Santos

Director of food & beverage on exciting developments at the Qatar hotel

Manuel Santos, director of F&B, Four Seasons Doha.
Manuel Santos, director of F&B, Four Seasons Doha.

Four Seasons Hotel Doha’s director of food & beverage Manuel Santos talks about the exciting F&B developments at the hotel, including the much-anticipated Nobu opening

What is your career background?
I have a diploma in Techniques and Hotel Management from the Porto Hotel School of Management in Portugal and I have worked in international hotels for the last 17 years. Previous Middle Eastern experience includes leading the pre-opening team as restaurant manager at the Al Hambra restaurant at Al Qasr Madinat Jumeirah in Dubai, where I worked alongside chef de cuisine Alfonso de La Dehesa from El Bulli and Arzak, three-Michelin starred restaurants in Spain.

When did you join Four Seasons Hotel Doha and what are your main responsibilities?
I joined Four Seasons Hotel Doha in June and I am in charge of the F&B division, which incorporates all outlets, banquet operations, kitchens and stewarding. I am also part of the planning committee of the hotel and therefore involved in all major projects and future planning of the property.

What changes will you be making in the F&B department?
Before I start making changes I am focusing on getting to know the market, our competitors and our Four Seasons guests. It’s important that the changes made are what our guests expect and look forward to, and at the same time there are a lot of projects for 2014 and 2015 that will greatly enhance our F&B operation.

How will the new developments reflect the changing F&B scene in the region?
The region is moving forward at a brisk pace; restaurants are shifting focus from ambience to food, with dishes simplified to promote the purity and quality of ingredients. With a strong background in building and marketing interesting dining concepts, solid operational expertise and high standards of quality, I will direct the F&B operations at Four Seasons Hotel Doha. Being involved in the most awaited restaurant opening in Doha — Nobu — is also keeping me and the team busy and very excited.

How will you ensure the profitability of the outlets?
By delivering a great quality finished product with great service. This keeps our loyal guests coming back and enables us to achieve our targets.

What are the biggest challenges you face in your role?
As Doha is growing and new competitors come online, our challenge is to keep our competitive edge without losing ourselves and our identity. Our hotel and food and beverage operation is going through some improvements as we want our guests to continue returning to us. Our biggest asset and focus remains our people, as we continue selecting and retaining the best professionals available in the market.

How do you recruit talent?
Our selection process is rigorous and focused on personality as we believe that skills are trainable. We have all the requirements to have very busy and successful dining outlets, noting the hotel’s prime spot along West Bay. We can see the future — where we stand now and where we could be. The renovation is taking us there.

What F&B news can we expect from Four Seasons Doha this year?
We look forward to the opening of Nobu, which will raise the bar of the restaurant scene in Doha, and we are finalising the construction of our shisha terrace, which will continue to attract local Qataris, as we want them to feel welcome at our hotel. However this is not all, since the hotel is also going through a lot of renovations and improvements to its food and beverage offerings.

Top tips for managing a ssuccessful F&B operation:
1- Your team is your biggest asset, take good care of them and they will take good care of your guests.
2- Be present, observe, guide, correct and most of all never accept mediocrity.
3- If you want to get to know your guests, spend less time analysing feedback reports and more time talking to them.
4- Do a good SWOT analysis. That will help you understand your business and your position in the market.
Choose the best F&B products to work with; quality speaks for itself and sets you apart from others.

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