Mandarin Oriental Bangkok’s hotel manager says to bring in new little details and sparks of innovation show that they are looking at improving standards despite the hotel’s 137 year heritage, reputation, and numerous awards.
By Laurence Civil
It’s as if Marcus Bauder has gone full circle from his apprenticeship at Breidenbacher Hof on the Königsallee in Düsseldorf, the city’s ultimate address in luxury and hospitality to his current position as hotel manager at the legendry Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, which is still referred to by many as “The Oriental.” He may have completed one circle of his career but he has many more ahead of him.
“My first job overseas was in Dubai,” says Marcus, “first with Jebel Ali Hotel and then to Burj Al Arab. That was a strange experience. All the guests were there for the first time; we had coach loads of visitors who bought tickets to come into the hotel; the value of which could be spent in our outlets just for a photo opportunity. I was working in F&B, and it was an interesting yet bizarre experience. “
“A former boss then persuaded me to join him for the opening of Corinthia Bab Africa Hotel,” he says. “A Maltese-based hotel group wanted to open a 5-star hotel in Libya when the country was closed to the rest of the world because of international sanctions. Everyone said it was ‘Mission Impossible’, but I agreed to go for eight months for the opening.
“When I arrived in Tripoli, I was collected by the GM who welcomed me by announcing he was leaving. There was no infrastructure, we had to pick up supplies rather than have them delivered. Opening a hotel is an experience; to do it in Libya was something else. We did it with 70 percent Libyan staff, the rest from neighboring North African countries. I used a closed restaurant in the container compound I was staying as a training school. This was a defining experience in my hospitality career.”
From Tripoli, Marcus moved within the same group to Prague as executive assistant manager of a 550-room hotel. From there he moved to the 420-room Shangri-la Far Eastern Plaza Taipei as F&B director. “I had always wanted to work in Asia,” he says. “The attraction is the service mind. I am convinced that I got the job because my experience in Tripoli showed I could adapt to almost any situation and deal with it. When the GM moved to the 200-room Shangri-la Tokyo, I went as his resident manager.”
After that he went to Beijing as hotel manager. “Here there was a lot of banqueting,” he recalls. “I enjoyed working in Beijing although it’s not a city I would choose to rush back to. My experience in Taiwan was invaluable in teaching me how to work with the Chinese.”
To most young hoteliers becoming a GM is the urgent goal come what may. Marcus was about to make that move when he was asked through a contact if he was interested in joining Mandarin Oriental. “To me the choice was obvious,” he reveals, “Not only is the Mandarin Oriental the jewel of the hotel companies with an unrivalled attention to guest service but my Japanese wife and I also realized that the destinations in which Mandarin Oriental operates suit best our personal preferences. Having shown my interest I had a phone conversation with Jan Goessing, the then GM of Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, who was about to move to become area vice president (North America) and GM of Mandarin Oriental New York. He in turn introduced me to his replacement Amanda Hyndman who hired me.
“The name has changed but we should never forget the heritage.” he says of the Mandarin Oriental Bangkok, “I do understand why our guests regard this hotel the way they do. There is something magical about walking into this hotel where some of the staff have worked for decades.”
“The hotel is all about guest service,” he says, “for either our GM or myself to be in the lobby to greet every arrival is so important that it should never change. Guests sometimes ask if I am waiting for a VIP arrival but I am just there watching our team in action and greeting people as they arrive. I can always make time for admin but making the guest happy is what counts, it is looking after the front door rather than the back door. Being visible gives the guest a better sense of value.”
“Managing succession is important,” he says, “Chef Norbert Kostner has been our executive chef for 39 years. He has spent the last three grooming his successor Chef Stefan Treep to take over the reins. This transition allows Chef Norbert to take on the position of Culinary Director driving innovation and creativity.”
“Despite our 137-year heritage and numerous awards,” he concludes, “we are competing on a global level. To bring in new little details, sparks of innovation shows that we are looking at improving standards. It’s important not only to meet but to far exceed guest expectation.”