I had an honour to interview, Tim Leon Theofanou, Director of Hotel Experience of Nobu Hotels and learn the insights of the quintessential brand!
A: Let’s start with the classic question which will definitely will be interesting for our readers… Tell us about yourself, Tim. How did your journey in hospitality business begin?
T: My parents ran a pub in Australia when I was growing up so I have always been around the industry. I had a part time job as a bellman while studying Law and IT at university however I knew when I left university that Law and IT were not for me. I travelled to London, initially for 3 months (20 years later I still live there) and started working in hotels, first as a night bellman. Via Club 21 my CV was handed to The Metropolitan Hotel when I applied for a job in retail and I was given a role as Night Receptionist, it was this hotel that sparked my passion. I fell in love with the fast paced, celeb filled atmosphere of The Metropolitan, which back in the day was the hottest place in London. The second ever Nobu restaurant is located within the hotel so my association with the Nobu brand goes back to this time. Many of the people I met back then are still working for Nobu, they are now GMs of Nobu restaurants around the world or hold roles in the corporate team. Trevor Horwell and Struan McKenzie, the Nobu Hospitality CEO and COO were also involved in the opening of The Metropolitan and so in many ways, joining Nobu Hotels was like coming home. Over the years I have worked in and helped to open many hotels in the modern boutique hotel sector including Sanderson, St Martins Lane, Café Royal, The London EDITION (I also helped to open the Miami Beach EDITION), Chiltern Firehouse, The Ned and now Nobu Hotels where I am the Director of Hotel Experience for the brand.
Nobu Hotel Shoreditch
A: As a director of hotel experience your work routine must be quite hectic, isn’t it? How would you describe your day at work?
T: Every single day is different and that is what I love about my role. I travel often and am responding to these questions from Atlanta airport while waiting to fly to our Palo Alto hotel. Today I met with the owners of Nobu Hotel Atlanta and provided feedback on the model room for the hotel which will open next year. I am currently rolling out a new brand training which has me travelling to 4 of our hotels over the next 2 weeks. I was in Miami last week training our Nobu Miami family and working on the Nobu Pool experience there, we have new planters and greenery on the way along with a new music supplier, all of which I am involved in, we also have a new pool menu and a new bar coming to Nobu Hotel Miami. We will open 4 new Nobu Hotels this year so I am also working on the opening training and culture plans for these 4 hotels, I will travel to them all as I oversee and present the brand orientation for each of the hotels, as well as coordinate taskforce, training and the implementation of our culture program. If I am not meeting face to face or visiting the hotels then I have many regular calls with our operating hotels, following this trip I will travel to Marbella and Ibiza for the start of their summer seasons and return to our newest hotel in Barcelona for a post opening visit. As part of my role I also oversee all guest feedback for the hotels and ensure that we keep focused on our online reputation as well as delivering amazing service on property.
This year we will roll out a communications platform so we will soon have the ability to communicate to all of our colleagues directly via an app, with so many guest facing roles only 20% of our Nobu family have a company email address, I am super excited about this and the potential for collaboration and culture building that it will present. I am incredibly fortunate that our CEO and COO push me to be innovative and support pioneering initiatives such as the communications platform, we will be one of the first global hotel groups to implement such a system. We have such a wonderful family of people around the world and I can’t wait to be able to keep in touch with them all and provide updates in real time.
My days are long, when I am on property it is pretty intense and when I am home in London I often work late into the night as many of my team mates in the Nobu Hotels corporate team work from the USA.
People think the role is glamourous and while I am incredibly fortunate to travel to amazing locations, stay in our incredible hotels and dine in our fabulous restaurants, (my Instagram looks quite impressive (@timleonloves) I don’t often get the chance to enjoy the facilities as a guest – during this trip I will stay in Los Cabos for the 5th time and I still didn’t swim in any of the pools!
A: What do you think is the most important quality for anyone who wants to start working in your field?
T: Passion and kokoro (heart)!… And in the words of Nobu San, “without passion you will not have success”.