Service Professions: “Japan and Service” in Partnership with the association O’Service
This organization led by Denis Courtiade is devoted to restoring meaning and value to service careers. The organization holds as its objective to unite agents working in the French service profession to better advise service professionals of today and the future.
Today I’d like to share with you an interview with Laurent Chevalier, General Manager of the restaurant Beige by Alain Ducasse in Tokyo and member of the association O’Service.
Laurent Chevalier began his career in Paris at the restaurant Tour d’Argent. Afterward, he moved on to New York to bring his skills to Daniel Boulud and the United States for 14 years. In 2014, he joined Alain Ducasse at Tokyo.
How would you define the Japanese art of welcoming? Is it very different from the French art of welcoming? For you, what characterizes the French art of welcoming?
Just like the art of welcoming in France, the Japanese art of welcoming is very cordial and based on protocols. I think that the two ways of welcoming are relatively similar to one another; both are formal and elegant. I would add that in the Japanese art of welcoming, at least in a luxury gourmet setting, there exists a total devotion for the client that go beyond what we are used to in Europe.
What are the values that guide you when receiving your clients? What experiences do you deliver?
In my opinion, beyond simply offering a courteous, elegant, and codified reception, it is essential on my end to be warm and get past the intimidating side of luxury. To make the client feel like we’re going to make him penetrate into an absolute zone of comfort, that each employee is going to actively contribute to his well-being and the success of the culinary experience and service. The welcome not only lasts through the reception of the client and during the service, but also when he leaves the establishment.
As someone who has traveled widely, does your experience of different cultures help you in your role as General Manager of Beige Alain Ducasse in Tokyo?
I think that having lived on three continents and having had to assimilate each time to the customs and rules of each culture, having to understand the different expectations of clients, the different manners—all these can only translate into added advantages for not only the staff, but also the client.
Each of your employees is an ambassador of the hotel and the promise of the services that await. What actions do you put in place to involve your teams in successful fulfilling the promise of the client experience? How do you motivate them to give the best of themselves?
Training is one thing, the reality of the service experience is another. The restaurant experience is like a theatre for me. There are all the rehearsals for the sequence of the service, the training, the role calls, but there no safety net during the actual service. There’s no room for error, and we all know that everyone has a role to play in order for the service to play out for the best. There is not only the technical aspect, but also the emotional and physical aspects. The gratification is immediate in this career; it takes place whether in a profusion of gratitude at the end of the meal or a client who comes back again. That’s the reason why we work. There is a form of altruism in hospitality. We give everything to people we might not necessarily see again but whom we do hope to see again.
I try to motivate my teams by helping them understand that they are what ‘make’ the restaurant. There is a kind of food-service-ambiance triumvirate that is fundamental to the restaurant. But underneath it all, it’s the human touch that will make all the difference.
Discover the restaurant Beige by Alain Ducasse in Tokyo:
Laurent Delporte, an editor and conference speaker, is a strategic expert in the sector of hotels. A visionary, he brings his unique look on hotels in service to the decision-makers in the industry, whether to enhance the development of new projects or strategic visions.
Laurent has visited and audited over 350 hotels across the world and also participates in mystery visits to provide quality control for the world’s finest hotels.