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March 11, 2011

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Welcoming to staff and guests alike

FOR Alvaro Rautenberg, general manager of Kempinski Hotel Suzhou, the kitchen, before anything else, is the heart of the operation in a hotel.

The Brazil-born German, tall and loquacious, is more than qualified to suggest this. Prior to his position as a general manager, he has been overseeing the food and beverage business in hotels around the world for about 20 years, in addition to six years' experience of cooking during the initial stage of his hospitality career.

"I don't know whether it is true for others, but I remember from my own upbringing at home that the biggest family gatherings were always in the kitchen and I think the hotel business is somehow the same," said Rautenberg, who first came to China in 1994 for roughly four years before returning to the country in 2003 and staying ever since. "It is true that guests stay and sleep in the rooms but when it comes to food, it is one of the big parts of the hotel business."

Even after more than 20 years, Rautenberg admitted that he's still fascinated when he sees people busy in a kitchen, with everyone knowing exactly what to do. It is, out of all, the "action" that keeps him enthralled.

"I have to be honest that it was because of the kitchen that I chose to work in the industry," he said.

But now, as the general manager of a five-star hotel with 458 rooms and suites, Rautenberg is required to spend more time getting along with people, which fortunately seems to be another interest and strength of his.

"The good thing about being a general manager is that you can combine both - getting along with people and being involved in the action," he said. "You are not bound to your desk and always have the possibility of walking around."

An advocate of the idea of sharing, the 42-year-old spicy food lover adopts an open-door policy for his management style, which means every employee is welcome to visit him anytime he is in his office.

And his straight-forwardness seems to be paying off.

"The team have done outstanding work. My biggest happiness and biggest achievement is that I put a team together which works well together," he said.

It is also a Kempinski style, or one of the strengths of the Kempinski brand, which is, compared to some other international hotel chains, a more people-oriented company.

Oldest luxury hotel group worldwide with prestigious heritage, Kempinski, as a private company, has been growing around the world in a highly selective way, which has enabled it to become a company which, to some extent, knows every one of its employees by their name.

In his latest effort to promote talent, Rautenberg fought hard to win support from headquarters to send one of his Chinese employees to Egypt for a 40-day training program.

"It's important, though sometimes difficult, to keep people in mind," he said. "At Kempinski, we report every three months what we have done in regards to people."

While enjoying his role as a general manager being capable of motivating and directing people to success, which helps lead to his own success as well, Rautenberg has his own perspective toward intensified competition from a growing number of counterparts.

"On one hand, it is a good sign to see more companies coming because it must be a region that everyone believes will boom," he said. "On the other, margins are getting smaller and if you cannot do a good job, your pieces of cake can get smaller."

Boasting a 1,850-square-meter grand ballroom, probably one of the largest in the region, Kempinski Suzhou has been attracting strong MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) business.

And instead of cutting prices to lure customers as some of his counterparts would do, especially during the hard times, Rautenberg prefers to focus more on adding value to his property. In particular, by adding something that other hotels and competitors cannot do, such as an indoor tennis court and a 50-meter-long swimming pool.

Competitive, passionate and target-oriented, Rautenberg said he actually has no time in mind to leave China after living here for more than 10 years in total.

"I feel at home and safe in China despite my foreign outlook and not very good Chinese language skill, except from perhaps some crazy drivers," he joked.

Best Deals

There is no better time to spoil yourself and your family with the best deal in town than the present. Discover the joy of being with your loved ones and indulge with us, right here, right now.

Kempinski Suzhou's spacious lakeview guest rooms, breathtaking lakeside private garden and spectacular health club with fully equipped gym, 50-meter-long heated indoor swimming pool and Jacuzzi will guarantee you a memorable fun-splashing good time with your family. For 1,280 yuan (US$195) plus a 15 percent surcharge you can enjoy a one-night stay in a Deluxe Room, complimentary sumptuous buffet breakfasts for two adults and one child, complimentary extra bed for a child, complimentary in-room high-speed Internet access and free access to the health club.

For an extra 100 yuan, you can be upgraded to a Deluxe Lakeview Room. Valid until May 31. Favorite Dish

Crispy pork knuckle is a typical Bavarian dish and a favorite all over Germany. It is the perfect mix of crunchy crackling and tender caraway and garlic-infused meat.

June 2009~currentGeneral manager of Kempinski Hotel Suzhou

April 2007~May 2009General manager of Kempinski Shenyang

February 2007~April 2007 EAM of Kempinski Shenyang

February 2006~February 2007EAM of Kempinski Sanya


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