In Conversation with… Nicolas Gardier

The General Manager at Downtown Rotana talks industrial-scale passion and delight in his island return.

Did you always know you would join the hospitality industry? What inspired this choice?
When I was younger, at the age of eight or nine, my family spent the summer holidays in a hotel in Italy. While my siblings played outside, I would sit in the lobby bar and watch the bartender organise their mise en place and serve the guests and it was fascinating. Occasionally, they would allow me to attend to some tasks and it was a lot of fun.
My interest in hospitality grew when I was a teenager. My uncle studied at the École hôtelière de Lausanne and, after gaining insight about the sector from him, I started working as an extra in bars and restaurants and finally decided to follow in his footsteps in Switzerland.
I have never thought of doing anything other than hospitality. I believe that to be good in the hotel industry, you must carry it in your blood, be passionate! I was lucky to be able to do what I love and in having great parents that supported me during my studies.

You were promoted to Director of Food and Beverage (F&B) very early in your career, at 26, how did it feel to take on such a big responsibility at such a young age?
My first assignment was in a resort in Spain as a Banquet Manager. The hotel was busy, especially when it came to weddings and meetings, and I was tasked with a lot of responsibilities. I knew the hotel better than my home as I was spending so much time there. When the Director of F&B quit, I was offered the opportunity to take his position. It was scary at the beginning as it was a big step in my career, but the general manager made me feel comfortable, allowing me to build confidence.
I had a great team; we were like a family. I believe that you can only be successful if you have a great team. And, to have a great team, you need to be a great leader. Throughout my career I have had the chance to work with some amazing people, who I have learned from.

After several years in Europe, you made the move to the Middle East and have now been working in the region for 14 years. What made you decide to come to the Arab world?
My first Arabic country was Morocco, it was a great introduction to the Arab world, specially working in hospitality. I continued my journey towards the Middle East with a move to Qatar. When you are a true F&B lover and are passionate about events and enjoy innovation, working in the GCC is a dream. The latest concepts and trends as well as the best chefs and mixologists are found in the Middle East. It is like Disneyland for a kid. With a bit of creativity, the sky is the limit.

Congratulations on your recent appointment as GM of Downtown Rotana. What are your plans for the property?
Thank you very much, it is an honour to take up the role at Downtown Rotana which has great potential. Pre-Covid, the hotel showed great potential and had penetrated the market with a good reputation, we hope to build on where we left it in 2020 with some exciting new features.
Soon Teatro, our signature restaurant, will have a menu revamp with unique Asian and classic Mediterranean cuisine additions as well as a new cocktail menu that will bring a new trend in town.
Flavours on 2, our all-day dining outlet, will reopen daily with a new business lunch concept with a wide variety of choice freshly cooked at different live stations.
The Friday Brunch concept will be modified and bring freshness and entertainment to the venue. We are also working on a weekend theme night.
Finally, this one is still on the drawing board, we are looking at creating a new venue at the pool side. It will be a great new place to visit but I can’t say anything more now, we will keep you posted!

You have worked in Bahrain before, what made you come back and what are the major changes you can see since last you were here?
Before leaving the island back in 2014, Downtown Rotana was under construction. I remember looking at the building with some friends and saying, ‘one day I will be back as GM in this property’. Manama has evolved immensely in eight years. When I arrived in the country last month, I noticed changes right from the beautiful new Bahrain International Airport. The Bahrain Bay was not open back then. Many five-star hotels have popped up in different locations on the island, which shows that tourism is developing. I am proud that I will be contributing to the development as I am sure many opportunities to grow the business will come along with the expansion of the country.
I always enjoyed the sense of hospitality in Bahrain, people are genuine and welcoming. It is a great pleasure to be back. ✤