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Inside China's luxury food & beverage business

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Reducing the hospitality industry to refreshments and edibles would not give justice to its complexity and infinite extensions. It is correct to say that disciplines like business strategies, service marketing, customer service, branding, social media, and market research are at the heart of every food & beverage and hospitality business, especially in the luxury segment.


Today I was able to ask and learn insights from an expert in the field. With a Master’s Degree in Chinese Language and Social Economics, Giovanni Catania stepped into a career in China’s fast-growing luxury hospitality industry.

Giovanni Catania, Director of Restaurants at the recently opened The St. Regis Qingdao in Shenzhen
Giovanni Catania, Director of Restaurants at the recently opened The St. Regis Qingdao 


From the ground up, he started his career in Shenzhen, working in prestigious hotels like The St.Regis and the Four Seasons, taking growing responsibilities that eventually led to his current position as Director of Restaurants at the recently opened The St. Regis Qingdao.

How did you become a hotelier in China?
After graduating, I started with a Management Trainee contract in a local luxury hotel in Shenzhen. Then I got an offer from the prestigious The St. Regis, and my career changed. I discovered a passion for this job - and I was even good at it (laughing), which led me to my current role at Marriott and the opening of The St. Regis Qingdao.

The St. Regis Qingdao in Shenzhen

Lounging area with a view at The St. Regis Qingdao 

 Lounging area with a view at the St. Regis

Lounging area with a view at The St. Regis Qingdao 

Do you think being a foreigner who fully understands the language is an advantage in this industry?
Yes, it sure is, but it is not essential. I have many colleagues who don’t speak Chinese and get the job done gracefully. Still, I think understanding the local culture and work environment and integrating into it is crucial for career development. 

Can you tell us which strategies the F&B needs to approach in China?
You must be aware of Chinese social media such as WeChat, Red Book, and Dazhong Dianping. The last one is the daily driver when it comes to restaurant reviews and special deals, and understanding how it works is vital for an F&B business in China, whether in the luxury segment or not.

Bar at the St. Regis Qingdao in Shenzhen

Bar at The St. Regis Qingdao 

All luxury hotels have high standards, so what makes The St.Regis unique? Is it maybe their philosophy?
It’s all about its rich heritage and long history; it was founded in New York in 1904, and the New York Times stated it was “America’s finest hotel” at that time. In The St. Regis, we are famous for our Butler service and the Rituals we carry on every day since the opening of the very first hotel, such as our Bloody Mary, Afternoon Tea, Midnight Supper, and the Evening Ritual. All of these are key factors that make our guests want to come back from all over the world.

 Restaurant at The St. Regis Qingdao in Shenzhen
Restaurant at The St. Regis Qingdao 

Restaurant at the St. Regis Qingdao in Shenzhen
Restaurant at The St. Regis Qingdao 

In your current role, are you involved with social media?
It’s my responsibility that operations in every restaurant and bar in the hotel run smoothly, and our guests are served with the highest standards. Through every review we receive, social media serve as a tool to understand what we are doing well and where we can do better. 

Considering your brand’s high level, did you have the opportunity to collaborate with other luxury brands?
Yes, we do, and it’s one of the exciting parts of our work. We hosted a video shoot for Vogue in our hotel, which was a collaboration between the two brands on a global level. We also cooperate with luxury brands in the Qingdao market, hosting events in our hotel and offering catering services to their offices or shops.

Bar at the The St. Regis Qingdao.
A fashion shoot at the bar of The St. Regis Qingdao

What are the F&B trends in the (post-)pandemic market?
Hygiene and cleanliness are two areas to which our guests pay great attention, and we are constantly committed to offering the safest and cleanest environment. Also, the younger generation of travellers is looking more into local experiences and how to get the best memories from their travels and share them with their friends on social media. 

What’s next in your career?
I can see my career growth in China over the next few years. We are in an exciting and fast-growing market and culture, which offers many opportunities to grow and learn daily. My ultimate goal is to get closer to my partner and eventually, in a few years, move to Europe, closer to my family.

 The St. Regis Qingdao in Shenzhen

The St. Regis Qingdao 

 

 

Arianna Sorini
Editorial team, Shenzhen
School
SHENZHEN
Course
Programme
postgraduate-Postgraduate Courses