Francois Cnockaert

Francois Cnockaert

General manager, The Ritz-Carlton, Tokyo


Originally published on on September 2009

In July, the 48-year-old Frenchman arrived in Tokyo after working as GM at The Ritz-Carlton, Guangzhou

806-Q&AWhat got you interested in hotels?
I always wanted to be in the hotel industry. When I was 12 or 14, I would ask mom and dad to give me cooking pots and knives for birthday and Christmas gifts.

What was your very first hotel job?
It was in a small hotel in Switzerland for the summer. I was 16 and worked as a pot washer in a hotel restaurant. I learned a great deal, not especially about how to wash pots the best, but about the hotel trade and the value of hard work.

Having worked in many countries, do you notice any differences in work ethic?
In the hotel industry, the way of thinking doesn’t change from country to country. We are all in the business to serve people. What changes is how you serve your guests. In Japan, you’ve got to do things the way Japanese people expect. For example, when Japanese guests come to our hotel, they want to be escorted to the club lounge and they want to be offered tea or fresh orange juice and they want to have everything explained to them. On the other hand, American guests are more likely to just want to be taken to their room straightaway, and may even prefer to carry their own luggage.

Do you feel it is important for you to be in the lobby constantly greeting guests?
It’s always a pleasure to greet guests, but I don’t want to do it in a way where it is forced onto them. Some guests don’t care who the GM is, and that’s fine.

What are the Ritz-Carlton’s strengths?
Our people, our service and our dedication to creating a memorable experience for each and every guest.
Our employees are encouraged and empowered to do whatever it takes to make our guests happy.

How are you coping with the recession?
In these times, our customers demand better value, and the way to do it is by reviewing our processes so that we can do things better, faster and in a more cost-effective manner. But really, it’s more about adding value rather than just reducing rates.

How do you like to relax when you are not working?
I love sports, food, cooking and entertaining. I have a 19-month-old son and I love to spend time with him.