Grand Hyatt Shanghai: You eat in my hotel, I eat in yours~

Welcome hoteliers!

LinkedIn is such a powerful networking tool if you use it right. If you add everyone and never communicate with them, what’s the point?

When I listed my position on LinkedIn, I had many requests to connect, as well as requested to connect with others; Grand Hyatt was very popular in Shanghai. So I made some good contacts but my closet contact was with a man from Dubai. He was working as a Ritz executive club manager at the Ritz Carlton Pudong hotel next door to Grand Hyatt and boy was I salty. 

Ritz Carlton Pudong Club Lounge

Ritz Carlton is actually my favorite hotel chain.

Well, I love Peninsula, Mandarin Oriental, Park Hyatt, Ritz Carlton & Four Seasons. So Ritz is one of my favorites let’s say that.

The Ritz Carlton Pudong was a bit more international than the staff at Grand Hyatt. The Front Office Manager at Grand Hyatt, a German guy, was leaving after being there for 3 years. Leaving me, and the interns who would also leave soon as the only expats in the front office. However the Ritz had a Director of Rooms who was a Hispanic woman, my friend from Dubai, an assistant front office manager who I didn’t meet but was international as well, more interns than us and more foreigner staff overall; Grand Hyatt only had around 8 foreign staff excluding interns.

Connections are very important, I always knew this, however the DOR (director of rooms) was a director in Dubai as well, her husband was from Dubai, they worked at a JW Marriott there, and my friend was also from Dubai, they worked with him and brought him to China after they settled there, that’s incredible to me because it isn’t easy to get in China trust me, I had luck + language + skills they needed that’s the only way I was getting in at my level.

So the club manager and myself became pretty good friends and he would invite me to meet up at the club lounge. And partake of some incredible incredible… one more time… incredible club food. So I introduced him to our club manager a few weeks later and he ate at our club. Of course this was rather under the table, and don’t even be shocked, all kinds of things like this happen in hotels.


Most times, staff can’t really get the opportunity to try the nice fancy stuff guests enjoy, although in new hotels this is changing. How can we recommend and describe the flavors in the food, comfort of the bed, views etc. without having tested it?

So it became quite often for me to go to Ritz for a meal before or after work, and for him likewise… until we got caught. Our DOR (director of rooms) noticed him from before and wanted to have a meal and see what was going on. After they chatted, it was fine, but he had to pay half the price and could only come by letting us know.


So yeah, he got caught and it became regulated, but what was surprising is that it was allowed to continue at all. Meanwhile I was sneaky to avoid detection at the Ritz ;D. In the end, I just paid each time to treat my buddy, since Ritz club food was way more expensive than our club. Friends over food are friends for life! 


Thanks for stopping by, and see you in the next article!

Best Regards,

Daniel Cooper

Have pride in your hotel!

Welcome hoteliers!

This article is something that even I have to remind myself to do at times! No one loves their job all of the time, it’s easy to criticize it, take it for granted, and even as ambitious as I am, I have to stop sometimes and think, why am I knocking my job?

Most people, usually leave bad managers, not bad jobs, but what makes people stay?

Grand Hyatt Shanghai has had some issues, okay, a ton of issues, and I will definitely spill, but what kept me there week after week?

Well… because it’s the Grand Hyatt!

Grand Hyatt Shanghai, night view

I love the hotel industry, and I think about what goes into a brand. Think about the Four Seasons for example and how it started, Father and Son building hotels from the ground up.

How about the design teams to design rooms, the companies designing programs to make the staff’s lives easier, the promotions online to make guests happy and keep them coming to keep us employed, the packages and cheap travel deals they offer employees.

There’s so much that goes into one hotel. Think about a brand, as a manager, or even front line agent, personally I wear my brand as a badge of honor. I had always coached the employees to have “pride in your hotel.”



Maybe the product isn’t perfect, maybe management isn’t perfect, but the work, dreams, and labor to build a magnificent property is why I think there is a certain pride to be an ambassador in this property.

I have this belief of a true sense of hospitality, something I feel most hotel employees are lacking these days, something that the industry is struggling with.

On Christmas, although I was working, I was coaching a staff member who was upset because a guest came to the desk to complain about the shower not working etc.

After the agent calmed down, I said imagine if you went to the a hotel overseas and you couldn’t shower after paying $600 a night; so the guest’s frustration is warranted. Rather than argue, let’s work to find a solution. But, it goes deeper than that, we are ambassadors not just of the individual hotel, but of the company, and not just that, but to international guests, we represent our country.



International guests, usually see the hotel staff as the representatives of the country. They’re usual interactions, if not visiting for business, are with the immigration at airports (nervous interaction.) taxi driver (hit or miss interaction,) and the hotel staff! So we should do our best to leave a fantastic impression!

My advice from this random article! 🙂
Working in a hotel is not just any old job, you need to have a sense of service and the desire to create experiences! That is true hospitality and I try to distill this to all staff at any property I work at; have pride in your hotel!


Best Regards,
Daniel Cooper

Hotel turnover part II!!

Welcome hoteliers!

In the last article I gave a small synopsis about the hotel turnover in China, Korea, and the USA.

Today I want to just show you a little of my experience dealing with it. I’m still a young manager but I am a unique one with unique solutions; I say that because I did not have a mentor or someone’s example to go after, so I want to share my solutions and hope that it helps others! Let’s start with… China of course!



Within my first three months, we lost four front desk agents and had hired two interns and two new front desk agents. To the other managers, this was clockwork, but it bothered me. I wanted to do something about it. And it was very simple, just as one former employee stated… “I’ll go work an office job, get normal hours, and a higher pay,” I realized that in the staff’s mind, there’s no benefit for working in a hotel.

I decided to talk with all of the agents, to see where they may be unhappy and where the opportunities for growth may lie; surely there’s more than work, go home, and eat food. And then it dawned on me, China has a problem instilling hope on their workers. I mean, why come to work in a hotel? If the answer was just to survive…. wrong answer! What about the true hospitality spirit?

I was re-instilling a sense of belonging, hope, and enjoyment in seeing people happy because of the experiences we created! Whether we saw a family that booked a queen room that we upgraded to a double room with a view, or sent an amenity to a newly wed couple, I showed the enjoyment that can come from that. If you can find that enjoyment, it’s not bad work at all, plus the travel benefits which very few took advantage of, so I started to push them to go. “Visit your families, take a trip, 2-3 days is good, get some fresh air, use your 70% discount etc.” and the turnover for the rest of my tenure was practically non-existent.

When I went to Chengdu it was the same thing; I emphasized instilling hope, a sense of belonging and showing them what true hospitality was like. In fact most employees don’t know why they work in hotels in the first place!




In Korea, I managed an apartment building, not a hotel. They hired me because I could offer hotel level services to guests, which we did. We operated partially with AirBnB (great cash-flow) and short-term apartment rentals.

Whilst having a small staff I did have numerous hotel contacts and it was the same from what I observed and discussed with other managers. The local staff will accept being miserable, but will keep their job because another one is hard to find. But I found encouragement to be the best practice. When the staff is unhappy, they begin to think only of pay, work, and to go home. Encourage them, and they are more engaged, come with a smile, and cooperate more. I challenged my friends to get to know their staff better, challenge them to be unique, talk to them about future prospects, instill some hope!

Good olUSA!


Admittedly it’s my first time actually managing in my own country, and to add onto it, my hotel is super unionized. To the point that I actually can’t check in a guest myself, I’ll be taking away work from the front desk agents. If I check in one guest, the most senior agent is getting paid a full days salary. In fact, I’m gonna write an article for you all soon enough about the… UNION!

However the issue isn’t that, one problem is high management turnover. Most of the agents are older, having been working for 5-30 years. And every year there’s a new 20-something year old manager with new ideas and wants to change your work, life, and flow! I saw this instantly, but how I manage is by first realizing that: I’m not going to change anything.

It’s more of assisting with efficiency, solving issues, and improving/assisting with change from corporate. For example, if agents are always clicking and are a bit on the slow side, I show them some hot keys which are easy to memorize that can help them speed up; not forced just suggested, and I do put it in a nice way which they are very welcoming of.

As managers we have to solve very creatively when guests complain and that’s why the managers are younger and younger. We’re creative, unique, and have thick skin. And finally hotel corporations are always trying to improve their product, systems, and process. Most times drastic change is hard for employees, especially when they’ve done the same for 15 years. Our job is to learn it first, simplify it and train it!

Final words? My advice has always been to train and encourage not blame and force. Take care of the staff and they will take care of the guests! I hope my methods will help to inspire even more unique methods that I too am always eager to learn!

Thanks for stopping by and see you in the next article!



Best Regards,
Daniel Cooper

Hotel turnover! Part I

Welcome hoteliers!

Turnover… a touchy issue for employers all over the world. And in hotels, well it’s rampant!

I mean, there’s so many brands, so many options, lots of vacant positions, hotels are always hiring because people are always getting promoted, resigning, changing departments, it’s quite hectic really.

However the reasons for the turnover are quite different in countries say, China, Korea, and the United Stated.

Being that I worked in all three countries, and whilst generalizations to an extent I want to discuss this in 2 parts. Mainly to shed some light about Asian hotel hiring situations that you prospective hoteliers might encounter and as some food for thought as well. 🙂

United States!


Our country is big, and there are many regional differences, but let’s talk about the turnover rate in NYC!

In NY the main turnover is with management; particularly middle management. Front line staff are unionized in most hotels, meaning their position is very stable! They pay the hotel unions a weekly “union dues” and in exchange the union offers protection, representation, helps find a job if you get laid off under certain circumstances, seeking a new job etc. the union offers much, so the front line staff usually stay; plus they make more than the managers!

The managers on the other hand are climbing to the top and usually change hotels within the same brand, such as a person in a Courtyard Marriott might jump to a Ritz Carlton and then to a JW Marriott since it’s all in the Marriott family group of hotels. So managers are seeking higher salaries, advancement opportunity, and growth.

Most managers will only remain for a year or so, then transfer to another property. This means that staff is constantly meeting, getting to know, then saying goodbye to constantly changing management. That definitely creates a strain on morale and loyalty, my impression of the most staff in the hotel, is: “oh boy, another manager… (sarcasm)”

That’s for the US anyway!




For China I’m going to use Shanghai and Chengdu since I’ve worked substantially in these 2 cities.

The management does move around but usually after 2-3 years in a position however the front staff especially front desk agents and in F&B, the F&B hosts are the usual source of high turnover.

Actually, China has an issue with front line staff staying and gaining enough experience to become managers, hence it’s one of many reasons overseas managers are present, although that is changing.

Unlike in the USA, the pay is extremely low for front line staff, they’re usually living together in staff housing provided by the hotel, and the staff cafeteria isn’t very good. So the work conditions are okay however the living conditions is quite disappointing; if you’re anything like me, you don’t fancy sharing living space. Because of all of this, it’s easy to see why agents change jobs for a completely different hotel brand just for an extra $100 a month!

Also the hotel demands a high level of English language competency for front of house staff, which is to be expected, coupled with overnight shifts and these conditions… it makes for quite a frustration build up. One former agent put it like this:

“If I can speak good English and I have these skills, instead of working for this low wage, I can go work in an office job doing trading or sales with foreign companies and make $500 more a month!”


South Korea!


Have to make that distinction there~ anyways, in S. Korea, jobs are scarce as the competition is extremely fierce in major cities like Seoul; even fiercer than NYC and I’m quite serious. Hiring practices are insane, front line staff must “look” the part. So much so that Koreans often have surgery not just for school or because they want to enhance themselves to boost their confidence; it’s also to be able to get a job.

In S. Korea, looks can get a job over experience in some cases. One friend even told me of a minimum height requirement for men and woman in front offices! But back to the main point!

Because jobs are scarce, the turnover is much lower, and the salaries are much higher then say China but a little lower than NY, the turnover rate is quite low. While good in a way, it makes the hotel system quite bland which is Korea’s problem. I actually really love Korean culture and definitely want to go back, but there’s no real opportunity to get into the hotels mainly because there’s no openings. The other factor affecting hiring and turnover, which is similar to to China, is hiring overseas born Koreans or Chinese is becoming more and more popular and they will often take the internship positions as well, since they speak English fluently in most cases!

What does this mean to you, the future or current hotelier who is aspiring to become a General Manager?

If you’re going to work in NY, become familiar with unions, as I’m doing now, still getting used to it! If you’re going to work in China, get used to constantly training constantly changing staff, it’s fun at first, but after constant resignations and new hires, it gets old, and if you’re in Korea, cherish that job because it’s quite hard to get in!

That’s all for this first article, next one I’ll show you my experience dealing with these factors and how I handled it! Thanks for stopping by and see you in the next article!



Best Regards,

Daniel Cooper

Grand Hyatt Shanghai: First challenge, old staff new tricks!

Welcome Hoteliers.
You know how they say you “can’t teach an old dog new tricks?”
Do they have a saying for old staff? Certainly you can teach them new tricks right? I’d soon find out.

New managers like myself are all very gung-ho. We’re gonna change everything, we got all these new ideas and we’re gonna MHGA. (make hotel great again, see what I did there? 😉 )

I thank my parents for many things. A good many things indeed, one thing my parents taught me, always pay attention to everything, your surroundings, people etc.
What I got from them is, pay attention to what you say, do, and what’s around you. So when I was spewing all these ideas of great changes to come, the staff looked at me with this look. It was a look that had a little “you crazy as hell,” a little “this guy…” and a little “bye Felicia” all mixed in it.

I quickly noticed and changed my tune.

The staff definitely saw I took a hint, and as embarrassing as it is to admit. I got a little respect from it, they see I valued their opinion; well at least we all laughed about it several months down the line.
Most of the staff were in their late 20s early 30s and had worked at Grand Hyatt for a few years. The 2nd person closet to my age at my position was 32, married with a kid. So me being 22, definitely raised some eyebrows. I had to prove myself before I could change a pen on the desk since I was definitely being watched; they wanted to see how I performed.

The GM wanted change. So I knew whatever I want to change or enhance, I had to build it and do it myself until they get curious enough to join me; it really is that simple. Not all staff, but a small amount are interested in improving themselves, which I prefer anyway. A small team of elites!


I created 2 simple VIP programs. The VIP courtesy call log, and re-introduced a program they had a longtime ago such as birthday cakes with handwritten notes. The latter was simple, it’s a guest birthday; send a cake. This is certainly a western tradition but in the east, it was not as widely celebrated, however it was becoming more popular. And it’s a nice gesture, with a hand-written card = good online review.

The former being a courtesy call log. It’s also simple, I broke it into 4 sections. VIPs, Hyatt Gold Passport (now World of Hyatt) members, short stays of 5-9 nights, and long stay of 10+ nights.
Most guests, even if you ask, don’t want to tell you their bad experiences, especially VIPs. Not to categorize guests, because all guests are important. But a normal guest paying $150 on who leaves a bad review, we can do damage control, give a little compensation and all is well in heaven and earth. A VIP, can result in loss of a contract which can effect 50 rooms nights or more, sometimes it’s the boss of the company itself who can simply move their account to a competitor. So these calls can catch a situation before it festers and becomes deal-breaking; we call that, service recovery

I would call the guest room an hour to two hours after check-in to ask about the room condition, are the facilities to their liking, do they need anything, and establish a point of contact. If they are short stay guests for 5-9 nights or long staying guests 10+ nights, we call them every 3 days to see if they need a refresh etc.

I also used my report to build preferences such as housekeeping servicing times, so the guests did not get a sudden wake up from the housekeepers, I mean how awkward is it for a housekeeper to poke their head in when you’re snoozing and get woken up. I confirm checkout time which makes it easier to flip the house (more hotel jargon, basically knowing how many departures you have, at what time, how many rooms you can get cleaned at what times, and how many rooms you can get back to plan for your arrivals and pre-assign early departure rooms to early arrival guests or VIPs etc etc etc~).
So, my report was a big deal!

After a few days of committing to my reports, some staff & interns wanted to get on board.

I suspect for language practice, many international guests from corporate accounts such as Apple, IBM, Microsoft, Deloitte, Credit Suisse had contracted nights, so they were common guests; the staff wanted to practice with them. I also suspect they wanted to sit down in the back office and call guests as such allowed them a small break from the desk and who could blame them for that. 😉

My advice is if you are starting at a new job and want to implement changes, implement them yourself and show its success to the team before you want others to join you on it thus proving your ability and not wasting anyone’s time!

Thanks for stopping by and see you in the next article.

Best Regards,

Daniel Cooper

Grand Hyatt Shanghai: Guest Interaction Workshop!

Welcome hoteliers!

The GM at Grand Hyatt Shanghai wanted to drastically improve guest service scores since the hotel had been stagnant with guest feedback scores hovering around 74%.

This meant a sizable portion of people were unhappy mainly from the F&B side, or the check-in side. Unlike most hotels, the rooms at Grand Hyatt Shanghai were quite nice, had great technology, and were well maintained. Which meant most of the issues were from a service standpoint: Slow check-in, cold staff, no greetings and the big one… staff couldn’t speak English.

Head in Hands

It was a little easier for F&B since they had a menu, guests could simply point to what they wanted if the staff didn’t understand them, but from the rooms department guests had many varying preferences which couldn’t be communicated easily, or they needed a taxi and the bellman couldn’t communicate their destination.

I recall a time where a guest described an airport he wanted to go to, the bellman didn’t understand him and told the taxi driver which airport he thought the guest was going to, but Shanghai has two airports, one on each side of the city, two hours apart from each other. I overheard as I was walking to pick up a VIP from the front gate, and asked the bellman which airport, he tried to explain what the guest said but couldn’t understand. So we chased after the taxi which was at a red light and asked the guest exactly which airport he was referring to, he was going to Hongqiao airport, the taxi driver was bringing him to Pudong airport.

If we didn’t catch him, oh boy, the guest would have gotten to the first airport an hour and a half later, been lost, then spend two hours going to the other; also the trip would have cost the guest almost $100; for Chinese taxis, that is quite a lot of money.


The problem our staff had, wasn’t that their English was overly bad, it was decent, the problem was that they get nervous speaking to western guests. So HR and I started working on a guest interaction workshop. The point of this was to introduce a variety of scenarios the guest may inquire about which the staff would be able to provide urgent and effective care; and for the staff to be able to communicate in English!

It was fun and enjoyable, to say the least, they were eager to learn, we also gave them many phrases and sentences they might encounter, taught them how to pronounce certain words & improve their accents, how to handle complaints, international guest tendencies and…. The difference between western countries.

One difference between western countries and China, is that in the west, we are very politically sensitive and very aware of others backgrounds. Such as American, Canadian, Mexican, French, Italian etc. However in China, and also the language is structured this way, but it isn’t as politically sensitive, it’s simply you’re Chinese or you’re not. More specifically, 外国人(wàiguórén foreigner) means every country that isn’t China. The issue with this is that French, German, American etc. have no distinction to most Chinese locals until educated about the differences. All Caucasian people are from America or the UK; all black people are from Africa etc.

yeah right

The workshop did wonders to show them some of the differences in cultures as well as improve their language and they were very eager to engage international guests. We did this workshop once a month and had good results. Overall, it was a good experience to teach old staff new skills, and for me, to assist in helping a hotel trying to regain its former glory was quite an enjoyable journey so far. At this point I’ve been working at Grand Hyatt for a two weeks so far.

My advice, especially when working in hotels within mainland China, patience is a virtue. Most of the staff have had limited exposure to expats, even in a hotel setting. Besides the normal interactions, there is a lot they do not understand and have never been taught. Take the time to find the best way to introduce them to different cultures, ways of thinking, and find the middle ground to help them bridge the gap. In my former hotel, I saw that they love learning in a group setting, so a workshop was most effective. See what would work for your property and make it happen!

Thanks for stopping by and see you in the next article!


Best Regards,

Daniel Cooper

Grand Hyatt Shanghai: Right place at the right time~!!!

Welcome hoteliers!

Life’s certainly interesting how things work out and this job was definitely one of those situations.

Grand Hyatt Shanghai was a place with a lot of issues, every hotel has issues but we certainly had a ton, but that was the beauty of it. The hotel had been operating for 17 years, which is very old; although it had completed a nice renovation two years before I joined.

Deluxe King size room with a view! Grand Hyatt Shanghai

The problem with old hotels isn’t the product, it’s the owners.

The hotel lifespan in China is very short. In the beginning they invest like crazy to have the best of the best product wise, with foreign workers, top chefs etc. then 3 years down the line, they roll out their staff reduction plans, cut high level positions in favor of cheaper local alternatives which makes sense, I mean it’s China, but you do have to cater to your international guests too.

Then the owning company starts to only care about profit and forget the true sense of hospitality. And that’s when the major issues start to surface. The leadership down to management down to the front line staff, feel the need to cut costs. For example, in order to cut costs, we resorted to giving the guests only 1 room key so we don’t need to order as many room keys; many people, and understandably so, like to take hotel keys as souvenirs. I like that, I mean, isn’t our job to leave lasting experiences anyway?

We also had to limit compensation regardless of the nightmare stay for the guest. Using out of order rooms with messed up facilities as last sell on sold out nights but putting them back in service to put a body in the room; once the guest is seen as walking money, service falls.

I’ve seen this trap many times, but Grand Hyatt was special. Most hotels don’t escape this trap, rather, they encourage it. If they cut costs one year, cut more the next. Makes sense right? But it’s horrible for hotels! Don’t compromise guest experience!


Sorry about that, but I’m passionate about guest experiences.

Grand Hyatt though was trying it’s best to reverse that, our GM who was from the UK, had put such an emphasis on guest experience that it was shocking. I never worked with a more hands on GM who was always present in the lobby, asked questions to staff to make sure we were prepared, had weekly meetings, watched scores and demanded answers for every bad survey. You name it he was on it, and I respected him for it. He was in between serving the owners who wanted to make huge ROI (return on investment) and ensuring staff is happy, so we treat the guest right.

The way I see it, the job of the agents is to make guests happy, the supervisors protect the agents from the managers who want efficiency in business hotels such as Grand Hyatt, the managers protect the staff from the directors who want to cut costs and force us to give guests one key, and reuse items if not visibly damaged. The directors protect the department from the GM and owners who want to cut positions to save money and make one man work as three. Efficiency is good, but the staff aren’t robots… at least for now.

Hyatt Regency3
This is really a thing… at Hyatt Regency Tokyo

And finally, the GM protects the hotel from the owners who 95% of the time, never worked in the industry, don’t know anything about hotels and only see it as piece of real estate and see people as walking money. The GM also has to tell the owners what’s best for them, I mean, why hire an experienced expert and not listen to his/her advice?

The hotel was in a state of change and I felt that not only could I achieve great things there, but I could learn so much more; and that I did. It was my 2nd week and I created the “guest interaction workshop” with HR for all front of house employees. The way Grand Hyatt was trying to redefine itself, I definitely knew I was at the right place at the right time.

My advice being to recognize each job for the opportunities that may emerge. Sometimes in the most chaotic of situations, lie an opportunity to change, own, or redefine something that changes everything! In hotels, look for something that you can own and take care of; not only is it a great resume builder, but leave your mark in the hotel’s future process and watch your legacy grow!

Thanks for stopping by and I’ll see you in the next article!


Best Regards,

Daniel Cooper


Working in luxury hotels overseas

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