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Nicola Aldo Luciani: Leading the Way in Hospitality Through Interdisciplinary Thinking and Courageous Change

The hospitality industry is one of the most dynamic and exciting fields in the world today, encompassing a wide range of businesses and services designed to meet the needs and desires of travelers and locals alike. From high-end luxury hotels and resorts to quaint bed and breakfasts and charming cafes, the hospitality industry plays an essential role in shaping the experiences of individuals and communities all around the world.

One individual who has made a significant impact in the hospitality industry is Nicola Aldo Luciani. With over 18 years of experience working in Michelin restaurants and international high-end luxury hotels across three continents and five cities, Nicola Aldo is a respected senior advisor and consultant, well-known for his expertise in strategic business planning, leadership, staff development, and team training.

Throughout his successful career, Nicola Aldo has remained committed to the principles of interdisciplinary thinking and the courage to change direction. He strongly believes in the power of creativity, innovation, and adaptability in driving success and growth in the hospitality industry.

With his passion for professional development and his unwavering focus on delivering high-end results, Nicola Aldo has become a recognized leader and pioneer in the field, known for his ability to inspire and motivate teams to achieve excellence in all aspects of their work.

In this interview, we have the opportunity to learn more about Nicola Aldo's remarkable career, his passion for interdisciplinary thinking and change, and his vision for the future of the hospitality industry. By sharing his insights, experiences, and strategies, Nicola Aldo will help us gain a deeper understanding of what it takes to succeed in this fast-paced and dynamic field.

From his early days as a young aspiring professional to his current role as a leading Hospitality Business Strategist Consultant & Project Manager, Nicola Aldo's journey is a testament to the power of passion, dedication, and hard work in achieving success in the hospitality industry.

So join us as we explore Nicola Aldo's fascinating career and discover the insights and strategies that have made him a true trailblazer in the world of hospitality. Whether you're a seasoned professional or just starting out in the field, you won't want to miss this exclusive interview with one of the industry's most successful and innovative leaders.

Nicola Aldo Luciani

Can you describe a time when you successfully implemented an innovative approach or strategy to address a challenge within the hospitality industry, and what impact did it have on the business's success?

When I started working in my last job, I noticed how stressful it was for new employees to get on board. Many new hires wouldn't last their first three months of the probation period – it was just too draining and demanding for them.

The hospitality industry is often understaffed, so we are constantly doing extra hours to cover for it. Hence, when “new blood” comes in, we tend to push them a tad too much. The onboarding training is an intensive full-on thing, which can range from spending a full day in the kitchen to learning about company core values and being in operation. Additionally, they have to complete three double shifts in a week, which can be overwhelming.

I suggested breaking down the training over the period of three months, focusing on small steps and assigning a team mentor to guide the new hires. The mentor and new employee would meet twice a week, and the mentor would guide the new hire through the onboarding process and shadowing.

During the first month, we would go light on the shifts. That meant only a double shift a week, and not during the busiest times. This gave the new hires time to acclimate. They still did knowledge reading at home, but it helped massively.

This change was so powerful that it improved the probation period of our new employees, which improved performance and staff retention. As you know, workers want to work for an employer that offers more than good pay and ongoing training – they want to have a good work-life balance."

How do you encourage your team to think outside of traditional silos or disciplinary boundaries, and what benefits have you seen from this approach?

Have you ever heard the saying 'Leaders who don't listen will eventually be surrounded by people who have nothing to say'? With that knowledge in mind, the first thing I do is create a safe working environment where people can express themselves freely.

Secondly, I apply the various strategies and methodologies that I've learned from books and share them with my team. We do a cut-and-paste approach, constantly learning and improving our processes.

I strongly believe that to think outside of the silos, you first need to learn the mechanics of it. Otherwise, you may end up doing the same thing repeatedly. Small changes in habits can bring long-term results.

The benefits of this approach are manifold – a more collaborative working environment, increased engagement, and appreciation among team members.

Can you tell us about a time when you had to make a difficult decision that required you to change direction or pivot in a new direction, and how did you handle that situation?

In my previous role as a business consultant, one of the toughest choices I had to make was ending a contract, which meant losing out on income. The project objective was to manage the entire lifecycle of pre and post-opening fine dining in the Middle East, and it was an essential part of my annual income. It would have added nicely to my portfolio of experience.

However, as the months went by, the project scope changed, and I was required to deal with other things. Too often, I found myself doing things that were not in line with the initial purpose. Instead of two months of organization and relocating to a new country, I spent a total of nine months doing everything else but what I was hired for.

While I wanted to find a way to accommodate the changes, after nine months, I realized that it was unfair to myself and the client. During my time there, I also persuaded colleagues to join me, and I had created expectations that I had to turn down. It was hard, but I couldn't guarantee the same work for others.

I had a meeting with the client, explaining that I would no longer be able to provide my services and stuck to my convictions. The decision allowed me to spend more time on myself, working on new strategies to attract new clients and diversify my consulting business.

How do you balance the need for stability and consistency with the need to innovate and adapt in response to changing market conditions or customer expectations?

My team and I recently had a discussion about how leaders can be more strategic, and I came to the conclusion that it's a fine combination of both individual traits and the collective effort of the team.

The first step is to carefully analyze yourself and determine your strengths and weaknesses. Once you have that understanding, surround yourself with others who complement your traits.

For managers, it's wise to find a strong "number two" who can check your worst impulses and enhance your strengths.

When it comes to innovation, it's a tricky area as the market is unpredictable, and no one knows what will happen in the next week. However, one thing that stays certain is consistency in excellent service. A good product, coupled with good service, will make people come back.

How do you stay up-to-date with emerging trends and technologies within the hospitality industry, and what strategies do you employ to ensure that your team remains ahead of the curve? 

I look around at what’s happening – the internet is a good place to start (a few subscriptions to the right hospitality website and you get a good picture). Balance scoring cards, SMART goals and other KPIs help a lot to keep track of my progress of me and the team.

Can you describe a situation in which you successfully collaborated with individuals from different disciplines or backgrounds to achieve a common goal, and what strategies did you use to build a cohesive team?

When I got a job in Africa, I was tasked with speeding up operations and making radical changes to the management. This involved refreshing operations while improving products and services. However, there was a lot of skepticism on the other side as I wasn't the first to try and make changes. The team had experienced too much direction and changes in the past year, and they were hesitant to embrace my approach.

During the first month, I focused on building relationships with the team by getting to know them on a personal level. I wanted to understand their frustrations, dreams, and desires. I then developed a plan that aligned the company's needs with the interests of its people.

This approach turned out to be successful as people started to trust me and understand my vision. We walked together on the path of change and progress.

One of the best strategies that I have learned is to "talk in terms of the other person's interest." This allows me to connect with people and understand their perspectives while still achieving the desired outcome.

How do you handle situations in which team members are resistant to change or new ideas, and what steps do you take to get them onboard with new approaches?

It really depends on the situation, but generally, I explain that the workplace is more than just a source of income; it's an opportunity for us to test and improve ourselves.

As Albert Einstein once said, "The measure of intelligence is the ability to change." If we're not changing, we're not growing, and if we're not growing, we're not being intelligent. Therefore, we must get used to change and use the workplace as our laboratory to continuously learn and grow.

Can you describe a situation in which you had to take a calculated risk to achieve a desired outcome, and what impact did that decision have on the success of the project?

One of the biggest risks I've taken was during a pre-opening of a massive casino in the Bahamas, where my colleague and I developed a new beverage program just a week before the official opening. With fourteen outlets and 2,600 rooms, we weren't sure about the staff's capabilities and how they would cope with such short notice.

Despite the challenges, we considered the client's target audience and aimed to create something cutting-edge yet difficult to reproduce. We had around 40 people to train and not even a proper bar to work on.

To overcome these challenges, we focused on practical training, setting up two bars out of nowhere and training people for four days straight on speed and preparation. The F&B director in charge gave us great feedback and requested that we come back in six months for a refresher.

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