By Ann Marie Chandy
Traders Hotel Kuala Lumpur welcomes a Director of Food and Beverage who hails from the Lion City.
Christian Nannucci, General Manager for Traders Hotel Kuala Lumpur, is excited about the appointment of a new Director of Food and Beverage, Muhammad Nabil Abdul Rahiman.
“Nabil’s work experience is exactly what we require at Traders to drive the performance of our main outlets and the overall dining experience,” he shared. “Having previously worked in renowned entertainment venues in Singapore, Nabil brings with him a level of international innovation and service quality necessary to raise the bar, anticipate expectations of the local market and adapt to new trends.”
Now that might sound like the “right things” to say, but when you get up close with Nabil, you’ll see that the GM is very much telling the truth!
Indeed, the amiable, spiffy looking 37-yearold F&B director is up for a new challenge, and is bursting with enthusiasm for his new role here in Malaysia’s capital city. Previously attached to Shangri-La International Hotel Management Ltd Singapore as its regional F&B manager, Nabil was sent to KL in January to help fill a hole temporarily.
“Then I fell in love with the city …” he said, explaining how he came to accept the long-term role at Traders. “KL is quite similar to Singapore after all. And I see a lot of potential with this hotel. The people here are all just so warm and friendly, it’s easy to fit in.”
Nabil, who is of Malayalee-Malay parentage, has the gift of the gab and can spend hours talking about his experiences – it is something he says that has helped him get far in the hospitality industry.
After an injury prevented him from pursuing his early dream of becoming Singapore’s next Fandi Ahmad, Nabil started washing dishes at a restaurant and slowly but steadily worked his way up the ranks in numerous hotels and restaurants south of the border including the Grand Hyatt, Rogues Bar & Bistro, The Fullerton Hotel’s Post Bar, Supper Club, The Society Group, Da Paolo, CE LA VI Restaurant and Sky Bar.
He says he has been fortunate to have met many “right” people along the way who have inspired, mentored and directed him on his career path, including his late father (who once owned a restaurant in Singapore), an ex-gilfriend who opened his eyes to much of Europe, John Thirlway (who gave him his first real break) and Datuk John Beveridge (from the Hyatt group who offered him a job in the hotel industry).
Nabil feels that he is now able to help develop the local team at Traders with the knowledge and experience that he has earned. “We can also learn from each other, and bounce off ideas.” Indeed one of the reasons he was picked for the job is because of his vibrant personality, patience and milennial-like positive approach which is seen as a suitable fit for the younger staff who seek direction and purpose in what they do, and need a mentor.
In this candid interview with Pursuit, we ask him if he’s ready for the job:
Is it difficult working with millennials?
As long as you speak their language, and understand them, it’s not that difficult. I was lucky enough to work with many of them back home. And yeah, some of them may just want things fast, like instant recognition. If they do something good, they expect to be rewarded. However, there’s a flip side to this, you can actually get a lot out of them too. The way they think, the technology they use… I frequently have the younger ones advising me on how to post news on FB or how to create IG stories. And for me, that’s cool and fresh. I really enjoy working with the younger team members.
Of course, you need to know when to be strict and how to speak their language. Back in the day, we had to hand in our phones and wallets when we clocked in for work. Imagine trying to do that now? It just wouldn’t work. Half the time you’ll find them out the back on their phones. But I think it is all about finding the right balance.
Are you a difficult person to work with?
I think I have my expectations of wanting to make things right. I’m still learning, reading, getting information from my colleagues – both the junior or senior level people – because I think it’s a learning game, you have to learn from everyone. Sometimes I can be quite hard and stern.
Because I feel that there shouldn’t be any compromise when it comes to the basics. Guests deserve the best of what they pay for. So I think for those things, I could be very hard.
Where do you get your advice and inspiration from?
Sometimes I go to my ex bosses, I will reach out especially if I am in a situation where I have my back against the wall, and I don’t know what else to do. And they usually give me some ideas, not answers. They suggest that I do this or that approach, but at the same time advise me that I know the market and the current situation better than they do, and that usually gets me thinking.
My favourite book right now is Setting the Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business by Daniel Meyer. He’s managed to climb that ladder of success with perseverance and that drives me as well. In my opinion, I think every professional in the hospitality industry should read this book at least once.
My current boss in Singapore is another source of inspiration. I think I annoy him everyday (chuckles). Coming from Shagri-la, our approach is to deliver local hospitality in the highest manner possible, and to offer the best local experience. So we are definitely looking into the local food culture, adding local touches, the simple pleasures of life, and what we can do to make all of that better. These are the things that I believe will be my touch points and things that I look out for here as well.
What are your plans for Traders Hotel Kuala Lumpur?
We just had our exco meeting where I shared the 100-day plan with my team. First and foremost is that we look into the basics of the operations, where there will be some changes. We also need to be working more closely with the communications department on what we can do to get people excited about Traders, and how we can inject fresh ideas into our operations. We need to tease people enough for them to want to come back; especially with the new look. I will also be working on building up the team, getting the right sequence, making sure that they have proper direction and leadership.
How do you relax and unwind?
I like to go for long drives or to have a nice walk. Food has also always been something that I really enjoy. So I would like to go and check out places to eat, that’s something I could get excited about.
What kind of food do you like?
A good Italian meal. Back home in Singapore, there’s a dining chain that’s been around for 25 years called Da Paolo. For a family-owned restaurant to survive that long in Singapore, you have to be doing something extremely right. When I came back from Switzerland (where l earned my diploma in Hotel Management), I worked with the business for three and a half years. I was working there as the group GM, there were three restaurants, 8 gastronomias and a pizza bar. It was a great business.
Also my ex-girlfriend was German-Italian, so I was exposed to Italian flavours in food early on. And who doesn’t love a bowl of pasta and pizza?
To be honest, because I grew up in a Malay community and society in Singapore, I also love a proper nasi padang, with kuah lemak and ayam … those were the staples in my home, and I find the food very comforting.
What would you say are the three most important traits that one has to have if they’re going to make an impact in F&B?
You really have to have passion. I know it is a very generic word. But what I mean is that when you have the passion of wanting to excel in what you do, it’s like a fire. It’s something that you have set in yourself, no one can force that on you. It comes from within.
The second thing is determination – even when someone puts you down or they tell you you’re not good enough, you are not broken. You should just be able to stand up again and keep on pushing for whatyou believe in. It’s not going to be an easy ride, there are going to be setbacks.
Finally, you must be able to have fun. Don’t misinterpret that for taking things easy. Work should be something you enjoy. They say if you enjoy what you do, you’ll never have to work a day in your life. Yes, things will get crazy sometimes but you’re still good at the end of the day because you’re having fun. This is really important to keep your sanity.