FRANCESCO ROCCATO – MY STORY
Food & Drink, Wellness, Culture
Meet the General Manager of Hotel de la Ville and find out more about the man leading our vibrant, new Roman destination into its exciting future, what he loves about Rome and more.
How did you get into the hospitality industry?
“I began my career as a chef in the kitchen in 1995, and went on to become F&B Manager. From there, I was promoted to Assistant Manager and finally became General Manager. I started in Canada, before moving to Bermuda. I then went to Italy to study a Masters, before working in Spain, the USA, Italy, London, Spain again, and now I’m back in Italy. I’m almost a veteran of the hospitality industry…24 years!”
Is it common to start as a chef?
“No, it’s more common for a GM come through the operational side of F&B, because then you really understand the property’s assets. The economic crisis of 2008 meant I did a dual role in the States; Executive Chef and Director of F&B. Then, because of the volume of work, I promoted my Executive Sous-Chef and stayed on as Head of F&B.”
Do you feel like you’re coming home to Italy?
“No, no, no (laughs) I am a citizen of the world. I have an Italian passport, but I am a citizen of the world. That’s what I believe.”
What attracted you to the role of GM at Hotel de la Ville?
“I never choose a job for the usual reasons. I choose the project, not the place. I chose this one because I wanted to work with Rocco Forte Hotels. I think the fact that Hotel de la Ville is going to be the next iconic hotel in Rome is what really got me into it. It’s not about coming back home – I’m not romantic in a nostalgic homeland way.”
What do you see as the greatest challenge for Hotel de la Ville?
“One of the most challenging and rewarding things is putting together over 200 people who’ve never worked together before and seeing them start bonding, working together. The other challenge is the super-high expectations everyone had for the opening of Hotel de la Ville – it’s been talked about for three years. The Romans were waiting for a new place to go so it’s challenging to meet those expectations. But we have passion and a very strong team. I think locals will be positively surprised.”
How will you measure success?
“After two or three years, you see if you’ve done a good job. Longevity is what brings success: consistency, fun, the turnover of team members, all are important factors when transforming a beautiful building into an iconic destination. De Russie has done it and now the Hotel de la Ville will follow in its footsteps. You can have immediate success as the new kid in town, but can also burn out easily. With the right vision, if you don’t veer away from it, you earn success.”
What have you learned about the world from the hospitality industry?
“I learned there are many wonderful people filled with stories, and it’s fantastic to meet them as many are lonely. If you stop for five or ten minutes to speak with them, you can really pass on the human touch. Hospitality is one of the last industries which hasn’t lost that touch – nowadays so much is automated. I hope I give something of myself to all the people I meet, because they definitely give something to me.”
What qualities are essential to becoming a successful GM?
“Humour. Empathy, too. You need to be a good person, not a dictator. Often, I use footballers as analogies because I love football: if you want to be a champion, you have to improve and work hard daily. You can be a natural talent, but you have to be consistent. Ronaldo is a perfect example! He’s not as talented as Messi or Maradona but he’s worked his way up every day, and he’s now number one. Everyone with the will to do well, can. A great GM empowers people.”