Is MBA worth it? – The value of an MBA in Hospitality

Interview with Giuseppe Napoli, General Manager of F&B at The Lowry Hotel in Manchester.

In today’s global economy, where opportunities can come and go very quickly, is an MBA worth it?  It is, according to Giuseppe Napoli, who interviewed at the five-star Lowry Hotel in Manchester, and the Glion MBA in Hospitality on his CV made a difference.

In fact, over the past 2.5 years of his MBA studies, Giuseppe has been contacted by managers of large properties who were impressed that he was earning his MBA at Glion. “Without meeting me, they invited me to interviews; and in the interviews, everyone mentioned Glion,” he said.

“My 17 years of industry experience is vital,” Giuseppe said. “But putting the Glion MBA next to that makes my profile complete.”

“You learn to think differently.”

Giuseppe got the job at The Lowry Hotel (a Hilton property); he joined the team in late November 2016 as General Manager of Food and Beverage. At only 37, Giuseppe already has extensive international experience in hospitality management, with stints in his native Sicily, New York, The Netherlands, and China, where he won the IHG hotel group manager of the year award for mainland China. After IHG, he worked for Starwood, where he ran the F&B operations for major hotels in Bangladesh, Russia, Ethiopia, and Azerbaijan. Most recently, he served as the F&B Director of the Manchester Hilton.

Why the Glion MBA?

Alongside all this experience, Giuseppe wanted to earn his MBA to gain “higher chances of obtaining and holding a high-level management position.” He chose Glion because it is “Swiss, and one of the best universities in the world. But it’s not just the name,” he said. “It’s the skills, the networking, the faculty; being part of it.”

Giuseppe is currently in the final phase of the MBA in International Hospitality and Service Industries Management. “On this journey,” he said, “I’ve interacted with professionals from all over the world. I’ve added marketing and innovation to my profile, along with revenue management. You become a true professional. You learn to think differently.”

“It’s not just the name—it’s the skills, the networking, the faculty; being part of it.”

He said his wife has remarked on the changes she has seen in him. “She has observed me at business dinners, and she says, ‘the way you think and speak now is different—you explain in more detail, and provide figures. . . . You have a new vocabulary.’”

Introducing innovation to a five-star hotel

As The Lowry’s F&B director, Giuseppe manages the River Restaurant and Bar, which enjoys a prestigious two AA Rosette rating; he also oversees conferences and events, room dining, and catering. He collaborates with executive chef Andrew Green to ensure five-star food and service, while introducing innovations to make sure the River Restaurant stays at the top of the Manchester food scene.

“Our VIP guests are kind of friends—we know their preferences.”

The only five-star hotel in Manchester, The Lowry is a model of contemporary elegance, with its glass-fronted façade on the banks of the urban River Irwell and its glamorous, futuristic spa. It’s a UK legend thanks to its celebrity clientele of household-name musicians, actors, and sports stars. Giuseppe said, “Our VIP guests are kind of friends—we know their preferences. It’s a family environment. Some of them call me ‘Italian guy.’” Celebrities enter through the security door, and the hotel meets other special requirements to ensure their privacy.

One recent guest was the Chinese Premier XI, and the publicity surrounding his visit increased The Lowry’s already strong popularity among Chinese investors and students. The hotel hosts Chinese New Year celebrations and offers a charter from China with direct flights, Chinese breakfasts, Chinese-language tours, and shopping trips. “Chinese visitors are the highest spenders,” Giuseppe noted. He learned culturally appropriate communication techniques during two years with IHG in Sanya, China, and knows how to cater to Chinese tastes.

MBA brings new challenges and opportunity

Giuseppe was first attracted to hospitality 17 years ago because “working in this industry brings freedom, creativity and flexibility,” he said. “Every day is different, and guests are counting on you and your professionalism.” He is inspired by the Hilton mission to deliver exceptional experiences to each guest.

One challenge Giuseppe faces is how to keep good people on staff, so they aren’t tempted by offers from other properties. “Working here is not just about the money,” Giuseppe said. “It offers the prestige of a five-star property with a two AA Rosette restaurant.” In the Glion MBA’s Human Resources module, he learned how to motivate and retain team members. “It’s about investing in team members, so they share our company’s vision and feel connected with our brand values,” which Giuseppe described as “team oriented.” Executives help on the floor whenever they are needed. “Before big conferences, we put on the uniform to serve guests. I know I can ask for help and feel supported. We discover the solution together.”

The true worth of MBA: learning to innovate properly

Because Manchester is a dynamic market—a second London—hotels must innovate to stay relevant. However, “innovation can impact a company positively or negatively,” Giuseppe cautioned. “You have to ask, ‘Is there an opening in the market, or are competitors doing enough?’”

In the MBA program, he has learned to thoroughly analyze and evaluate innovations before implementing them. He is currently doing his applied business project (ABP) on how innovation can impact customers and shareholders in the hospitality industries.

For example, one hot trend in technology and service is to use mobile apps for hotel check-in and for operating room controls such as the TV, lights, heat, and A/C. In restaurants and bars, ordering through tablets is the latest thing. “This is impressive at first,” Giuseppe said, “but is it worth the investment? Will it generate a profit? Are people ready for it?” He noted that some Lowry guests think this innovation is cool, such as Millennials and guests who are always on their smartphones. However, many other guests prefer to make a human connection, such as Gen Y customers and those who enjoy talking to staff.

Giuseppe remarked that in addition to age and personality, a customer’s preferences often correlate with gender and nationality. “Who is happy with the innovations? It’s worthwhile to take a step back and find a way to predict outcomes.” To explore these questions, Giuseppe is applying new product research techniques and marketing tools that help “put the right product in the right place.” He is surveying customers and his peers about their thoughts on mobile and tablet apps within hospitality.

Thinking as a consultant

For Giuseppe, a benefit of the Glion MBA is networking and collaborating with professionals who hold key positions all over the world—and gaining access to the extensive network of Glion MBA alumni. Classmates help each other; one of his former colleagues is also in the program and doing her ABP. She sometimes asks his advice on work situations, based on their shared knowledge.

But Giuseppe said that the most important benefit of his studies is the broader perspective he has gained. “I’m thinking more as a consultant,” he said. “Not just managing daily operations, but thinking about how I can help my company take the next step, how I can impact the company in the future.”

Learn more about the Glion MBA in Hospitality Management, in Switzerland or London.

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