InterContinental leader who's always on his toes

FOR 43-year-old JamesKoratzopoulos, general manager of the InterContinental Shanghai Pudong, the love of food and beverage is certainly in his blood. The son of an executive chef and holder of dual degrees in hotel management and human resources management, the Australian national embarked on his career with the hospitality industry about 20 years ago as a food and beverage manager in Cape Schank resort in Victoria. Since then he has never struggled to get out of bed and face the work day. "I feel blessed to be able to do something I really enjoy and this is one of the industries that you need to really enjoy in order to succeed, and you need to wear out many pairs of shoes," says Koratzopoulos. The GM has worked at the Pudong hotel since 2004.

He previously spent two years in Beijing, where he first joined the InterContinental Hotels Group as an executive assistant manager. "It is a very demanding industry that always keeps everyone on their toes because the business is just about making continuous improvement." For Koratzopoulos, the relationship between guests and the hotel is akin to taking a journey together. To distinguish a "great" hotel from one that is merely "good," the hotel staff needs to make sure to exceed guests' expectations in every part of their journey. This requires not only passion for the job but also attention to every detail. Leading a five-star, 398-room hotel in the bustling financial and business district of Lujiazui, however, would be a challenge for any experienced hotelier.

"Consistency is our major challenge," says the GM. "We have to make sure each and every day that the service quality and the product quality are the same. The talent war is another challenge since every new hotel wants the best people." Responsible for overseeing every aspect of operations, Koratzopoulos was ready to learn new things when he first became a general manager, and his personal interest in F&B and engineering was a help. Recognized as one of the market leaders in the dining sector, InterContinental Shanghai Pudong has the strongest wedding business in Pudong, he says, with more than 300 weddings every year. Moreover, Koratzopoulos' interest in engineering has also made him an advocate of "green" hotels and energy-saving initiatives.

"In businesses, energy as well as labor are two major areas to reduce costs and increase profitability," said Koratzopoulos, who has led two hotels that were awarded national "Green Hotel" certificates. He is also very passionate in developing people. Talent development is vital for the success of any hotel or company. With his background in human resources, he recognizes the need to focus in this area. "This is my way of giving back to the industry that I love. I feel such pride and a sense of achievement when members of my team are promoted and develop their careers in the industry." A keen sportsman, James enjoys golf, cycling, running and tennis whenever he can and most importantly spending time with his wife Mary and two sons Jonathon and Alexander.

If he can get the night off, James is also a great cook, specializing in authentic Greek and Mediterranean food. Now entering his ninth year in China with IHG, the Australian hotelier says work is still exciting and challenging and he remains energized to make continuous improvement. "Compared with Australia, where the hotel and hospitality industry is already mass produced, China is still a country full of undiscovered opportunities where things are moving really quick," he says. "It's so exciting to work here because we are part of the vibrant and energizing environment and we are making history." Koratzopoulos initially expected to spend three years in China, but that got extended to five years and now he says there's no departure date.Salad Nicoise in Level One restaurant is prepared with the freshest ingredients where the flavors of the vegetables and tuna speak for themselves.

The salad originated in Nice (France) and was always prepared with uncooked produce. There are a few variations but the original ingredients remain the same: organic eggs, ripe tomatoes, baby potatoes, fresh French beans, Kalamata black olives, fresh farmed tuna, extra virgin olive oil and lemon dressing. In some cases, there's anchovy garish. Level One buffet reservations, call 5835-6666, ext 3166Sunday is the perfect day for family indulgences, and InterContinental Shanghai Pudong is the ideal setting for getting the most from your Sunday. Its renowned extensive Sunday Brunch specials at Level One restaurant features superb international cuisine, Moet & Chandon Champagne, M?venpick ice cream and contemporary jazz. Ensuring you enjoy a Sunday that's deliciously indulgent. Presenting this edition of Shanghai Daily entitles the bearer to its "Buy two get one free" special offer, valid until the end of January, 2011.

For reservations, please call 5835-6666, ext 3166.Your Christmas deserves a truly memorable celebration. Nothing captures the warmth of Christmas like dinner with loved ones. Celebrate Christmas with InterContinental - four venues, four themed parties, live entertainment and exciting lucky draw prizes. Its unsurpassed level of service will ensure your Christmas is a truly memorable one. Call 5835-6666, ext 3166, or go to www.intercontinentalshanghaipudong-christmas.com for reservations.

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