Eric Vittenet's Story
I am a food lover and passionate about F&B, I really like traveling and meet people from different country and culture. My first goal, when I left school was to travel and see the world. My first job after school was in London, and there I learned English because I knew I would need that if I wanted to travel.
You don’t always make the choices, sometimes events choose for you. You have to find a balance between your professional goals and your wishes.
After 7 years working in London, I was very happy but it was not my goal to live in London. I registered with some agencies and one said, what do you think about Dubai? I didn’t know anything about Dubai. I took a plunge and went to the Intercontinental Hotel; it was the beginning of development in Dubai.
There were old and new concepts in F&B, it was crazy, I learned about so many concepts – Mediterranean, Japanese, buffet, Thai restaurant with live buffet. I saw 20-25 hotels opening, new and crazy concepts we weren’t seeing in Europe.
When they opened the Sofitel in Dubai, the General Manager of the hotel came into my hotel and took me on as a Restaurant Manager. I started my journey with Accor in 1997 as Restaurant Manager for the opening the first Sofitel in Dubai and made my way up to F&B Manager. I was the first or second person on board. I had many jobs: I helped in the kitchen, I finalised some of the concepts, I participated in a lot of elements of the hotel.
At the time Dubai had only 10 international hotels. It was the beginning of the fast extension of this region and we see where Dubai stands today.
It was my first adventure out of Europe and I had the opportunity to work with talents from 27 countries around the world. I understood that to be a successful leader I will have to understand each different culture and mentality. Always remember, a leader is nothing without his team.
After 6 years in Dubai, I pursuit my career as a F&B Manager, opening the Novotel Al Dana in Bahrain and them taking a new challenge in Algeria until 2009.. People were scared to go to Algeria, a lot of bombing, but I like challenges and adventure. I was F&B manager at a Mercure in Algeria, I reached my goal to be at the top of F&B at a big hotel with 300 rooms and two restaurants. I then thought I wished to live in a tropical island, so I made my mind up and looked around for a new opportunity.
I left my career plan on the side to move to Polynesia and took the opportunity to join the Sofitel Morea in one of the most beautiful island. It was a great experience, not professionally, but being in such a beautiful part of the world and meeting the great culture of Polynesia. Every morning at 6am I went for run, swam in lagoon, but after nearly two years, I understood that professionally I was not progressing and I decided to make the next move.
I joined the Movenpick Sham El Sheik, Egypt, and was promoted to Operation Manager. I really liked Egypt. Once more I met great people, I saw how hard our talent are working, maybe to the extreme sometime – 14hr a day. I became very close to my team, giving them support and compassion during a difficult time. I tried hard to create a good atmosphere and had a very successful year. Unfortunately, in the summer 2011, I had to leave Egypt due to the revolution. Sometimes you don’t make the choices, life does it for you. I wished I could stay because I loved the place and the people.
I went back to Dubai as an Operation Manager at the Combo Novotel / ibis Word Trade Center. In the 10 years since I was last in Dubai, I knew it had completely changed. Why not go there? Two hotels, 500 rooms, 27 nationalities working together. I had to understand the different cultures – their background, different education and approach to work – and had to make sure they worked together well, I had to motivate them. They worked very hard, far from their family, sending money home and going back once a year to see them. So I had to almost a family member to them.
By then I had worked 14 years in Arabic countries and I wanted to discover another culture. I knew I was ready to move on to a General Manager position. I wanted to go to Paris but they required Paris experience. I then saw a job opening in Siberia, Russia.
Different people have to understand the Russian mentality. In Russia, people are well educated people and I understood the Russia could be my new home. People have been to university and when they cannot find a job in their field, they go into hotel business. People are living a hard life. It is difficult to explain when you feel something from the heart. I have now been in Russia for 9 years.
A new adventure started when I moved from Omsk to Kaliningrad where I had the opportunity to be a Heartist Supertransformer. Kaliningrad is closer to Europe with better climate and next to the sea. I loved being able to see the sea, as I am from Brittany (France).
Despite my GM responsibility and my new mission to spread the Heartist spirit in our region, I did not forget about my F&B passion. I put a team together from our head office and some of our hotels to create two F&B concepts adapted to our region. Most recently, I moved to the Novotel St Petersburg, the most beautiful city in Russia. It is challenging, a big hotel, but I hope to bring in my passion for F&B and new projects in 2022. When the show is running smoothly, I always ask, what is my next project?
I see a lot of opportunity to pursue my adventure here. I never get bored. What’s the secret? I take energy form our talent and in exchange I share my experience and knowledge.
I can’t even believe that I have been working 25 years at Accor. Nothing has changed, I still have as much passion as on my first day.
- Eric Vittenet
- General Manager
- Novotel St Petersburg