The opening general manager of the luxury property reflects on his long association with the Four Seasons brand, memorable moments during the launch of the Four Seasons Hotel Bengaluru, and the savvy strategies that helped successfully steer the hotel through the uncertainties of the pandemic.
Fredrik Blomqvist’s journey with the Four Seasons brand began in Dublin in 2006. Since then, his career has taken him across properties in Philadelphia, Shanghai, Guangzhou Jakarta, and Chiang Mai. In 2018, he embarked on a new chapter—one he says has been “adventurous, crazy, yet very rewarding”—as opening general manager of the Four Seasons Hotel Bengaluru at Embassy ONE.
Read on for excerpts from a chat with Traveldine.
There are several luxury properties similar to Four Seasons Bengaluru right in the vicinity. What makes Four Seasons Bengaluru stand out?
What makes our hotel unique is the way it has been thought through and designed by the acclaimed design firm, Yabu Pushelberg, from New York. Not only is there a strong feature of cutting-edge technology in the areas, but there seems to be a sense of tranquillity due to the overarching presence of lush, green spaces and of course, the luxuriant outdoor swimming pool. Almost as if there is a recurring dialogue between architecture and nature! Add to it, the fact that we are pet-friendly and have a host of kids’ activities going on, it certainly positions us as an urban resort of sorts. Also, the key focus of Four Seasons is all about our people who always strive to deliver world-class service and who are driven by emotional intelligence. We empower everyone to let their personalities shine because we know that when our employees thrive, the guest experience is heightened.
What challenges did the hotel face during the pandemic? What has been your approach to overcome them?
We indeed suffered a blow in the nascent stages of the hotel opening, due to the pandemic and had to close the hotel completely. This came close on the heels of our showcase Level 21 opening, comprising Copitas, our destination bar and Far&East, our Asian brasserie. However, we did open later in the year and have been flexible in our approach to the business. Steered strongly ahead under the able guidance of Lead With Care, our global Four Seasons hygiene program, we have been trying various things to tap into the domestic and local markets. Blessed with numerous al fresco venue options, our events, especially the weddings segment took off with a flair. As did our F&B, especially the roaring Sunday brunches, well-loved by local and expat families. Gradually we were able to open up our beautiful Infuse Spa as well as the expansive outdoor pool, which has always been the cherry on the cake. Our approach has always been to deal with it all in a cool and level-headed manner, ensuring guest and employee safety and comfort were never compromised.
How much did MICE contribute to the hotel’s revenue pre-covid? How did the pandemic change this? Are there any strategies you have implemented to boost MICE business again?
MICE has always been a huge business driver pre-Covid. This was one of the most impacted segments when things took a massive turn. Of course, things are still not up and bounding again, but we have introduced some interesting initiatives to tap into this segment. To drive group segment recovery, Four Seasons has embraced a new hybrid philosophy, which allows attendees in multiple locations to connect through powerful AV technology in all our trusted hotels and resorts across the globe. We are preparing to launch a hybrid meetings campaign with the highest level of service, safety through Lead With Care, and an elevated approach for which we are known. Hybrid meetings enable people to come together through a unique combination of in-person and virtual settings, so that companies can engage employees and customers and continue to move business forward. Our innovative events are carefully crafted to feel large scale, even if they are not, by embracing technology to unite smaller groups safely and comfortably in regional hubs, or remotely online.
How does the F&B at Four Seasons Bengaluru contribute to the hotel’s bottom line?
Our F&B has been riding the wave, and with great grit, determination and no compromise on service or the quality. Currently propelling us out of this uncertain time, our restaurants and bars are certainly game changers and we will continue to see growth with new and attractive innovations being introduced. At Four Seasons Hotel Bengaluru, we have seen some very favourable numbers driven by our dining experiences, namely Far & East and Copitas. On Sundays, it is CUR8, of course, that sees maximum footfalls for Sunday brunch. The culinary team helmed by Chef Dirham Haque have come up with the KBB Nights on Saturdays, where we see guests coming in regularly to enjoy kebabs, biryani and beer—an unbeatable and adored combo!
You refer to the opening of Four Seasons Bengaluru as “adventurous, crazy, yet very rewarding”. Can you share a particular incident from this time that encapsulates this?
This is one of the best parts of opening a hotel—you can make all the right decisions at the early stages and to set up the hotel for future success. All openings are crazy and indeed very adventurous. It’s like a pressure cooker and one must stay laser focused with the end goal in mind! We have had many crazy moments, but the most memorable ones are the ones together with our fantastic pre-opening phase, all the events and parties we attended and the fun we had! I am not sure I can get into details here!
You’ve been part of the Four Seasons since 2006. What has been your most memorable experience during this time?
This is a great question and again, I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to meet with many celebrities, sport teams, Formula 1 drivers and heads of state across the globe and the list is long and interesting! One of my favourite moments and the most memorable was when we celebrated Thanksgiving together with our Chairman and Founder Isadore Sharp and his wife in Shanghai. We were only three couples in a private dining room and this was such an experience to interact directly with him for hours.
What are your favourite things to do in the city in your down time?
These days, I am not moving around as much as I used to due to the current situation but I love spending quality time with my lovely wife and son. A few favourites are home cooking, outdoor barbecues, and enjoying Bangalore’s balmy evenings. Also, Goa has become one of my favourites. Such a relaxing, calm, peaceful place with great seafood. The laid back vibes and sea breeze over chilled Kingfisher beers are second to none!