One of the hottest spots in Tokyo since its opening in June 2014, Andaz Tokyo Toranomon Hills occupies the top six floors of the 52-storey Toranomon Hills complex. The hotel has 164 guestrooms with panoramic views of the city, five dining and drinking venues, seven studios for events in addition to a spa and fitness center.
“Andaz” means “personal style” in Hindi. Ten years ago, when the international hotel brand Hyatt started this lifestyle boutique brand, it wanted to create something that was going to bring a different concept to the hospitality industry. The idea was to deliver 5-star standards but with a more relaxed "guest and host" atmosphere. This personal style of service begins when guests arrive on the 51st floor. There is no front desk in the lobby, and no concierge. Instead, guests are met by hosts without name tags, who will look after their needs in a more natural, warm and personal atmosphere.
For dining, guests can enjoy five different restaurants and bars including Andaz Tavern, the hotel’s main dining venue, offering European provincial cuisine prepared using seasonal Japanese ingredients on the 51st floor. Rooftop Bar, with its semi-open terrace seating area, offers breathtaking views of Tokyo Bay. The exclusive sushi counter on the 52nd floor, which has just eight seats, is also not to be missed. When it comes to the first floor, there is Pastry Shop and the casual café and bar BeBu, which faces Shintora-Dori; sure to be viewed as Tokyo’s version of the Champs-Elysees in the next few years.
Overseeing operations is New Zealander Ross Cooper, who was appointed General Manager in August 2016. Cooper joined Hyatt International upon receiving his degree in hospitality management from Auckland University of Technology in 1997. After his first job under Hyatt as a corporate trainee at Grand Hyatt Melbourne, he held various other positions in the Food & Beverage and Banquet departments before becoming Assistant General Manager of Grand Hyatt Tokyo and General Manager of Park Hyatt Busan.
Japan Today editor Chris Betros visits Cooper at Andaz Tokyo to hear more.
What led you into the hotel industry?
When I was traveling on a working vacation, I had an opportunity to work in a restaurant and bar for a friend. This grew into an interest in the hospitality industry and I thought that I should get a more formal education in the field, so I majored in hospitality management. I have been with Hyatt for my entire career. It is a very supportive company and the experience has been very rewarding.
What do you think are the Andaz brand’s strengths?
We aspire to a high level of guest service and encourage our staff to express their personality and interact a bit more with guests in that way. Also, our Andaz Lounge has been designed around a homely communal table, where guests can check in and out while enjoying drinks and snacks 24 hours a day. This creates a good channel for communication rather than standing behind a typical check-in desk. Through this personalized, unscripted service, we create a barrier-free environment where guests are encouraged to explore their personal sense of style and get inspired by the spirit of the community. It helps guests to feel truly connected to the heart and soul of Tokyo.
How well known is the Andaz brand in Tokyo?
In Japan, we are only two and a half years old. As a global brand, Andaz is just 10 years old. However, I would say that we are becoming well known in Tokyo. I know this from when I meet people. A lot of them have a high awareness of Andaz. They come not only to stay but also to try the spa, the restaurants and our popular function spaces for different styles of events. We also have a strong positioning on TripAdvisor in the Minato-ku area. It is very central for most activities and we are getting a lot of repeat visitors as a positive result.
What is the guest mix?
On weekends, about 40% of our guests are Japanese. During the week, around 30% are Japanese. Half of our guests are business travelers, but we have noticed more local people spending weekends here to enjoy a relaxing holiday without the stress of traveling. With the increased need for a fuss-free holiday, we have also launched our limited-time "Andaz Staycation" offer, which allows guests to enjoy a complimentary breakfast of their choice and pamper themselves with the hotel’s facilities.
Do some people still get surprised when they don’t see a traditional hotel check-in counter?
Sometimes traveling is challenging and people can get stressed with airports and transportation. Our Andaz Lounge on the 51st floor is the first place that guests meet upon arrival; getting a sense of being welcomed rather than processed in a homely environment. Andaz Lounge is so inviting because it is like walking into a living room at a friend’s place. Our host staff share a friendly attitude and provide warm service. Most guests like the concept of our lounge, as it allows them to experience a high level of check-in and service while enjoying selected drinks and snacks rather than standing in a queue waiting.
How do you market the hotel?
We do both mainstream and digital marketing. Being just over two years old in Japan, we see that there are still a lot of opportunities with various media channels. For some of our advertising - weddings, for example - we get featured in major local print magazines. We have also just launched a short wedding movie to reach more potential audiences in the digital field. Our social media channels such as Facebook and Instagram have high engagement and we receive a lot of inquiries from both international and local influential bloggers about collaborations. Since the hotel’s design reflects Japan’s cultural emphasis on beauty and purity of form, well-harmonized with modern style, creative directors from various media and influential bloggers consider us to feature our unique visual palette on their own channels.
Are online reservations increasing?
Yes, it is quite a strong trend and a lot of that is coming from mobile as well. In August, we launched a new Hyatt app which allows easier online bookings. If you are one of our frequent guests and you are booking through one of our many channels, you can earn a lot of points and redeem various benefits.
Have you noticed a difference in what Japanese and foreign guests expect?
Everyone expects good quality service and a unique, interesting experience but what that means to Japanese and international guests varies. That is why our Andaz Lounge is so important. It is a good way to get good and constructive feedback.
How popular are your event spaces?
At Andaz Tokyo, we have the most inspiring meeting and event venues with fluid layouts and functional design, creating environments that dissolve barriers and encourage interaction and conversation. Our Chef’s Studio on the 51st floor, which is a flexible event space featuring a show kitchen with expansive views of the city, is popular for intimate social or family gatherings. Rooftop Studio on the 52nd floor, with its theatrical show kitchen and open-air terrace, is perfect for weddings and larger events.
How about the spa?
With the launch of a new treatment menu in April 2016, including three unique wellness brands from France, England and Kyoto in Japan, we receive many inquiries from both local and overseas guests, as some of menus are only available at AO Spa & Club. The spa is doing great; not only regarding spa treatments but also fitness, with its advanced training machines and facilities. Our spa is not only for staying guests and members; we also welcome outside guests to enjoy our unique, indigenous treatments and wellness services.
As a hotelier, do you think there will be enough hotel rooms for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics?
Tokyo already has a number of hotels and there are going to be more hotels opening before the 2020 Olympics, including new Hyatt hotels in Ginza and Yokohama. Overall, there is quite a large range of accommodation on offer.
Do you like to visit other hotels to see what they are doing?
Yes, I do. If you don’t know what is going on in the industry, you don’t necessarily know what you are doing right or how you can do better, and you don’t discover opportunities to lift your game and do something different. Part of knowing that you are unique is knowing what others are doing. I also like dining at other hotel restaurants. The GMs in Tokyo are all very welcoming to each other.
The industry seems to have a very mobile labor market, with people moving from one hotel to another.
There are more opportunities than there used to be. In Japan, a lot of international and local brands have opened in the last decade. Within Hyatt, there are a lot of opportunities for staff. Some of our colleagues have moved to other Hyatt properties in Japan and abroad, and it is a good experience for them.
What is a typical day for you?
I show up here between 7:30 a.m. and 8 a.m. Having been here only a few months, there is still a lot of administrative work for me to do, so I probably spend more time in the office for now. I try to balance that with meeting guests. That is why the Andaz Lounge is such a good way to connect with guests. I try to go home at 6 p.m. but that never happens.
What is your management style?
I like to understand what is going on in all areas of the hotel, but I do not like to tell people how they should do everything. I am happy to encourage my team to take a certain amount of ownership of their roles, so they can come up with decision-making processes for themselves based on their own personal style.
When you are not working, how do you like to relax?
I have two young kids and I try to spend the weekends with them.© Japan Today