Reinier Bunnik – Operations Manager of Zoku International, in charge of all operational and pre-opening Zoku Hotels as well as the General Manager of Zoku Amsterdam knew he wanted to be a General Manager since he was 13. Zoku International is an (apartment) hotel concept where the idea to combine the home and the office in a cosy, practical and welcoming space, where professionals can come and do their work in a productive environment while traveling. Currently Zoku has 2 open locations, one in Amsterdam and one newly opened in Copenhagen. In summer 2021 the third location in Vienna will open, followed by one in Paris in 2022.
Ever since a young age, Reinier Bunnik was mesmerized by the activity happening in hotels. He would walk through the lobbies and feel a strong passion for one day working in a hotel. Later, he applied for Hotelschool The Hague from where his professional career begun. After his first traineeship for Starwood Hotels, he then moved to the USA. In the next years he went through various positions from Housekeeping Manager all the way to Operations Director.
“Most people don’t see Housekeeping as an attractive position, but for me it was the first step. It came with a visa and other opportunities, but suddenly, I had a budget of 50 million US dollars. Also I had about 50 people to manage, half of which were at my parents’ age.”
Although having reached his childhood dream to become a General Manager, Reinier considers there is always more growing left. Recently, he has decided to dive deeper into the ICT and IT responsibilities. He says that he doesn’t have to be able to write codes, but to be able to have a conversation and align with people that do understand this subject. He tries to remain humble in the meetings with experts and take the information in to continue learning.
Besides the continuous drive to keep learning, Reinier believes being in a company that keeps growing, can give him the possibility to leave a mark. He feels within Zoku he has a bit more entrepreneurial freedom to build the company. Part of this is also related to the interaction with the rest of the employees. Starting from the training, he tries to lead by sharing his own experiences and using examples from his previous work life. Using pre-existing hospitality checklists with standard procedures does not work. He makes sure he makes them feel more comfortable in the role while giving them the tools to succeed. That way, he ensures they feel welcome.
“I strongly believe that the level of hospitality is determined by the level of genuine care and service.”
When Covid-19 hit, Reinier together with the rest of the Zoku team decided they are not going to just wait and hope the situation and restrictions will disappear.
“Never sit back and accept the situation.”
With every new rule or regulation, they were discussing how they can adapt and stay afloat. The mindset of overcoming the challenges, helps them to stay open during the worst parts of the pandemic. Negative talk and pessimism would not have helped me reach anywhere. Instead, the focus on bringing high energy and innovation to solve another problem is what can help someone cope in crisis situations.
The team had to implement solutions in order to ensure Zoku Amsterdam can continue welcoming guests. They implemented “grab-and-go” meals from the Food and Beverage outlets to the apartments. They created safe spaces where guests can continue working with distance in mind. Lastly, they retrained their “sidekicks”. These are employees that are responsible for operating the hotel. They don’t have one position, but instead work where there is demand for the day.
When asked on giving advice to people that are interested in following his path, Reinier is quick to respond that people should not try to follow anyone’s steps. Instead try and make their own. Speaking from his own experience, he believes is it best to jump confidently in the opportunities that are presented. Even if at first they do not seem that exciting. Nowadays, there aren’t any clear steps that follow if someone wants to become a General Manager. An HR Manager can become a GM and an F&B Manager can become a GM. Even people with no hotel background become GM’s nowadays. By creating your own path, a person becomes more adaptable and flexible, which can come in handy in unpredicted situations just like Covid-19.
Auteur: Ellie Ravninova