With an exemplary 20-plus-year career in hospitality, Alfred Najm is now at the helm of the legendary Hotel Albergo in Beirut. Here, we discuss what the recently appointed general manager is hoping to achieve in his new role and reveal the ambitious plans that are set to take the five-star Relais et Chateaux property even higher.
What can you tell us about your professional journey?
It’s been a long ride. I started out as a restaurant runner in 1993 and worked my way up, assuming managerial roles at Intercontinental Le Vendome and Phoenicia Beirut. In 2012, I was appointed general manager of Faqra Catering, a position I held for almost a decade. However, the economic downturn and pandemic had a significant impact on our business. It was then that I took the decision to work as a F&B consultant throughout the Middle East. I was approached to help restructure the growing Albergo hotel and everything just clicked, so here I am!
What are you intending to bring to your new role as general manager of Hotel Albergo?
Difficult missions excite me. I am fast at taking decisions, and I implement ideas very quickly. Being a self-motivated individual, I always try to think of how we can make the operation smoother, more efficient and enhance the guest experience. My goal is to raise the bar even higher and cement this icon of Beirut in the list of top hotels in the world.
In your opinion, what defines a successful hotelier?
I believe that you must have a positive attitude, passion and ambition. Investing in your team members, helping them grow and develop, it also essential.
What differentiates Hotel Albergo from other properties in Lebanon?
There is no other hotel in the country like the Albergo. The recent changes we’ve added make it even harder to replicate what we do. We are now a true oasis in the heart of the city and offer our guests a multitude of public spaces, from a green courtyard to an outstanding outdoor pool, sunlit terraces, cafes and cocktail bars. Even though we have grown, the Albergo has maintained its welcoming aura, our staff is friendly and discrete. Ultimately, we are generous in our hospitality and have never sacrificed on quality.
What does it mean to be the only Relais et Chateaux property in the Middle East?
We are proud to be a member of Relais et Chateaux. We share the same values; when guests stay at the Albergo, they are immersed in a true Lebanese experience at the crossroads of East and West. We also strive to always pamper our guests and make them feel at home. They often book the same room, know our staff by name and we understand their preferences down to the smallest detail. To be the only Relais et Chateaux property in the Middle East speaks volumes about our commitment to offering an unparalleled experience.
What have been the most recent changes at Hotel Albergo?
The Albergo has grown from a small hotel featuring beautiful rooms but limited amenities to an oasis in the heart of the city. It has blossomed, with a younger, more diversified F&B offering that offers something for everyone, whether they are staying with us for leisure or business.
Some of the main changes we implemented include:
- Sunlit lobby: we moved the reception area from the basement to the ground floor and created a cafe overlooking the central garden, so the first impression is a grand one.
- Outdoor oasis: we added a rooftop terrace and pool with sweeping views over the city. The space is ideal for sunbathing, relaxing and dining.
- Wellness focused: a gym was added on the 11th floor.
- Business friendly: we know have an abundance of workspaces and a well-appointed meeting room to host small and private meetings in a unique setting.
In addition, several F&B outlets were added, such as: the Pool Terrace, affording spectacular city views; the Swim Club, a cocktail bar that opens from sunset until late; and the Lobby Cafe and Courtyard, with an all-day menu.
We’ve been working with Maria Ousseimi on the interior design, and we think she has created enchanting and whimsical spaces. Our executive chef, Wadih Nakhl, has been working magic in the kitchen, coming up with interesting dishes to delight our discerning clientele.
Do you have any exciting plans to share with us?
We have several exciting plans, but we cannot reveal them just yet. What I can say is that we will be opening an outdoor bar overlooking the pool in the next few weeks. It promises to be a wonderful place to enjoy cocktails and admire breathtaking views of the city.