Newly appointed general manager of One Aldwych, Kostas Sfaltos, discusses his journey in the industry including an interruption to undertake (unexpected) military service in his homeland, Greece
Hearing the words “I just forgot about having to complete compulsory military service back in Greece” is not exactly what one expects to hear when speaking to Kostas Sfaltos, new general manager at One Aldwych. As someone well known for his attention to detail, it seemed a rather significant and important life-event not to remember. Laughing, Kostas replies “It’s something you know is coming. It’s inevitable, but it just doesn’t weigh on your mind all the time. I had been in London working at the Brittania InterContinental at Grosvenor Square for two years and I was in line for a promotion, about to take the next step in my career when suddenly this letter landed on my desk and I though “Oh, yes, I must do that too!”
Knowing that there were certain avenues he could go down to have the service postponed or even cancelled altogether, Kostas opted instead to ‘get it over with’ and, to a certain degree, the time spent as a military policeman back in Greece has been the making of him. “I learned so much more about team work and true leadership in stressful situations – more than I could ever have done in a straight business environment” he observed, “It’s such a different situation to be in. Your resilience is really tested and your ability to adapt is pushed to the limits… It was tough, but I also had a lot of fun.”
Hard work and excelling in difficult situations have clearly never been a problem for Kostas. As a child he harboured ambitions of becoming a professional basketball player, but injury and lack of opportunity forced him to look elsewhere for a career.
“At the time I was working part time in a bar. Once I decided that hospitality was the career I would pursue I made the decision to be the best I could be at it. There are many wonderful, professional waiters and bartenders in the world but I wanted more. I wanted to travel the world and learn from the best of the best in this great industry.”
So, in 1994, after graduating from the Rhodes Hotel Management School, Kostas came to London and took up a position in the Britannia Intercontinental at Grosvenor Square (currently the Millennium Mayfair). He would remain with the InterContinental brand for the next ten years, notwithstanding his absence for military service. In the course of his tenure he would play a key role in refurbishment plans; be seconded out to the Crowne Plaza City opening; close/reposition and re-open the InterContinental Park Lane; and ultimately rise from assistant front of house manager to executive manager.
When the time came to move on from The Intercontinental, Kostas thought that perhaps a move abroad would be on the cards – wasn’t that what he’d left Greece for? He wanted to travel the world with his skill, but then fate intervened and The Dorchester came calling. In early 2010 he joined the team as the Executive Assistant Manager deputizing for the GM. He was to remain there for the next two years until a unique opportunity presented itself to manage the pre-opening of the new Café Royal on Regent St.
“It was a really exciting opportunity to do something completely different to anything I’ve done before. It’s a new business with new operators, with HQ overseas. It was a complete gamble to take on the role, just as it was a gamble for the investors to do it. But it paid off, and I am really proud of what we achieved.”
Earlier this month Kostas took over as General Manager at One Aldwych, a move which coincides with the venue’s 15 year anniversary.
“It’s a really exciting time to be coming on board with the team”, comments Kostas, “There is a lot to be achieved here. It’s a beautiful venue and somewhere I am proud to work. The team are fantastic – it says a lot about the place that there are still members of staff working here who were here on Day One, 15 years ago. I am really excited about what the future holds and to play a part in whatever it might bring.”
For further information please contact Arlene McCaffrey atArlene.McCaffrey@EPMagazine.co.uk or on 0207 025 1872