"We are responsible for someone else's happiness”— Luigi Cagnin

The Staff Canteen

Celebrating longevity and a love of fine hospitality connects the MICHELIN-STARRED ritz restaurant at the Ritz Hotel London and respected Luigi Cagnin, the venue’s food and beverage operations manager.

Part of the fabric of the world famous Ritz Hotel London for almost two decades, Luigi first embarked on his journey at the fine dining venue in 2005, working up to his current position. As food and beverage operations manager, Luigi oversees the daily operation of the food and beverage outlets.

The Ritz Hotel London is renowned for its luxury opulence, seeking to represent the true embodiment of hospitality and maximising style and class. “Every guest should expect to be treated like royalty,” says Luigi.

A taste of luxury

With so many five-star hotels in London, The Ritz Hotel’s front-of-house team works hard to ensure they’re always appealing to guests’ needs. It’s what makes the venue special. “We try as much as possible to bring all the luxury, that opulence, that classic service,” says Luigi.

The team strives to ensure a personal touch and connection. “We work for our guests,” says Luigi. Ensuring the team can adapt to its guests' needs is possible because Luigi values getting to know them and is committed to responding to feedback. “We want to ensure we personalise the experience and interaction as much as possible,” Luigi continues.

In fact, one of the most rewarding aspects of Luigi’s role is receiving rewarding feedback from guests. Many guests take the time to write a thank you letter to Luigi's team, particularly when they visit for special occasions, celebrations and birthdays. “These are pretty fulfilling,” says Luigi.

Luigi believes there are two types of people: those who enjoy receiving gifts and those who like to give them. Hospitality is made up of people who like to give gifts. “We want to see the joy in the other person,” Luigi says. For Luigi, it's important his team know that hospitality is taking care of someone, and creating happiness, joy, and tending to their wellbeing while they are under The Ritz roof.

His team members value this acknowledgement of a job well done, too. “They realise the importance of hospitality, which is taking care of someone without asking for anything in return,” shares Luigi.

On a typical day, The Ritz Hotel’s teams see around 800 guests walk through their doors. These can be residents and non-residents, guests coming in for a once-in-a-lifetime occasion or for a regular annual visit. Luigi and his team welcome these guests between the Michelin-starred Ritz restaurant, Palm Court for afternoon tea and The Rivoli Bar.

“We are fortunate here in London to have a vast array of different styles of hotels and restaurants, fine restaurants, and five-star hotels of many different types,” Luigi adds.

Theatre at the tableside

Celebrating the chef’s skills, talent and perfected cuisine happens tableside in The Ritz restaurant. The element of theatre to engage, enthral and immerse guests is therefore a vital part of the esteemed venue’s dining experience.

Luigi expresses how the team is very lucky to have the perfect settings for the tableside style of dining. Describing this as “essential”, Luigi continues to say “everybody's attention is focused toward those items and anyone who's receiving this type of service in front of them immediately becomes the VIP”.

Tableside adds a lot of enjoyment to the whole eating event. As such, it’s crucial the team continues to learn, train and teach others to ensure the professions’ crafts are properly maintained and given apt focus. “We want to be sure the individual can produce a delicious act and that the final result is beautiful and tasty.”

While The Ritz restaurant team does talk a lot about showmanship, it’s the results that are superior. “We want to ensure everyone can produce this delicious, beautiful-looking dish while bringing out their flair,” says Luigi. Though the team’s comfort and fulfilment is paramount, too. “We want certain standards and specific results, yet we want to be sure everyone can express themselves and entertain the guests by being themselves,” says Luigi.

The menu at The Ritz restaurant follows the seasons, delving into the UK food and beverage market and what’s best and available according to the time of year. “It’s those items executive chef John Williams wishes to present to our guests to put on the menu, and then we try to find something with a story behind it,” says Luigi. Theatricality is a core part of the story.

“There's the theatricality of it, which is the display of relatable skills and arts, but we want to make sure we can also tell a story,” Luigi adds. The story of The Ritz’s legendary Beef Wellington dish goes back 100 years. To really tell its story, Luigi brings in the ingredients, its preparation and then execuitve chef John Williams and his team will explore how to display and elevate these at the table.

For the next generation of hospitality leaders

Advocating the importance of the front of house team is close to Luigi’s heart. “In Europe, it's a serious career, in the UK, not so much,” Luigi shares. But, thankfully, the industry is moving in the right direction, he says.

As for advice for those looking to enter front of house teams, Luigi draws on his almost 20-years at The Ritz to highlight, “make sure you're ready to enjoy the whole journey”. He also advises that anyone willing to embark on a career in the hospitality industry be prepared to enjoy the whole of it and take time to move into a managerial position. “It is a craft with lots that must be practised daily for an extended period,” says Luigi.

A lot of leadership skills are learned on the floor. “Walk the talk,” says Luigi. “Be able to take responsibility for your own mistakes,” Luigi adds. It's an incredible industry, and it's an industry made of humans. To succeed, “work for humans”, he says. “Always be passionate and motivated to give your very best, even if no one is watching,” Luigi adds. That said, “There is always someone watching”.

Joy is at the centre of hospitality. “Try as much to understand who is bringing joy to other individuals so you can better serve the world and serve people better”. Travelling and ensuring you can put yourself in as many different restaurants, bars, hotels, and situations as possible, will enrich your private and professional life. “Most of the most fascinating individuals I've ever met, I met on the restaurant floor,” says Luigi.

Always support your colleagues, ensure you can manage a small or a larger team, and realise that deadlines must be met, he adds. Try to understand the financials of the departments you work in, too. “All these skills are learned daily, but I strongly advise you not to rush and to enjoy the beauty of the learning progress and all the crafts,” says Luigi. Ultimately, it is a role whereby “we are responsible for someone else's happiness”.

Written by: Natasha Spencer-Jolliffe

In these challenging times…

The Staff Canteen team are taking a different approach to keeping our website independent and delivering content free from commercial influence. Our Editorial team have a critical role to play in informing and supporting our audience in a balanced way. We would never put up a paywall and restrict access – The Staff Canteen is open to all and we want to keep bringing you the content you want; more from younger chefs, more on mental health, more tips and industry knowledge, more recipes and more videos. We need your support right now, more than ever, to keep The Staff Canteen active. Without your financial contributions this would not be possible.

Over the last 12 years, The Staff Canteen has built what has become the go-to platform for chefs and hospitality professionals. As members and visitors, your daily support has made The Staff Canteen what it is today. Our features and videos from the world’s biggest name chefs are something we are proud of. We have over 500,000 followers across Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and other social channels, each connecting with chefs across the world. Our editorial and social media team are creating and delivering engaging content every day, to support you and the whole sector - we want to do more for you.

A single coffee is more than £2, a beer is £4.50 and a large glass of wine can be £6 or more.

Support The Staff Canteen from as little as £1 today. Thank you.

The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 22nd May 2024

"We are responsible for someone else's happiness”— Luigi Cagnin