Interview: Alain Najar at EHL Lausanne

As part of the suite of unique learning opportunities offered to Team Gold members, our winning finalists from 2023 and 2024 recently embarked on a four-day educational programme at EHL Hospitality Business School in Lausanne, Switzerland, run by former senior lecturer Alain Najar and now consultant of his company called Najar Hospitality Consulting.

Najar, himself an EHL alumnus, delivers courses in topics such as food and beverage management, revenue and profit maximisation, service quality and design, and many others all around the world

He had been a lecturer with EHL for 32 years, before which he spent 13 years working for major international hotel groups including Hilton, Sheraton and Accor, in countries such as Kuwait, Dubai, Madagascar, Syria, and Egypt.

The programme, supported by a bursary from the Lord Forte Foundation and further financial support from David Levin, aims to support our Team Gold alumni as they develop their careers.


What does good front-of-house service mean to you?

To me, it’s simple: giving the customer more than what they want. Good service can be found anywhere, from a luxury hotel and even to a local McDonald’s. What’s important is that it starts with a smile, and the rest will follow.

What will Gold Service Scholarship finalists be learning about during their time at EHL? What skills will they be equipped with by the end of the course? How will these skills set them up for success in their career and development?

During the four days, we explored vast scope of topic around value creation – including quality, guest satisfaction and experience, to innovation and financial analysis, importance of company culture all of which will help them to be better managers and leaders.

Sometimes the students can be a bit scared of the accounting side in particular – I try to talk them through profit and loss in a simple way to help them understand the importance of figures.

My objective is ultimately to provide them with a ‘toolbox’ filled with different utensils (or knowledge) they can use to create value in their workplaces – it is their responsibility to use and adapt them according to their needs. Having met this year’s winning finalists, I’m confident they’ll make good use of it.

How critical is it that the next generation of hospitality professionals understand cost control and business management given the current economic environment?

In today’s economic climate, understanding cost control and revenue management are crucial. It helps support business financial stability, profitability, competitive advantage, adaptability to market changes and long-term sustainability. To use a football analogy, you can’t only defend or only attack, you have to do both.

Professionals who can grasp both aspects and adapt to changes and make strategic decisions to mitigate risks and seize opportunities. Companies today should be agile to respond to a very quick and changing world.

To advance to management levels in their careers or venture into opening their own hotel or restaurant, they must leverage the knowledge gained at EHL. Additionally, they should embrace the idea that learning is an ongoing process and recognise the significance of acquiring further experience

What role does front-of-house play in restaurant performance?

Front-of-house is the face of the restaurant and the first point of contact for a guest. It’s the first customer journey point in general.

They shape the customer experience, are part of the ambiance of a venue, can drive revenue through upselling, ensure efficient operations, and represent the brand. Their role directly impacts customer satisfaction, customer loyalty, revenue increase, profitability, and therefore the overall success of the restaurant.

Are you positive about the future of the hospitality industry in the hands of the next generation of talent?

I am! The next generation of talent have such innovative mindsets, diverse skills, adaptability, and an entrepreneurial spirit, all of which promise to drive growth and positive change within the industry. I believe, more than creativity and resilience, it’s passion that will propel the hospitality industry forward, and I can clearly see that in the Gold Service Scholarship participants I’ve met over the years.

Have you been impressed with the calibre of Gold Service participants over the years?

This is the third cohort I’ve taught; all individuals have been of an exceptional calibre, and I’ve been very privileged to meet so many dedicated young professionals who I consider now as my friends for ever

The Gold Service Scholarship is highly regarded in the industry and the people I’ve taught have clearly demonstrated talent, passion, dedication, and excellence in front-of-house hospitality.

They are so eager and motivated to learn and work hard – and they always ask plenty of questions! Their impressive skills, professionalism, and commitment to elevating service standards are inspirational and I think that the next generation will be able to learn a lot from them.

Do you think the Gold Service Scholarship is important to the industry?

Absolutely! To have a competition that recognises first that hospitality as important, and of course talent, offers young people the opportunity to truly communicate the level at which they’re working, and take their skills to the next level, is terrific.

What is your advice to the participants once they have finished the course?

Believe and trust in yourselves. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes – you don’t know until you try, and we all learn from our mistakes.

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