Four Seasons Hotel The Surf Club, Surfside, Florida
- 9011 Collins Avenue, Surfside, Florida, 33154, U.S.A.
Four Seasons Tenure
- Since 2008
- First Four Seasons Assignment: Director of Rooms, Four Seasons Resort Hualalai
- Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills; Four Seasons Hotel Damascus; Four Seasons Resort Hualalai; The Ballantyne, Charlotte, North Carolina; The Ritz-Carlton, Naples, Florida
- Damascus, Syria
- Masters Certificate, Food Service Management, Cornell University; Executive Masters of Science, Hospitality Management, Florida International University; Bachelor of Science, Hospitality Management, Florida State University
- Arabic, English
Sumptuous accommodations, two restaurants, a lounge and a bar. A spacious spa and a 120-member private club. Four sparkling swimming pools, each with its own experience, and 1,000 feet (300 metres) of beachfront on the Atlantic. As if Reed Kandalaft didn’t have enough to occupy his attention as opening General Manager of Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club, he also assembled the team. “My main focus was on attracting the best talent out there,” he says. “I started with the key players and moved on from there.”
The best talent, he continues, is essential to assuring the level of service prized by Four Seasons guests. “I’m a big believer in being intuitive with customers and delivering what they need without them asking,” he continues. A lot of guests “just expect things to happen these days,” but Kandalaft believes that is not enough. “Along with being intuitive, we have to personalise the experience, build relationships, and get to know the guest.” And that, he concludes, is what having the best talent is all about.
But back to the nuts, bolts, guest rooms, swimming pool, et cetera. Kandalaft lavished the individual features of the hotel with his attention as well as his vision. “The opening GM has influence on the persona of the hotel,” he explains. While acknowledging that every detail must align with the owner’s desires, Four Seasons standards, and the company’s global presence, his guidance was what helped get things right where they should be. “My role is to deliver on the expectation of the owners and Four Seasons, but it falls on me to drive the Hotel.”
The knack for driving hotels and delivering a Four Seasons experience came quickly to Kandalaft. He was drawn to the hotel business because he likes interacting with people – simple as that. “I always felt interaction was so much more fun and dynamic than sitting in an office and planning things.” After earning degrees in hospitality management in Florida, he joined an international hotel group and “fell in love.”
At the same time, he started to realise who the players were in the luxury hotel segment. “It didn’t take long for me to figure out that Four Seasons is the strongest one out there.” He came very close to joining the company in Chicago, but his interviewer thought he was more suited to a resort. Good call: Kandalaft landed, instead, as Director of Rooms at Four Seasons Resort Hualalai in Hawaii. “I feel like I connect best in a resort environment where you have time to see guests relax and enjoy the experience.”
So why was Kandalaft’s last stop before Miami as Hotel Manager of Four Seasons Hotel Los Angeles at Beverly Hills? “Because it was fun! Very dynamic, vibrant and high volume, with high-end weddings, last-minute events, and a guest list like nowhere else.” The Hotel earned a rare Forbes Five-Star rating three years in a row during Kandalaft’s time there. “We were so proud,” he says, “it was all about the team taking the experience to the next level and then taking it to the guest.”
Now at the top rung of management at Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club, Kandalaft feels he is overseeing the best of both worlds. “Everything in this part of Florida is called a hotel, but we’re really more of a resort,” he says.
The property, a stunner, retains the soul and many of the bones from when it was frequented by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Elizabeth Taylor, and Winston Churchill sipped Scotch and painted watercolours in his bungalow. Kandalaft couldn’t imagine it any other way. “The history says so much about this place. It is definitely be an attraction for our customers.”