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Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet

  • Tevkifhane Sokak No. 1, 34110 Sultanahmet-Eminönü, Istanbul, Turkey
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Nihat Yucel

Hotel Manager
“As managers, we are nobody without the support of our team. They do the work, we just guide them.”

 

Four Seasons Tenure

  • Since 1999
  • First Four Seasons Assignment: Restaurant & Bar Manager, Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet

Employment History

  • Four Seasons Resort Seychelles; Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus; Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet; Ritz-Carlton Tysons Corner, Virginia; Etap Istanbul Hotel

Birthplace

  • Istanbul, Turkey

Education

  • Bachelors Degree, Mechanical Education, Marmara University; Masters Degree, Economics of Tourism, Istanbul University; MBA, Istanbul University; Post Graduate studies, Florida International University of Hospitality Management

Languages

  • Turkish, English

After two years in island paradise in Seychelles, Nihat Yucel departed the only Four Seasons resort job he ever held to become Hotel Manager of the first Four Seasons to employ him. Though the scenes are different, Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at Sultanahmet really isn’t that dissimilar from the beachfront property. “Resorts offer more opportunity to connect with guests. But here in Sultanahmet, most stay 4 or 5 days to see historical monuments such as Hagia Sofia and the Blue Mosque,” he notes. “Human relations is my strong point, so I really enjoy the time to connect with people.”

Yucel originally joined Four Seasons at the Sultanahmet property in 1999. He started in food and beverage, introducing the Hotel’s first food promotions. “Everybody thought they wouldn’t work, but I was in F&B and I thought they would.” He was right: an early promotion of grilled köfte (Turkish meatballs), in particular, was a resounding success. “The best ever. We extended it because of local demand.” He was also behind the launch of the Hotel’s outside catering operation, as well as the start of cocktail service on the terrace overlooking the Old City.

Yucel departed the Sultanahmet as F&B Manager in 2007 to open Four Seasons Hotel Istanbul at the Bosphorus as Food & Beverage Director. “Then we did something unusual,” he recalls. “I swapped places with the Director of Rooms.” Despite having “no idea” about rooms, he ran the division successfully for two years. Later, in 2014, he became the first Four Seasons team member to be promoted to Hotel Manager within the same property.

Was there a key to his rise? “I knew the market very well and made good connections with all the Turkish guests,” he says. “I became the person that people would contact first.” Meantime, Yucel went out of his way to maintain great connections and recognise the significance of employees at both Four Seasons properties. “As managers, we are nobody without the support of our team. They do the work, we just guide them.”

Indeed, many of those Yucel trained at Sultanahmet later worked under him in at the Bosphorus. He taught them all he knew and listened when they needed an ear: “They saw me like a father, a teacher and a big brother. Most important, they knew whatever we discussed would stay in my office.”

Yucel had originally hoped to become an engineer. He took his first hotel job in Istanbul to support his college education, spending five years on the night shift and going to school by day. During his last year, he trained at a factory. “Within one month, I realised engineering was not for me. I loved being a hotelier and I wanted to be in food and beverage.”

Though his experience in rooms broadened Yucel’s knowledge of operations, at heart he remains “an F&B guy” who enjoys nothing more than discovering “secret restaurants” throughout Istanbul. Meanwhile, he maintains a habit adopted from his former General Manager at the Sultanahmet hotel. “He came in everyday for a cup of coffee at the restaurant to understand what we served and to be with guests. After all these years, I do the same thing. At the front desk, I may have five minutes with a guest. But at the restaurant there is time to connect and we always have something to talk about.”

Rest assured, those conversations are from the heart. “My friendships with guests have always been based on trust,” says Yucel. “Turkish people are all about trust. When they meet you, they will be a friend of yours forever.”