Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh at Kingdom Centre
- Kingdom Centre, P.O. Box 231000, Riyadh, 11321, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Director of Restaurants
Four Seasons Tenure
- Since 2022
- First Four Seasons Assignment: Current
- Browns Hotel, Mayfair, London, England; Hilton Tokyo, Japan; Kerry Hotels, Shanghai, China; Shangri-La The Shard, London;
- Bachelor Honours Degree, Drama Applied Theatre Education, The Royal Central School of Speech and Drama, London
- Essex, England
- English, French
“I’ve always enjoyed being wherever I’ve been, but I have to say, this is the boldest move I’ve ever made,” says Abigail Clark, delighted and excited over her role leading the restaurant operations in one of the tallest – and most iconic – towers in the Middle East. Brought on by Four Seasons Hotel Riyadh at Kingdom Centre as Director of Restaurants in the midst of an extensive renovation and re-conception of multiple dining and drinking venues, Abigail and the team that was assembled for the Hotel’s largest department, fire on all pistons for the guests it serves.
Quite a team it is. Most noteworthy is the all-female bar and lobby lounge team, the first of its kind in Saudi Arabia, which conceives, mixes and serves innovative “mocktails” to pair with a curated menu at the Hotel’s new lobby lounge and tonic bar. There are the talented front- and heart-of-the-house crews for two new restaurants, one offering international cuisine and the other creating a seasonally-changing menu rooted in French tradition, fashioned by an internationally renowned, Michelin-starred chef Daniel Boulud. She also has in-room dining on her plate, as well as a new pastry shop conceived by Pierre Hermé, who has earned a host of honours through his career including World’s Best Pastry Chef 2016 by The World’s 50 Best Restaurants.
The freedom Abigail has been granted to innovate while maintaining the refinement in all of the mentioned areas, is crucial to her leadership. “We have full reign to create our own team and manage every detail,” she says, noting the many interactions she has had with interior designers, suppliers, and more. “The good thing for me is that Four Seasons trusts us. And if the decisions we make don’t always work out as planned, we’re also trusted to learn from them.” She appreciates the trust Four Seasons places in them, allowing them to make decisions and learn from any potential setbacks.
Learning is a big part of Abigail’s leadership style, something she says “evolves and develops every day.” She prioritizes openness with the 170-plus employees who make the Hotel’s dining experiences click. “Listening is just the start. The important part is really understanding that the person in front of you might not be their true self in the moment. Having empathy can go a long way toward letting people know you’re there for them and ready to help them grow.”
Abigail took a roundabout route to the capital of Saudi Arabia. Growing up in Essex, a coastal county located about an hour east of London, her original plan was to become a swimmer, and then a singer until stage fright squashed her ambition. “I masked it with the piano until I got into drama, which I found fascinating.”
When a high school drama teacher suggested she teach the craft, Abigail took her talents to instruct English as a second language through drama in Hong Kong. She went on to study at the prestigious Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London, from which she graduated with honours, while trying her hand at serving drinks and waiting at a bar and restaurant “just to stay afloat.”
She was instantly smitten. “Being on the floor was like a performance every night. I just fell in love with the energy and people on both sides of the bar.”
Abigail ended up following her passion for hospitality into the hotel realm, where she worked her way up in management at restaurants and lounges of luxury addresses in London, Tokyo and Shanghai. She had two Michelin-starred stops along the way, including as manager of the signature dining experience of Browns Hotel, an iconic property in Mayfair, and she was lauded with Restaurant Manager of the Year honours for the UK in 2022 by the Institute of Hospitality.
Now feeling right at home at Four Seasons in Riyadh, Abigail believes she is part of something bigger than the culinary excellence and click-heeled service she inspires her team to provide. “We’re part of a real movement here as the country is going through a huge change with Saudi Vision 2030,” she says of the Kingdom’s new focus on economic and social reform as it opens up to the world. “Women are encouraged to work, encouraged to be someone and most of all are encouraged to become the best they can be”.
The welcome she experiences daily in Riyadh is “very kind,” she adds. “It’s beautiful when you see cultures collide andfascinating to see the growth of people coming together.”