Interview: Lorenzo Benvenuti - The General Manager at You & Me by Cocoon Maldives

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1: How did your hospitality career end up in the Maldives? And how did the name ‘You & Me’ came to be? 

I have been in the hospitality industry for almost my entire life. I grew up working in a family business of restaurants and nightclubs in Italy, till the day I decided that I wanted to develop my skills around the world. I Spent some years between Buenos Aires, the Caribbean and New York City, before landing in Dubai, where I started a collaboration with Giovanni de Ambrosis, who is now, the corporate chef of Cocoon and You & Me. He is the one who told me about this new project, and brought me here to be part of it.

2: Can you share with us what you feel has been the most valuable part of your career development to date that has enabled you to get to where you are today? 

When I was 18 years old, my mother sent me to Cambridge, UK, to finish my studies. I was studying and working as a waiter at the same time and I think this is what enabled me to get were I am today. 30 years ago, traveling and communicating was not as easy as today, and being alone in a foreign country made me grow a lot, made me open my mind, made me learn about new cultures and people.

3: What has been your best experience so far working in your field? 

All in their ways have been good and all made me meet professionals with whom was a pleasure working with. I did many pre-openings in many different countries and that I would say were the best experiences. I like challenging myself. 

4: What are the most challenging issues you are facing on your current job here at You & Me?

I would say logistic. The Maldives is a gorgeous country but at the same time difficult. Matching logistic and construction is the most challenging part of the pre-opening.

5: What makes You & Me unique from other resorts in the Maldives? 

The market is responding very well to our new opening and we are almost fully booked already for the month of March, but we still have to identify what makes You & Me so requested. H2O, the underwater restaurant might be one reason, or maybe the dine around concept, which allows the guests to select from many different restaurants. Another thing could be our You & Me by Elizabeth Arden Pro spa, the only one in the Maldives with very exclusive treatments and it will be one of the besst all over the world. Wellbeing and relax will be combined with what skin and body need. All services will be unique. The lagoon is huge and beautiful, and this is the perfect spot for water sport and diving lovers. You & Me is also a perfect romantic destination.

6: Tell me something about the H20 restaurant that’s going to be placed underwater. 

H2O is one of the World’s largest Underwater Restaurants. The interiors are entirely designed by Lago, an innovative brand in the world of Italian design. The restaurant can accommodate over 20 people. To reach H2O, we will have a Dhoani, specially designed for the restaurant, where we will serve a glass of Champagne to all the guests going for lunch or dinner.

7: Under your guidance and supervision, what are your targets for You & Me resort in the coming months? 

To grow and do better and better together with the team. 

8: What do you expect from your employees? And how would you motivate them? 

I want them to give their best. I am a positive role model for my team. I would never ask them to do anything that I would not be willing to do myself. My customer service skills are apparent at all times and these are what I model and expect from my team members (treating them as I would wish to be treated). I know how to foster Type to enter text cohesiveness and how to bring out the best in my team without putting pressure. I want to create a nice work environment for everyone. I want to know my employees as people and seeing them learn and develop under my supervision, making positive changes where everyone involved is happy... I want them to make their own decisions, in a cooperative and collaborative environment where their supervisors give them the tools and support they need to do their job, and allow them the freedom to do so.

9: What advice would you give to those who are interested in pursuing a career in the hospitality industry? 

To travel and experience as much as they can. 

10: Is there anything special that you are looking forward to in the coming years? 

I will tell you later ;)