Interview with Mark Spavale

Mark Spavale is the Santa Claus of the integrated hotel industry. As an HFC Area Manager for the United States East Coast he is responsible for creating the highest degree of hospitality and customer service. Showing his teams, the rewards of pushing past their own expectations to provide the best work possible is one of his strategic methods to produce success. In this interview, Mark shares more about his passion for hospitality.

ABOUT | In his most recent previous career he was a CEO and GM for a Parisian hotelier.  He held various training roles in retail management, and not to mention, being a certified florist and events planning.  Growing up he helped his grandparents and parents in their kitchens, where they were chefs, creating Italian dishes.  Mark is an experienced traveller.  He and his husband live in Paris, while Mark is based in Washington D.C. “Taking on this opportunity in the U.S. was a great opportunity for me to continue to grow my career in the hospitality industry. I enjoy sharing my past career experiences with HFC’s clients and strategic partners,” Mark says.

How did you first learn about HFC?
I joined HFC 9 months ago. I had the happy opportunity to have interacted with HFC in a prior role where I was a General Manager for a Parisian Hotel with HFC acting as our vendor.

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I learned a great deal more about the structure of HFC and I found it to be beneficial to the client. This helped me make the change to HFC.

And so far, so good?
I started as an Area Manager in DC and now support the East Coast of the United States with hotels in DC, New York, and Boston. Plus, I am looking forward to new hotel openings in the coming end of the year in LA, San Francisco, and Miami.

What makes a hotel service the best hotel service?
Something that is intuitive, thoughtful and saves time for the guests, clients, and strategic partners. I feel today we are constantly chasing time and any service that permits us to use our time more efficiently and the ability to take back a little bit of our lost time would be very welcomed.

I believe that being aware of the industry, and how it is changing is a crucial part of recognizing how we can look ahead to be proactive versus reactive to the challenges presented to us daily.  Interacting with our strategic partners, including my own teams, and asking the question “How can we increase productivity and decrease stress” allows me to find and try new efficiencies.  Placing all these puzzle pieces together then standing back to look at the big picture helps me find these intuitive, thoughtful, time saving services.

In your experience, what factors contribute to excellent customer service?
Actively listening, being present and immediately acting upon what you learned is, for me, paramount to a successful interaction with any guest, client, or partner.

What are your hopes for the industry?
My hope is that after this period of unprecedented change during the last 20 months, that the hospitality industry comes out even stronger from what we have experienced and learned.

I also hope that the industry continues to place the internal/external guest at the centre of everything it does.

What do you find the most challenging at HFC?
The most challenging aspect is also what I find the most thrilling. The pace in which I have seen HFC and my colleagues evolve and grow in such a short time.

What do you like to do in your spare time?
My personal time is a bit limited currently, but when it arrives, I of course find a way home to my husband and family in France.  Other than that, I am fascinated by history.  I try to read or find historical themes within a city when I visit it.

I grew up with 5 generations of my family around me.  And as there were not that many children my age, my first friends were my elderly family members and neighbours. Listening to their stories, some of them coming from the late 1800’s or stories told from one generation to another, filled my head with dreams of travel.

And, then, of course, my secret passion, which is not so secret…. Christmas! I can spend hours looking at trends for décor and creating themes and decorations for friends and family.

Who or what inspires you?
Good food inspires me a lot. My parents where chefs in the kitchen. I watched them making and re-creating family recipes. It was magic for me to be present and witness how they could dramatically change the taste or look of a dish with a simple addition or omission of a single ingredient.

If you imagine your younger self, what advice would you give yourself?  Do not be afraid!  If you fall, get up and let people see you get up. One cannot lead where one is not going.

What books are at your bedside?
I have two books; one is Sapiens A Brief History of Humanity (Yuval Noah Harari) and I also have a book called Mobituaries: Great Lives Worth Reliving (Mo Rocca). The latter is about people and objects that have been long gone but need us to relive them to not forget them.

What is your morning ritual?
Opening the blinds, COFFEE, jumping in the shower, 20-minute beard & hair styling, before Whatsapping my husband back home in Paris and then opening the laptop and make sure all HQ does not need anything urgently.

What is your favourite travel spot so far?
Sicily and Scotland!  The rich landscapes and the connection with the culture and people.  If I could, I would split my time between them.

How do you define success?
When in the end of the day you can have a beer with everyone around you no matter what level of participation and celebrate the achievements you made together.