By Publisher Lee Kyung-sik with Editors Choe Nam-suk, Cho Kyung-hee
General Manager Bernhard Brender of the Grand Hilton Seoul is perhaps the oldest-timer international hotel manager in Seoul, who started out in Korea as the general manager with Grand Hilton Seoul and who continued to manage other top-notch super-deluxe hotels in Korea.
The German-born hotelier loves Korea and the Korean people and considers the country his second home—after Germany where he was born.
Questions and answers with him follow:
Question: Please introduce the special features of your hotel, including the most significant events held at the hotel.
Answer: We are holding ‘Oktoberfest’ which is similar to the German’s Oktoberfest atmosphere for those who couldn’t get the chance to the local festival; we open it every year. The 14th Grand Hilton Seoul Oktoberfest will be held on September 7th from 6pm to 1am on the 4th floor of Hotel Convention Hall. You may enjoy unlimited German traditional handmade beer ‘Grevensteiner’ and ‘Veltins Pilsner’ as a cool draft beer. There is also an unlimited number of German buffet meals including sausages, Schweinshaxe, and Pretzel. There will be an exciting live performance by the German band “Anton Band”, which will uplift atmosphere like Munich and enhance the festive atmosphere as exciting as possible. Also, there will be various games such as fast drinking beer and nailing. Especially you may expect great prizes such as round-trip tickets to Germany.
Q: Congratulations on the 100th and 32nd anniversaries of your esteemed property! I would say that you are the best-seasoned general manager of the five-star super-deluxe hotels in Korea. How many years have been with Grand Hilton and how many more with other top-rate hotels in Korea and around the world?
A: Thank you. I began my full-fledged life in Korean in 1991, after I became the vice general manager of the Sheraton Walkerhill Hotel in Seoul. Since then, I am working as the general manager of Grand Hilton Seoul since 2006, through Westin Chosun in Seoul and Millennium Hilton Seoul.
My total experience at the hotel, including the apprenticeship period from 1960 to 1963 is 60 years. I have gone through 12 hotels including Hilton, Intercontinental, Sheraton, Westin and Starwood in 10 countries on four continents.
I have spent my life as a chef in Germany, Switzerland, England, Philippines and Indonesia, and in 1974, I moved from head chef at Intercontinental, Bali to the F&B department at Intercontinental Siam (Bangkok, Thailand). Since then, I worked as an F&B director at the Intercontinental Mombasa (Mombasa, Kenya), Sheraton Hong Kong.
Q: What are the strong points of your property compared with your peers in Seoul and other countries of the world? Please elaborate.
A: Grand Hilton Seoul is a five-star hotel in Seodaemun-gu, Seoul. Grand Hilton Seoul is a place where you may enjoy nature of the city, such as the magnificent Baekryeon Mountain, Hongje-Cheon, and Ansan Mountain Road. Especially, it is located at the top of the Baekryeon Mountain, so it is advantageous to maintain security and has few high buildings around. This posititional advantage has been led our hotel to hold eight times of the inter-Korean talks out of 18 times total in 2000s. In addition, GHS has successfully hosted major events such as the FIFA special general meeting, the WBC Fader World Title 2nd Defensive War, and Kim Dae Jung’s Nobel Peace Prize Award ceremony.
Grand Hilton Seoul, which opened Korea’s first large-scale independent convention center, is a MICE (International Conference, Tourism, Convention, and Exhibition) specialist hotel. It has a large-scale convention hall that can accommodate up to 2,500 people on the 4th floor and 3 floors on the ground with 2,500 square feet. On the 3rd floor, there are various sized meeting rooms and banquet rooms that can accommodate from 100 to 1,200 people. It is the second largest after the Ilsan Kintex in Gangbuk-gu, Seoul.
It is also designed to be used by conference attendees who have access to the main hotel, so that the convention center can be used as a separate building in a calm atmosphere without any congestion. In addition, the parking facilities consist of 1-3 floors above ground and underground so that more than 1,000 cars can be used free of charge. It is conveniently connected to the Naebu-Expressway connecting Gangnam and Gangbuk, and Shuttle bus which Grand Hilton Seoul provides to Hongdae, Itaewon via Seoul station and Myeongdong station is also very convenient, and takes you to the nice sightseeing spots all over Seoul.
Q: I know your hotel is very strong in terms of F&B facilities. Please introduce your major facilities in detail. Which restaurant attracts the largest number of guests, European, international, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, others?
A: I can surely say that signature restaurant of Grand Hilton Seoul is ‘Buffet Restaurant’. It is opened in 1988 with the opening of the hotel. The buffet restaurant is the place where you may enjoy fine dining with a great view of Baekryeon Mountain, and the proportion of regular customers is high enough for families over the generations to revisit.
A buffet restaurant with classic antique and golden lighting reminiscent of an old European mansion, boasts over 100 different menus including Korean, Chinese, Western, and dessert, as well as promoting seasonal and themed food. In addition, the theme of the world gourmet travel was operated according to the concepts of Germany, France, Thailand, Mexico, Netherlands, India and so on. We have been introducing themed dished in more than 50 countries around the world for the last 30 years. We highly recommend our various menus based on deeply experienced passed down recipes.
In July 2017, Grand Hilton Seoul has been certified as a Muslim franchise and will also offer green salad, seasonal fruit, margarita pizza, smoked chicken breast grill, and a Muslim Friendly menu of grilled lamb.
Besides, there is also an all-day dining restaurant called ‘Atrium’ where you may enjoy a casual dining featuring Eastern and Western dishes. With its warm lighting, antique furniture and accessories, it is reminiscent of a European restaurant, allowing guests to relax and dine in a natural, relaxed atmosphere. The menu includes a variety of Korean dishes such as bibimbap, cold noodle, grilled dishes, stew, as well as a la carte oriental dishes such as pasta, steak, homemade burger and Nasi goring.
‘Alpine Deli’ is a premium bakery shop where pastry chefs well experienced in a luxury hotel prepares. Soft creampuff, croissants and a variety of bakeries ranging from baguettes to tarts, as well as a sandwich and a light meal menus are prepared. Especially during Thanksgiving, you may have a to-go turkey which will allows you to have a home party. Furthermore, Alpine Café located next to Alpine Deli is impressive with its sensuous interior with European streets and sensibility. You may enjoy a cool draft beer, including fresh coffee and tea, fresh fruit juice, and a delightful bakery including tarts, cakes, etc.
Located on one side of the lobby on the first floor, the Terrace Lounge is an elegant space with an antique natural marble table and fireplace. Coffee, tea, as well as wine, whiskeys, cocktails and light snacks are available, and the high quality live performance which starts at night creates a more romantic atmosphere.
Q: What is your guest breakdown by nationality? What is the proportion of the FITs?
A: The percentage of Asians, including Koreans, Chinese, and Japanese are the highest. And Americans and Europeans are followed by. The proportion of FIT customers is about 40% and it is gradually expanding.
Q : When is your high season, and the low one?
A: It is usually the peak season from October to December. In addition, Korean tourists are increasing enjoying their summer holiday at the hotel. It is reasonable to have a comfortable room service in an air-conditioned hotel and get a package giveaway when they enjoy with the room package. Especially, there are many guests who are looking for a swimming pool due to the heat. We call off-season during January to March. Therefore we offer a variety of room packages and F&B promotions to attract guests.
Q: Many top-rate hotels in Korea host charity events for the benefit of children and underprivileged such as orphans. Please introduce them in detail.
A: Grand Hilton Seoul has been warmly touched relationship for over twenty years with an orphanage, Songjukwon located in Seodamun-gu. By the end of 2016, we had a Christmas tree lighting ceremony with the Children of Songjukwon. Children there celebrated the Christmas season with the hotel employee choir, sung a carol performance together, and enjoyed the dinner buffet prepared by the hotel chefs after the performance. After the lighting ceremony, we visited the Orphanage and the hotel staff including me delivered Christmas presents such as sandwiches, cakes, cookies and drinks for the children.
Q: Please introduce whatever important event there have been recently at your hotel.
A: From June 24th to July 3rd, ‘Brides to Seoul’, Saudi Arabia Culture Week was held at Grand Hilton Seoul. King Abdulaziz Center for World Culture, Ithra was the first cultural event which was held in Seoul for the first time in Asia.
This event introduces Saudi Arabia’s various cultural heritage to the country and played a role in bringing closer relations between the two countries. Amin. H. Nasser, president and CEO of Saudi Aramco, and the president’s wife, Mrs. Kim Jeong Sook, visited the event during the ceremony, which attracted a lot of crowds.
Grand Hilton Seoul strengthened safety check and accident prevention activities during the ceremony, and finished without any safety accident. It is the result that events has been successfully attracted the domestically and internationally for the several years. It could be proved by several years of experiences. In addition, we plan to provide various customized services for corporate events, conferences, seminars as well as various gatherings, family openings, and weddings.