Akbar Yungai started as a bellhop, working his way up to the front desk at Renaissance Atlanta Midtown Hotel, and is now on the brand’s elite Navigator program -- where, instead of standing behind a desk, the 30-year-old approaches guests and encourages them to leave the well-trodden tourist paths.
How do you keep up with the newest things to recommend?
Before I go to work, I hit up an art gallery or a restaurant to see what it’s all about. Today I stopped by a bistro called Article 14, chatted with the owner, checked out the decor and menu. The hard thing for some people is researching stuff they’re not into -- like visiting the children’s museum if you don’t have kids -- but I love uncovering new gems.
How do you approach guests who might not think to ask for help?
I spend a lot of time chatting with them in the lounge, and the front desk will sometimes alert me when someone asks a question, if they think I can elevate the service. One gentleman, when he was making his reservation, mentioned that it was a romantic trip with his girlfriend. So before they checked in, I set up his room with flowers, balloons and chocolate. Then while they were at dinner, I decked it out with rose petals on the floor, Champagne, strawberries and a bubble bath.
That sounds like quite the surprise.
Sometimes it’s the small moments that have the biggest impact. Last week a guest on business mentioned how disappointed he was that he didn’t have time to try some real Southern food. They were grabbing a quick lunch in our restaurant, so on my break I went to Mary Mac’s, which is the last standing tea room in Atlanta, and got them a fat piece of true peach cobbler and brought it back just as they were finishing lunch. It’s about going the extra mile.