In this exclusive interview, we speak with Daniela Trovato, Regional Vice President and General Manager of Four Seasons Hotel and Residences at The Surf Club, who is responsible for managing the day-to-day operations of this iconic hotel and providing guidance for three additional distinctive South Florida properties. With over 25 years of experience in the hospitality industry, Daniela shares her experiences, insights and plans for the future. From her journey to becoming a RVP and General Manager to her thoughts on the hotel’s stellar culinary experiences, we delve deep into the world of luxury hospitality with Daniela Trovato.
You began your career in marketing and then went on to be a Hotel Manager then General Manager at Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club, which isn’t the ‘typical’ path of many in the hotel industry. How do you think this has benefited you as you’ve now come ‘full circle’ back into an operational leadership role again with your new position as Regional Vice President at Four Seasons overseeing South Florida?
I began my career in marketing, and my path to becoming a Hotel Manager and s,ubsequently a General Manager at Four Seasons has indeed been unconventional within in the industry. I believe this path has benefited me greatly in my new role as a Regional Vice President at Four Seasons overseeing South Florida, as it has given me a unique perspective and a 360-degree understanding of the hospitality industry.
For me, jumping from a strategic marketing background to an operational leadership role was a natural progression. My experience in marketing has given me a deep understanding of how customers behave, their preferences, and what they expect from a luxury hotel brand like Four Seasons. This knowledge has allowed me to read guests better and offer a more personalized experience.
Knowing what customers want and how they want to be cared for has provided me with an essential foundation of skills that have proved valuable in my current role. As a Regional Vice President, I can bridge the gap between operations and marketing, creating an elevated guest experience that resonates with individuals.
Daniela Trovato, Regional Vice President and General Manager of Four Seasons Hotel and Residences at The Surf Club
Also, by having a marketing background, I bring a fresh perspective to operational leadership. This difference in background allows me to approach things differently than someone who has taken the more traditional path to a hotel leadership position, coming up with creative solutions to operational problems and being equipped to leverage data and technology to drive meaningful guest experiences.
Furthermore, the fact that Four Seasons is continuously seeking people with diverse backgrounds, such as finance or technology, reinforces the idea that a 360-degree standpoint is crucial in the hospitality industry. All of this means that, in many ways, gaining a well-rounded perspective on the industry has become a key component of being a successful leader in the modern-day hospitality industry.
As a native Italian, what are some of the key elements of luxury hospitality that you’ve managed to retain from your European roots and bring with you to the current hotels within your ‘watch’?
As a native Italian, I have grown up with a deep appreciation and love for hospitality. In Italy, hospitality is not just a job; it is an art form. We combine our passion and work, making it a way of living, and it is something that we strive to bring with us every day.
One of the primary aspects I have retained from my European roots and brought with me to the hotels is the importance of family, which is something we consider guests and team members. A family is like a micro-economy, and as Regional Vice President, I try to maintain this standard of inclusivity and service by respecting every property’s identity.
I am currently overseeing three hotels on the beach, all of which have different target audiences, and there are greater opportunities to capture each market segment than I traditionally see them. The Surf Club guests offers guests an oceanfront experience and culinary destination that resides within a private club atmosphere. Fort Lauderdale is more of a coastal city lifestyle, perfect for a weekend break for a young couple or friends, while Palm Beach is a niche market, full of charm, for those seeking a luxurious destination, and attractive to many young families. Our Brickell location is perfect for travelers seeking a more cosmopolitan setting and tropical vibes all at once.
It is my responsibility to maintain the standard Four Seasons is known the world over for, which is the consistency of exceptional, authentic, and personal service. By focusing on what distinguishes each property, we can excel in each specific market. While they all compete with one another, we value their diversity, and our teams are comprised of individuals from Europe, the Middle East, Latin America, and the United States, each one bringing different operational backgrounds and strategic thinking.
We think in terms of the medium-term, as the market moves too fast to think too far ahead. However, with our shared values for uncompromising service and hospitality, we believe that we can create an exceptional guest experience at every Four Seasons that will endure over time.
What are some new experiences at Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club?
There are several new and exciting experiences that guests can enjoy at Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club. Firstly, the spa and wellness center offers unique treatments that use local ingredients, emphasizing the natural beauty of South Florida. We are also the only hotel in the United States to have the BodySlimmer and BodyRoller machines brought from Italy, which through a combination of vacuum technology with infrared radiation, accelerate the slimming process and aid with lymphatic circulation.
The residential component is also a unique feature, and hotel guests and residents have different expectations when it comes to dining. The Surf Club has partnered with world-renowned chef Thomas Keller, who operates a one-Michelin star, The Surf Club Restaurant. The Italian influence is also evident in other restaurants like the Lido Restaurant at The Surf Club, where Executive Chef Marco Calenzo serves flavorsome Italian cuisine.
Additionally, The Surf Club has recently opened a new concept within Lido Restaurant at The Surf Club called Amadeo, which will open in June 2023, with just twenty seats, specializing in crudos and bar. The restaurant is named after the chef, Amadeo, and promises to provide an intimate and homey dining experience.
The hotel continues to recreate some of the incredible experiences from our historic past, including celebratory music events. For example, Orchestra Miami recently performed Beethoven on the beach at sunset on our oceanfront lawn, open to residents, guests and locals.
Our goal is to honor the classics relevant to The Surf Club’s 1930s style and celebrate the past while infusing a modern flair. The hotel strives to create key experiences that cannot be found elsewhere, making The Surf Club an exceptional destination for luxury travelers.
From the start of its history through now, The Surf Club welcomes a luminous profile of guests. Why do you think the values and reputation that made The Surf Club so special remain just as strong today?
The Surf Club has always been about providing a sense of belonging, which is why no matter how the property has grown, it has maintained its sense of being a club with an inclusive atmosphere, which has made it so special over the decades. This inclusivity is coupled with a beautiful location, genuine service, and great products, which together provide the perfect sense of lifestyle that many have come to appreciate.
The hotel’s ability to maintain its values and reputation through these years shows that it’s a special place that connects with people in a unique way.
The Surf Club feels like a club, not just another hotel, and makes it just as strong today as it did when it first started. No matter how many decades go by, this sense of inclusivity, beauty, genuine service, and great products – all contribute to a lifestyle you can’t find anywhere else.
Are you seeing any new emerging travelers at FSSC you can tell us about?
We have been seeing more and more multigenerational family travelers, I think because every member of the family can be happy and feel at ease here, everything down to the amenities we provide for children such as kids’ bathrobes with size options and activities through our inspirational kids’ club program. Our Private Retreats, which are truly like homes away from home with their own dedicated elevator, and restaurants, are perfect for grandparents coming with their families.
This trend reminds me of an old movie with a family vacationing together, which has become increasingly popular. Families want to create more bonding moments and enjoy a sense of luxury in a home environment, which is why we offer hotel residences that provide guests with the freedom and comforts to take care of their children at any time of the day.
Interestingly, we have found that despite the trend of younger generations being more attracted to devices and social media, they still value connection, especially when traveling with friends together. At The Surf Club, our concierge plays a significant role in creating these connections and understanding our guests’ needs. While we pay close attention to statistics, trends, and research, ultimately, it’s the feedback we receive from our guests that helps us create new travel products and experiences that exceed their expectations.
People often refer to Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club as a ‘hidden gem by the beach’ – can you share a little more on the hotel for those that have yet to visit and what makes it so special?
Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club is more than just a beautiful hotel by the beach. It is a hidden gem that seamlessly blends the past and present, offering a unique experience that is hard to find elsewhere. Guests can expect to stay in beautifully designed rooms, and stylish condos that are part of the rental pool, or they can choose to reside in the two towers that are designed for single owners. The hotel has a rich history, which is evident in the way that the club’s essence permeates the entire property.
Joseph Dirand, the property’s interior designer, has done an impressive job of creating an impeccably executed product that is both modern and respectful of the past. Guests can see his work in the rooms, hotel gallery, hallway, and public spaces, which all look stunning. Pritzer-prize winning architect Richard Meier also designed the three buildings that frame and flank the original clubhouse. The hotel is housed in a historical building, which further adds to its charm and appeal.
One of the most attractive aspects of the Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club is its proximity to the ocean. It offers a serene escape from Miami next to Bal Harbour, making it a perfect vacation spot. Guests can enjoy the calm spaces and cabana experiences or venture out to explore the city.
The hotel is also a culinary destination, as evidenced by its impressive restaurants and seasonal residencies. This season, it hosted a Kosaka, Japanese one Michelin star resident restaurant, Leila, Detroit’s staple Lebanese restaurant, Lido at The Surf Club, the Champagne Bar, and of course, one Michelin star The Surf Club Restaurant by Thomas Keller. In short, the Four Seasons Hotel at The Surf Club is a must-visit destination that offers a unique and unforgettable experience for guests.