"Biteable": Markus at Ambiance
Markus finds the right Ambiance for a shot of Starbucks and Swiss economics
Sunday, August 14, 2011
Our Hospitality Correspondent reports: It’s all change at Ambiance, the landmark place to stay in the frisky heart of Pattaya’s Boyztown. After more than twenty years, Jim Lumsden - himself something of a Pattaya landmark – has relinquished the management of Ambiance to 35 year-old Markus Gloor, former Assistant Director of the no less esteemed Tarntawan Place, Bangkok. “Replacing Jim won’t be easy,” admits Markus, “but at least I feel very at home in Boyztown”.
The adjacent Boyz Boyz Boyz club and its Terrace Bar will in future be run separately from Ambiance, where new General Manager Markus has already set about restyling the Bistro menu. In heroic defiance of economic trends, he has even reduced the prices of some of the dishes, while upgrades to accommodation and further changes are projected.
Meanwhile, Swiss-born Markus is stepping into mighty shoes for the second time in his career. Jim Lumsden is an entrepreneurial legend, as well as an occasional transvestite diva, especially for charitable causes. Irving Berlin might have penned The Hostess With The Mostest for Jim, if Ethel Merman hadn’t muscled in first. But before coming to Pattaya on his take-over mission, Markus had been recruited to the Tarntawan Place and its sister business, Dick’s Café, after the sudden and untimely death of its much-loved co-director, Mike Pearson, in 2007.
“Coming after Mike was very difficult,” says Markus. “I could never take his place.” This delicate succession scenario was aggravated by the effects on business in The Big Mango of financial meltdown in the west and, later, protests by the Red Shirts at home: the Reds’ encampment came within a couple of hundred metres of Dick’s Café. “Transferring to the Ambiance is a good chance for me after those tough years in Bangkok. I sometimes tell myself that things can only get better!”
In fact, Markus succeeded in making a niche for himself at both Dick’s Café and the Tarntawan Place, with visitors and resident expats alike. His boyish high spirits and the seemingly permanent twinkle in his eye charmed guests of a certain age, in particular. His enviably fit frame won him admirers, too, and helped attract the kind of attention that’s normally reserved in these parts for Thai guys. One frequent visitor from Australia and would-be roué was known to prop up the Lobby Lounge Bar at the Tarntawan Place and confide to anyone who’d listen: “I want to bite Markus’s bum!”
So it doesn’t come as a huge surprise that part of Markus’s training as a chef and hotelier took place in what he politely terms “a Seniors’ Home”. That’s Old Folks, to you and me. “Remembering that time helps me with mature customers now,” he acknowledges.
What does raise the eyebrows is the experience he describes as the most influential of his early years. Having begun with a conventional apprenticeship in the Swiss hotel and catering trade, he switched to Starbucks when the coffee monster arrived in Switzerland to initiate its conquest of Europe. Rather than recoil from the globalised quality control and corporate jargon, Markus reveled in the challenge. Within six years, he’d risen to the level of District Manager - apparently an elevated position in Starbucksland.
“Starbucks taught me that what’s most important in a business is the staff. Even after the culture shock and all the adjustments I’ve had to make to working in Thailand, I still believe that people are paramount. Unhappy staff lose you business. Besides, I always want to have friends at work – and fun.”
That seems a suitable philosophy to bring to Pattaya, one of the world capitals of fun and frolic. This correspondent predicts that Markus Gloor will thrive by the sea, winning legions more admirers – though he’s probably hoping to avoid having his bum bitten too often.