In September, we had the great honor to have Mr. Max La Rocca from Italy for an intense session of hospitality, management and other bar related shenanigans. It was our first attempt to invite someone from abroad for a workshop and we were really pleased with the results! We were so pleased that we decided to do a follow-up interview with him, just to get the chance to pick his brain again. Here is the final conversation:
- Ciao Max and many thanks for being with us today. Unfortunately, there were limited seats at your workshop, therefore, not everyone had the pleasure to meet you. For the few who don't know you yet, who is Max La Rocca please?
I had the opportunity to work as a Bartender and Bar Manager in prestigious structures such as “Claridge's Hotel” and “Harrods” in London, “Hotel De Russie: in Rome, “Sheen Falls Lodge Relais & Chateaux” in Ireland and “Mandarin Oriental” in Barcelona.
Quoted as a Hospitality expert in numerous international magazines, many of my drink recipes are being showcased on the world's best cocktail menus and industry books.
For the last 7 years I covered the prestigious role of World Class Competition Ambassador for 20 European countries, inspiring the Bartender community and hospitality professionals as Speaker, Trainer, Consultant, Drink Competition Coach and Judge.
- You've been to Romania in September. How would you describe your first experience in the Romanian midlands?
I experienced such an incredible landscape on our way to Braşov that made me fall in love straight away with your country!
I need to come back and spend few more days, but on holiday this time! It’s been too short, but at the same time intense, genuine and extremely inspiring.
- How did actually 'A customer journey' started? What was the whole idea behind this awesome project?
I got the inspiration a few years ago after consulting a big Bar Group where I’ve put in place a meticulous assessment that lasted for months and where I’ve also monitored many aspects of the business, for instance, how staff were answering over the phone, how communication on the social media was approached, how every step of the customer experiences were delivered and finally, after founding many gaps, I got the awareness that even the best venues out there do have missing links between production, communication and experience, all the elements which could maximize the venue's potential massively if they are in perfect balance!
In addition, I then looked at what myself and my amazing Team managed to do at Ohla Hotel’s Boutique Bar in Barcelona, leading this venue to be amongst the best 50 Bars in the World in just one year and merged this winning experience with my learnings from that big Bar Group assessment, that’s how the Customer journey Workshop was born.
- We know that you've worked for a very long time at Diageo, and nowadays you're focusing on solo projects. [that's great] What was like to expose different brands such as Plantation Rums and Monin Syrups in the workshop at Braşov?
My connection with Plantation Rum and Alexandre Gabriel started many years ago when I visited the distillery in France and saw how tradition met authenticity and attention to details, all values that are very important in my way of being too, so it was easy for me to fall in love with it.
In our journey to lead one of the best bars in the world, we based our drinks on great flavour combination, appropriate alcohol content and no homemade ingredients; this approach also included our syrups, where we found in the Monin range an amazing companion that enhanced our creations gracefully.
- What is your biggest fulfillment regarding to the “A customer journey”?
The biggest fulfillment comes from the real results that professionals are achieving after attending the seminar. I love to follow up with the participants to check how the strategies and techniques shared with them are being implemented and how they are impacting their businesses or careers.
I receive lots of e-mails with amazing stories of people who have taken their hospitality to the next level, people who have embraced the change, owners who have completely changed their approach with their staff and now really benefiting from their strengths.
It is extremely fascinating to see how the concepts covered in the seminar give real value to operators and staff, helping them to better enjoy this profession, have more time for their private life, give a greater experience to their guests and increase their income as a result.
- What are your plans for the future regarding this project? Will you make similar courses?
My ultimate goal is to keep adding techniques, other strategies and get support from professionals that are from other fields and which it will help elevate this project and have the best of the best in different disciplines in order to make professionals evolve at 360° their approach to hospitality.
Besides, knowing the “behind the scenes” of the best Cocktail Competitions as a worldwide Judge and having supported and coached thousands of Bartenders in their Contests, I created another seminar focused on a new approach to Cocktail Competitions.
Additionally, I have created another great seminar focused on Instagram for the Hospitality Business in partnership with very important Instagram Global influencers that will really raise your Instagram game and take your visibility and credibility to the next level.
- What are your thoughts with respect of the Romanian bartending community so far?
What I really like about the Romanian Bartender Community is that it is very tight where everybody
supports each other and this means a lot for all the Hospitality Professionals and for the way they grow professionally and share their passion with their guests.
- What would be the one thing that influenced your professional career at the most?
The opportunity that I see every day to contribute to other’s people life, that’s essentially what we should aim for in our profession, making people feel better about themselves.
9. How can the community get in touch with you?
I love the sense of Community, it brings me real joy!
I created a digital tribe called “MaxLaRoccaTribe” that is growing more and more every day with professionals that want to up their game and really make a difference.
You can find the platforms where I share great value every day, by visiting maxlarocca.com/social
- Finally, are there any thoughts you would like to share with the Romanian bartenders?
First of all, always trust your instinct, believe in the HUMAN CAPITAL (colleagues, staff, guests and the relationship with them), and finally use the words PROPERLY in order to inspire, support, share and create long lasting relationships; if you don’t do all this, you can't achieve success, visibility, credibility and the life you truly deserve!
I would like to emphasize the importance of education in your profession and the need to have real professionals on your side who will get you the right support and follow up for your business and career.
In this direction, I found true professionalism in the person of Mihai Fetcu and the whole Bar D.O.M.E. staff who organized and delivered a flawless event, with great attention to details, which has become a point of reference for the professional growth of all Hospitality Professionals in your country, supporting the Community with real passion, keep up with the great work guys!
Photos made by Aura Petraşcu