For Witt Istanbul owner Tuncel Toprak, the best employee is rarely the most experienced.
"I’m not thinking about it like it’s a hotel, but like it’s a home."
A great hotel relies on more than just design and amenities. At the end of the day, it depends on the people who work there. Yet for Tuncel Toprak, the best employee is rarely the most experienced in the industry. One of his receptionists was a chemical engineer. Another worked at an English learning center. The housekeeping staff at Witt Istanbul is made up of local housewives whom Toprak had known through friends and family.
“I don’t like to work with very seasoned employees, especially in hospitality. Because most of them think that they know everything,” says Toprak. “I’m always looking for people who are inexperienced, but who want to help, who are smiling. If he has that, then I can teach him how to run the operations, which is the easy part.”
The method seems to have worked: 80 percent of Witt’s employees have been working there since opening day.
“This is very unusual in hospitality in Istanbul,” says Toprak. “Everyone quits, comes, quits, comes. But you can’t create a culture with too many people going in and out.”
The hotel’s cook, responsible for Witt’s popular home-cooked traditional Turkish breakfast, also came from outside the industry. Toprak found her through one of the women who worked at his daughter’s school.
“She’s not a professional cook, which I like. She’s very trustworthy, very good. And I just told her, ‘Okay, do it whatever way you do it at home.’ She makes whatever she likes: cakes with walnuts, or a salty cake, a borek, with spinach, potatoes or cheese. I trust her,” says Toprak. “I’m not thinking about it like it’s a hotel, but like it’s a home.”