SPORTS has always played a big part in the life of British Richard Emslie and now with managing a surfing resort in La Union and a restaurant in Makati City, he brings the same kind of leadership and competitiveness from the cricket and football fields to the establishments’ daily operations.
As general manager of Kahuna Hotel, Café and Restaurant in San Juan, La Union, Emslie overviews different aspects of the hotel’s day-to-day operations, which require a lot of multitasking and the ability to merge well with people to create a strong team.
A self-confessed cricket and rugby football player, Emslie said being exposed to a lot of sports growing up has helped shape his mind-set into more of a leader and, at the same time, a team player.
“You learn a huge amount of how to manage people and life lessons on the sports field. Growing up, I was always captain of the team, and I always wanted to be captain of the team. Even at a young age you face challenges on the sports field, which I believe are lessons you do not learn in the classroom. You cannot learn it in a book. They are emotional, sometimes physical. I learned a lot of things from sports that have been valuable in my career as a general manager,” Emslie said.
That popular resort
Kahuna is a 40-room Filipino-Balinese-inspired boutique resort in the heart of one of the Philippines’s well-known surfing spot, La Union. The cottages and villas the resort allow one to “peer directly into the beach.”
The resort is 2 years old, while the Kahuna restaurant in Makati City is just six months old, but beginning to thrive well, thanks to the vibrant night life in the city.
Emslie said Kahuna Makati, which serves both local and international cuisines—along with TVs showing international sports, a pool table, whiskey lounge and live entertainment—gives their guests and clients in La Union who are staying in Manila a place with a similar vibe.
“Each one sells the other. We could even do, like, a package on a Friday, if people are in the bar and they are feeling like going on a crazy weekend. They can just jump in a private van and they can go and arrive in the resort, then spend the weekend there. The kind of things you see in the movies where you wake up the next morning and you do not know where you are,” Emslie said.
Emslie added that the spontaneity in the business keeps the stress away. Working in a job that seems like all about fun and relaxation is not all that it is cut out to be, but there is joy in managing different things all at once, the Manchester native said.
“There is a lot to do. There is a lot of stress sometimes. But many people who come to the resort and look out over the beach and say to me, ‘This is your office? Wow, can I have your job?’ It is an unusual job. You are doing lots of things in different areas, and it does make things fun and exciting,” Emslie said. “I would say there have been very few days when I wake up in the morning and say I do not want to go to work today.”
Gotta have big ‘kahunas’
Kahuna is a Hawaiian word that is used to means being the chief or a leader. For Emslie, the name is perfect for the resort, as they strive to provide the best and “leading” service in La Union and in the Philippines.
The sports junkie said it was not exactly surfing that brought him to the Philippines, but scuba diving back in 2003. Three years after that, it took big kahunas for him to decide to move here and work in the hospitality industry.
Emslie has handled similar posts in similar kind of resorts in Puerto Galera before settling in La Union. His job today, which consists of being in charge of different departments from front desk to security to kitchen to maintenance, is a complete opposite from what he imagines as life if ever he continued with a career in law.
Taking up law at Keele University in the United Kingdom would mean a very stable routine, but Emslie did not saw himself in that position. He, however, does not regret the life of a general manager with its 24/7 nature.
“If you are an accountant or a lawyer, these type of jobs, it is like every day is the same. You sit at your desk and it gets kind of boring,” he said. “I am not the type of person who just sits back and watch. I want to be out there and I like to talk to people, with my staff. I think they would say I am very hands on.”
Meanwhile, commenting on the Filipino work ethics, Emslie said he enjoys working with his staff for their joy in work and natural hospitality.
“In the Philippines the staff are grateful to come to work. The Filipino work ethic is good. All my staff, they are very happy people. They work hard and they enjoy their job. And you just hope overtime that you can grow your business and grow the people with the business, and get them to earn more money and take more responsibilities and expand their careers, as well. It has got to be beneficial to everybody,” he said.
Emslie, who was born in Capetown, South Africa, and spent some of his childhood years there, said he is fond of the warm climate and the beach. His love for swimming and the ocean water translated well into his entry in the resort business.
He is now learning to surf and prides himself for being able to stand up on a surf board.
Growing up in a sporty family, Emslie said he sees family time as his relaxation and sees an inherent love for sports and swimming in his 2-year-old son.
Being already in the business of leisure and accommodations, Emslie said it is hard to turn off his mind when new ideas for improving the resort come to play.
“It is good to get away, because it is a 24/7 job. You are on site all the time and you need to be there, so when you get some time off, it’s good to get away. I like to travel the Philippines, if I can, and see all the different places. But it is a funny thing in the hospitality industry that wherever you go, you cannot really turn your mind off. It is like you’re always thinking of copying ideas, looking at ways you can improve your operations and see how other people are doing it,” Emslie said.