Luis Galofre

Design Conversation: Luis Galofre On The Hospitality Landscape in the Caribbean and Latin America

Luis Galofre, a veteran in the hospitality field with a career spanning over 17 years, is the Director of Food and Beverage Design and Development for the Caribbean and Latin America region at Marriott International. Not less important, Galore is also an esteemed jury member of the LIV Hospitality Design Awards

His knowledge in the field has been crucial in overseeing restaurant and bar operations, providing creative concepts, and offering guidance and support to architects and developers across the area he oversees. Since entering Marriott in 2014, Galofre has always pushed boundaries: he contributed to the opening of The Ritz-Carlton, Mexico City, which marked a milestone of 300 open properties in the region​.

In this exclusive interview, we talk with Galofre about his international journey, his professional progression from managing a local restaurant to now leading an entire region, and the inspiration and philosophies behind his creative process.

Can you tell us a bit about your background? Where are you from? How did you start working in the Hospitality Industry?

I’m from Barranquilla, Colombia, where I lived for the first 25 years of my life. I started my career working in various industries, from leather manufacturing to Embassies, and my first hospitality job was as a front desk agent at a local hotel in my hometown – I immediately fell in love with this industry. Later, I worked in multiple departments such as reservations, housekeeping, and banquets. 

You worked for some iconic venues like the W Hotel in Washington DC and the Buddha Bar in DC. How is working in Food & Beverages Operations helping you now as Director of Design & Development at Marriott International? 

It’s all about understanding how the Food and Beverage spaces operate. In my 16-plus years working in this discipline, I have understood the importance of providing a well-organized space to our associates so they can work efficiently and take great care of our guests.

From restaurant and hotel openings to working in high-volume venues, I always looked at operations from the receiving area to the last table/bar stool of our Food and Beverage outlets, and asked the following questions: “Do we have an efficient service flow in our BOH? Does storage support a total number of outlets? How many steps is my bartending team taking to make one cocktail?” Having the structure defined, then I had to focus on ensuring the restaurant concepts make sense for our guests and associates.  

What are the main challenges that you face when working on projects in the Caribbean and Latin America in general?

The challenges that this region gives me are unique and exciting! We have 330-plus hotels operating and more than 150 hotels in the pipeline, in a region that has 33 countries (and dependencies) and each of them comes with its own culinary traditions. This gives us the opportunity to create authentic dishes that truly represent our gastronomy diversity, creating experiences that represent and elevate our brands. 

Is there something that is fundamental to your design vision, philosophy and processes?

There are critical steps in the Restaurant and Bar development process that build on and depend on each other and it is imperative that each step is completed before moving into the next phase. Analyze, conceptualize, design, and execute! 

If you had to choose only one project/concept you have been involved in, which one would it be and why?

I left Colombia and my Food and Beverage career started… 15 years later, I went back home to open our first Marriott hotel in my hometown Barranquilla, a project that I worked on for about 4 years. The F&B programming designed and created for this hotel was uniquely curated by a local for the locals.

I participated in a 10-day countdown where I had the opportunity to share my career path with the associates and present the restaurant concept to ensure they live, breathe, and share the storytelling every day. I’m extremely proud of this product, and the team hired to operate the space is one of the best in the region. 

What do you think are the biggest challenges and opportunities in your career/industry now?

We have a wonderful opportunity to design and conceptualize restaurants located in our hotels that connect with the local community. Thinking of sustainable products, concept authenticity aligned with design direction and an independent mentality: staying away from massive buffet setups.

Every project only has one chance to make a restaurant great, the design must align with the functional needs of the operation to ensure the effective realization of high-performing venues. The experience of Food and Beverage designers is critical, it is all about details, memorable elements and service delivery that make the concepts relevant, bringing the venue to life.

Last, which Architects and Interior Designers most influence your work?

It has been a pleasure to work and learn from many companies during the past years, such as ChapiChapo, Streetsense, EDG, Raimundo Morales & Associates, Ellis Adams Group, HBA, Office134, Meyer Davis and Arquitectura de Interiores.