They say you can’t have it all, but Roberto Guiati is a living statement against that. His secret? Sticking to a set of personal principles in life.
Roberto Guiati may have recently turned 40 years old, but it’s not at all evident when you set eyes on him. The Italian businessman – who is also married to local actress and businesswoman Kavita Sidhu – still takes good care of himself physically. He juggles work between his oil and gas company and is also the owner of Zenzero Group which comprises three restaurants: Zenzero Restaurant & Wine Bar, Luce Osteria Contemporanea, and Cicchetti di Zenzero. Between all that, he still manages to make time for his family, ensuring that they take time away together to rejuvenate. Oh, and did we mention that he occasionally models as well?
While this may all seem too good to be true, we can vouch that it most definitely is. Guiati’s secret to his success? A set of principles he lives by, both to himself and to other people. It is precisely what the BOSS Bottled fragrance defines as the Man of Today.
I came to Malaysia years ago to work in the oil and gas industry with two other business partners. We were in a nice restaurant in Hong Kong when I thought: “We should have something like this in Malaysia.”
That was what sparked the idea. But I’m no stranger to the F&B industry – growing up, I worked in F&B and my own brother was a restaurateur in KL before me. At the back of my mind, I always wanted a nice little place for myself where I could have good food and wine with my friends. That was exactly what I did with my fine dining restaurant, Zenzero Restaurant & Wine Bar. It was doing so well that I decided to invest in another one – now we have three Italian restaurants in total.
Looking back, it feels like there weren’t much. But obviously, when I first started, I had many sleepless nights. You get stressed because you want your place to be the best and impress diners. Then, there’s also the challenge of training your staff to understand your vision. Not only were they unfamiliar with Italian fine dining, but they were also not acquainted with its standards of service.
I had an extremely good chef, so I wasn’t too worried about the quality of the food. Good service can always make up for a bad meal, but the same cannot be said otherwise. But eventually, my service staff improved and understood my vision for the restaurant – it was then that I didn’t need to worry anymore and could focus on opening another restaurant.
It’s not that much different, actually. I was able to bring my corporate background into play for the management of my restaurant business. In fact, you could say it was quite complementary – having a restaurant is good for my other business. I meet a lot of my business clients in my restaurants because a different environment and atmosphere make them more approachable and friendlier.
There isn’t one particular big moment – there were actually many little moments that made me feel proud of what I was doing and continuously pushed me forward. It’s things like making a special arrangement for a couple celebrating an anniversary or a birthday and them leaving the restaurant feeling extremely happy. For us in the business, we see occasions like these all the time – but for them, it’s really important and them feeling happy makes me feel like we did a good job.
Another one of my proud moments with Zenzero Group is being able to sit back at the bar and watch my staff at work, looking after the restaurant like it’s their own place. I always tell my staff to have a vision for themselves and not think of this restaurant as a place that they’ll only be working at for a month or a year, because if they’re able to work here, they can work anywhere else in the world. I won’t stop my staff from pursuing a job they want, because I always try to push them to grow. Seeing them improving and growing is what makes me proudest.
Business-wise, I was kept pretty busy last year. But I’m happy to say that in 2019 I was able to spend more quality time with my wife by going on shorter holidays but more often. I think that helps a lot and it almost feels like you’re on holiday longer – it recharges you better. Before, we used to take a long stretch of a holiday but not do anything for the rest of the year. Last year, my wife and I told ourselves we should slow down a little, and it was the right choice.
Personally, I’d like to spend more time with my family in Italy. I didn’t manage to see them at all in the past year. My parents are getting older and they can’t travel as much as they used to. Previously they came to Malaysia often, but now with health issues, they can’t be too far away from the doctor’s. Hence this year, I promised myself that I would go back more often to be with them.
After six years of being a restaurateur, I have really good staff that are able to work the business for me so I can take a step back and delegate. After all, there’s no way that I’m able to do everything on my own, especially having three restaurants. Now, I have more time for myself – all I need is one hour a day.
If you can’t find even an hour a day for yourself, then there’s something wrong in your schedule. I don’t see that as an excuse – you have to find a way. It’s a really big part of me, exercising and doing sports. I do it four to five times a week, depending on my travelling schedule. But even if I travel, I make sure that I’m able to work out too.
Similar to last year, my wife and I are also going to continue taking more trips together, but shorter ones. However, I’d like to go home to Italy this year with my wife too. My wife is also busy, so we sometimes have to postpone our planned holidays. Before you know it, a year passes and you still don’t go on that holiday. So you’ll have to put your foot down and block your time for it – you have to make it happen, or else it will never happen.
I personally have a strong set of work ethics that has always been a part of me. On a business level, I always try to be respectful to my work partners and staff. It doesn’t matter what position you’re in, because we’re all here to work. It makes me feel like we’re more of a family than in business together.
I’m also a man of my word – be respectful, have good work ethics, and be disciplined when it comes to both business and also life. For myself, I’m still technically working two jobs – working in oil and gas is my main job. I have to maintain discipline in my daily routine to be able to manage two jobs – I cannot afford to be waking up at 12 in the afternoon, for example.