With apologies to Thomas Wolfe, you can go home again. Mutluhan (Mutlu) Kucuk stands as living proof. After spending nearly 17 years in various roles at Loews Miami Beach Hotel, Kucuk left to take the general manager’s position at rival Nobu Eden Roc Miami Beach in December of 2018 before eventually returning this past fall.
Understand that Kucuk didn’t necessarily want to leave the Loews family, but he knew that Alex Tonarelli was entrenched in a position he wanted – managing director of the iconic Loews Miami Beach Hotel. Tonarelli was a bit of a legend in the South Florida hospitality scene, at the time having guided the Loews Miami Beach Hotel as managing director for more than 11 years and having been at the property since 2000.
Tonarelli and Kucuk, in fact, worked together to oversee the recent $50 million renovation of the Loews Miami Beach Hotel, which included the lobby, guest rooms and restaurants.
This past fall when Tonarelli left to become president and COO of the posh Ocean Reef Club in Key Largo, Loews management called on Kucuk. It didn’t take long for him accept the post, which he has held since this past September.
“For me, it’s family. It’s just not a job,” said Kucuk. “It’s the one I know best. And it’s the one that got away from me. I wasn’t sure if the opportunity would ever be available here. I had other opportunities within Loews, I just didn’t want to leave Miami. This is my adopted home.”
It’s a home that doesn’t need to be rebuilt. After all, since its opening on Christmas Eve 1998, the 790-room, beachfront hotel has been the centerpiece of the South Beach scene. Loews Miami Beach Hotel even has been credited with sparking the South Beach growth and popularity that exists today.
“It’s so much easier when you take over a broken operation–or one that needs significant help. You get to see improvement on a daily basis,” said Kucuk. “Loews Miami Beach Hotel is not broken – it’s a very good operation.
“My job is not making 60 or 80 percent improvements; my job is to look at that two percent, three percent, five percent, where we can improve financially and where we can improve guest satisfaction and team member satisfaction.”
Having worked his way up the ranks, including positions such as front desk agent, house cleaning, director of food and beverage and hotel manager, Kucuk knows how each department works.
“I can look at a financial statement, or review a concept, and tell you whether that statement is good and whether those numbers are achievable,” said Kucuk. “I can tell if that concept is going to be a success, or not, because I’ve been there and done that. I have a great understanding when I’m making my decisions.”
Just as important – and perhaps even more so – Kucuk has a great feel for his team members.
“I know what team members are going through and what they are doing to get their jobs done, and how much they care for the property and our guests,” he said.
Those “been there and done that” experiences also make Kucuk as much a role model as a boss to team members.
“My job as managing director at Loews Miami Beach Hotel is always going to involve those three metrics: guest satisfaction, team satisfaction and financial success. We have several different programs in the hotel in which I sit with up-and-coming leaders. What I tell them is, when they are presented with opportunities, take them. Don’t be concerned about being successful in a new position. You will evolve - never pass up an opportunity because you are unsure of whether or not you’ll be successful,” he said.
Kucuk added, “I apply that to myself. I was fortunate enough that Loews gave me several opportunities. I took advantage of each of them. They made me a much more well-rounded leader and gave me an appreciation of how each part of the hotel operates.”
Just as Tonarelli left his mark on Loews Miami Beach Hotel and South Beach, Kucuk wants to do the same.
“I want to continue to be a great partner to the City (of Miami Beach) and keep impacting our neighbors and representing Miami and our city. That’s my personality. I’m a fighter and I always want to do better,” he noted.