Not many people go from the hustle and bustle of Wall Street to the care and responsibility of hospitality.
They’re vastly different careers, but OpenTable’s Vice President of APAC, Lisa Hasen, made the leap 17 years ago and hasn’t looked back since.
How long have you been in the industry?
I actually began my career (post-Uni) as a Systems Analyst on Wall Street! I knew I was in the wrong field when my peers were reading publications such as Fortune and Forbes in their spare time while I was reading Gourmet magazine.
In 1999 I had the opportunity to pursue my passion for hospitality when I moved from NYC to Seattle and entered culinary school. I was finally able to execute on a dream and began to turn it into a reality. Growing up, my family owned restaurants in both New York and Sydney – hospitality is definitely in my genes.
Tell us about your most memorable travel experience?
I make a point of integrating food and wine as key components to my travel experiences – where can I be immersed in something new in the culinary world? I enjoy learning about the approaches that different cultures take to food and dining, as well as how dishes are composed. The ties to what grows locally and the cultural/historical links to culinary traditions are just fascinating to me. My favorite way to travel is to spend part of the day exploring and taking it all in, then spend the rest of the time eating and drinking.
The recognition of how important a role food plays in travel experiences is something OpenTable has built into its product offering, with the new discover tab allowing travelers (and local diners) to discover the perfect dining experience for them based on location, popularity, availability and cuisine.
What’s the weirdest job you’ve ever had?
As part of my culinary journey I worked as a broker for fine Italian food products. This saw me go into restaurants and even supermarkets to educate people on the amazing qualities of these products and their benefits, both for cooking and also for health.
One day I decided to start my own business of selling Italian hampers. I did everything for this business, from building the website to packing, sending and processing the payments. Looking back on it now, this job was probably the weirdest one I’ve ever had – my dining table was perpetually covered in Styrofoam peanuts and boxes. I literally did everything for it and I interacted with some very unique and different personalities along the way.
Wish list of places to visit?
Japan, Turkey, Normandy and the wine regions of Spain.
Who was your biggest mentor growing up and why?
Ruth Reichl. Ruth was the food critic for the New York Times and also Editor & Chief for Gourmet magazine. Through her writing, Ruth highly engaged me in the culinary experience, with what chefs were doing and how food could be a transformational experience.
What I particularly liked was the fact she never wanted restaurants to treat her differently or put more effort into her food and this desire motivated her to go into restaurants in full disguise – just so she could get the real, authentic experience.
How has working in travel changed you?
Working in a career that sees you partake in lots of travel is an extraordinary experience. It enables you to work in different places and observe how people operate (and eat) differently from place to place. The most interesting thing for me is learning the different food trends region to region – it opens your mind to how food is viewed and consumed in different parts of the world. Once you work in travel, there is no going back. It is a never-ending process in the sense that there is always something new to learn and to discover.
What’s your biggest achievement to date?
My biggest achievement has been developing a career that I love. It doesn’t feel like “work”, it affords me opportunities to teach and mentor and also to support an industry filled with hardworking, passionate and down-to-earth people.
What’s your number one in-flight travel tip?
My travel tip is directed to travellers about to board a long-haul flight. It’s important to prepare your mind to recognise that there are much more challenging and difficult experiences in life than sitting in a confined space watching in-flight entertainment for hours (and hours). My observation is that people get worked up about long flights and build-up how bad the flight will be in their minds. People try to wear comfortable clothes and drink heaps of water to minimise all these things, but these are all pretty basic tips and I think travellers will feel more at ease during their flight if they change their mindset from a place of frustration to appreciating the flight as being part of the journey.
What advice would you give an industry newbie?
Funnily, I just gave some advice to a new colleague starting their career in sales as a young adult. My advice was:
Recognise what you possess as an individual that others don’t and figure out how to share it. In this case, my new co-worker has an amazing understanding of social media; being a millennial he grew up with Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and understands the role these platforms can play in connecting restaurants to their customers better than most restauranteurs.
Find a friendly customer or co-worker and shadow them. Learn what they do and how they do it. By observing seasoned professionals you’ll be able to pick-up on the soft skills you need to have a successful and prosperous career.
Experience anything and everything related to your industry. There’s nothing better than seeing things from all the different angles.
Do you have any questions for Lisa?
Share this story