A Vatel Paris 2002 alumnus, Maxime Gibrat has been working in China for almost seven years, including six years in the Links Concept Company, one of the main importers and distributors of wine to Hong Kong, Macao and China.
How did you get the job you are currently doing?
At that time, I already had ten years’ worth of experience on my resume in luxury hotels in many different countries: Ireland, England and Russia. I arrived in China in 2007 to take part in the grand opening of the InterContinental Shenzhen as the F&B Manager of their gourmet restaurant. In particular, I was responsible for the wine list, and thus regularly in contact with many suppliers. One of them offered me a job in his company in Southern China. After spending over six years with them, I’m now the General Manager for the Eastern Chinese zone and have lived in Shanghai for five years.
Can you please tell us a bit about Links Concept?
Links Concept was founded in 1998 by two of my friends: Patricio de La Fuente Saez and Jermann Lai. Patricio is Dutch and Chilean, and he worked for six years for Hyatt in Asia before starting to work in the wine and spirit field. Jermann Lai comes from Hong Kong and he already worked for a wine distribution company when he met Patricio. After having worked together for several years, they decided to found their own company.
Links Concept is one of the main wine distribution companies in Hong Kong, Macau and China. We only represent top quality vineyards. Our offices are located in Hong Kong, Macau, Guangzhou, Beijing, Shenzhen and Shanghai.
Links Concept distributes our wine in different networks such as hotels, restaurants, bars, gourmet food shops, wine shops, airlines, distributors and luxury shops. We represent brands recognized throughout the entire world such as Louis Roederer, Billecart-Salmon, Antinori, Alvaro Palacios, Prieure Roch, Jean-Louis Chave, Torbreck, just to mention a few.
What does your job consist in?
- Recruiting and training teams,
- Developing sales and setting up sales strategies,
- Drawing up budgets and sales targets for the Eastern Chinese Region,
- Identification of new potential customers,
- Negotiating contracts with hotel groups and luxury brand companies for their special events,
- Public Relations with our VIPs,
- Designing strategies to increase our profitability.
Why did you decide to work in China?
I’ve always been interested in and attracted by this country. My best friend was born in China and I had the feeling that this country was about to expand and become a land of multiple professional opportunities. After that, I don’t want to hide the fact that it can be very difficult when you start out, but if you’re serious and a hard worker, you can quickly progress in this very dynamic country. In addition to that, Vatel is well-known here in the hotel sector because there are many Vateliens who work in this country. I’ve already met quite a few in Shanghai. I’d advise all Vatel students to do an internship of at least six months in China, because that can really be a springboard for their career here in China or elsewhere.
And why did you choose Vatel before then?
For their educational concept that mixes theoretical courses with practical application work. I had just finished a two-year vocational degree in hotel management and spent two years abroad. I wanted to expand my managerial knowledge while continuing to work.
I really have fond memories of my years at school and especially of the professors who were professionals still working in their jobs. Vatel opened a huge network of professional as well as the doors of some of the most famous hotels such as the Crillon, where I did my final internship.
What advice could you give to Vatel students who would like to work in the field of wine sales and distribution?
First of all, they have to love wine, and have an open mind, and then they have to continuously improve the development of their sales techniques. This isn’t an easy job to do in China because they have a very different approach to wine and it is a very competitive environment.