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Team Spirit: Yoram Biton

Just like his beloved FC Bayern Munich on the pitch, Leonardo Hotels Central Europe Managing Director Yoram Biton knows attention to detail and respect for his team are at the root of all success in the hotel industry.

Every fan dreams of getting up close to their idols, but not everyone is as lucky as Yoram Biton, whose role in the hospitality industry brings him into contact with his beloved FC Bayern Munich, as well as other leading soccer teams, on a regular basis.

“Yesterday, Real Madrid was in one of our hotels,” he tells The CEO Magazine. “Whenever there’s a club staying with us, I’m always out front because football, along with my family, is a passion.”

“You must keep up the quality, because if you have bad reviews or bad scores, you can forget about business.”

With a portfolio of six hotel brands that includes Leonardo Hotels, Leonardo Royal Hotels, Leonardo Boutique, Leonardo Limited Edition and NYX Hotels, Leonardo Hotels is the name of choice for many more than just the greatest sports stars, in search of top hospitality in the three to four-star category when they travel for business, leisure or both.

The European arm of Israel’s Fattal Hotel Group, a listed company founded by David Fattal in 1998, Leonardo Hotels was established with the 2006 purchase of a single hotel in Germany, a country that continues to be the company’s primary market.

CCEP Germany
“Coca-Cola has been a proud partner of Leonardo Hotels Europe for 15 years. We work hand in hand with a passion to make guests feel welcome and at home. Coca-Cola provides the right refreshing beverages with its popular brands – in the hotel restaurants, at the bars and in the rooms.” – Stefan Ziegler, Managing Director of Customer Management Group HoReCa & Travel, CCEP Germany


A sale-leaseback strategy has driven further growth and today the business leases, owns and manages hotels. Biton oversees the Central Europe Business Unit which comprises 17,000-plus rooms in 107 hotels in 47 locations across Germany, as well as Austria, Switzerland, Poland, Czechia, Hungary, Romania, Spain, Italy and France.

Communication Champion

After various management positions within the company, Munich-based Biton was appointed Managing Director in 2018. And, just like on the sporting pitch, he knows that every granular detail has to come together to achieve the big picture goals: whether that’s lifting the Champions League trophy or opening a new hotel.

“As I tell our people, if the room isn’t clean or if the coffee’s not tasty and if the lights don’t work, we cannot continue to acquire hotels,” he says.

“Everything feeds into the pyramid and we need to build it step-by-step. Each step is as important as the other and no one is more important than anyone else,” he continues.

“As I tell our people, if the room isn’t clean or if the coffee’s not tasty and if the lights don’t work, we cannot continue to acquire hotels.”

Communication is at the core of his leadership to ensure everyone is aligned as the company looks to expand further in its core markets. “Our management is open and transparent and involves everyone in all aspects, including how and why we are purchasing particular hotels,” he says.

It’s key, he continues, that across Leonardo Hotel’s different European geographies, everyone speaks the same business language. “We have a very clear strategy so that, in-house, we know that everyone from finance to legal to sales and marketing to development, we’re all working together in the same direction as a unit,” he explains. “That means that when we address external stakeholders, whether the bank, or developers or investors or an energy company, we’re all on the same page.”

He also adopts a similar leadership philosophy with his key supplier partners, among them Coca-Cola Europacific Partners Deutschland, brewery Bitburger Braugruppe, beverage manufacturer Niehoffs Vaihinger Fruchtsaft and designers Neudahm Hotel Interior Design.

“The partnership between Bitburger and Leonardo Hotels is a success story. For 16 years, we have combined tradition, quality and hospitality to provide exceptional customer experiences. We are very grateful for our collaboration and excited about new hotel projects in the future!” – Stefan Meinass, Key Account Manager National Out-of-Home Market, Bitburger Braugruppe


“Of course, I’m not showing our balance sheet to everyone as soon as I meet them,” he smiles. “But being open and sharing with your partners helps you solve problems together – after all, we all go through difficult and challenging times.”

He likens such partnerships to another sport – marathon running – and says that both parties’ needs must be respected. “If you want to run a marathon, you need to close win–win deals,” he says. “That’s key, because if you really understand each other, you are in it for the long term. We have partners, from those we’ve built hotels with to those who supply us with food and drink, who we’ve been running with for 15 years.”

A Sustainable Lens

As with any executive, Biton is now viewing operations through a more sustainable lens. This includes bringing new partners into the fold at the individual hotel level, particularly to offer regional products and experiences: for instance, as he cites, a traditional Bavarian feast served during Oktoberfest in its Munich properties.

“We give local management freedom to align with our standards,” he says. “And, supporting local suppliers is something that our guests take very well.”

Other initiatives stemming from the dedicated sustainability department now established within Leonardo Hotels include the reduction of energy consumption, as well as a switch to green energy wherever available.

“Being open and sharing with your partners helps you solve problems together.”

When it comes to the S in ESG – social – Biton says that it’s something Leonardo Hotels has always made a priority. “We’ve always been involved in our communities and charities, and we’ve long recognized our employees’ efforts per region, per cluster, with awards.”

As part of its ESG strategy, the focus will be on fostering a sense of place for both guests and the local community within its hotels as well as creating employment opportunities for those living within a 25-kilometer radius of its properties. The company has also inaugurated the Leonardo Academy, a development program for all employees to flourish, regardless of gender, age or ethnicity.

The Test Pilot

Technology will play a key role in reaching sustainability targets and keeping abreast with innovation in the industry comes naturally for Leonardo Hotels, Biton explains. “My motto, that I always share with my team, is that if you want to test out a pilot, come to me,” he smiles. “I’m always open to innovation, so I’ll always find a segment and a hotel to try out new things.”

After all, he says, change cannot be ignored in the industry. “From mobile check-in to iPads and YouTube casting from your device in our rooms, we are in line with the market when it comes to digitalization,” he explains.

“Our exclusive partnership with the first Leonardo Hotels started almost 20 years ago and has been extended since across the whole Group, based on cooperation, mutual trust and confidence. We look forward to continuing this fruitful relationship.” – Jens Stahmer, Sales Manager, Niehoffs Vaihinger Fruchtsaft


In its design-driven trendy lifestyle brand NYX Hotels (with addresses in Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom, Poland, Czechia, Italy and Israel), the business is even rolling out robotical room service to supplement its traditional room service offering. Called JEEVES, the minibar butler delivers chilled drinks and snacks ordered from an app on the telephone room.

This technological shift is also behind an increased demand for transparency in the industry, one of the biggest transformations Biton has witnessed during his career. “If I think back to a decade or more ago, everyone would keep their pricing and revenue management strategy to themselves,” he explains. “Today, there are so many digital tools that we know all about our competitors and they know all about you.”

On the flip side, that has driven an increase in standards that benefits the hotel guests. “You must keep up the quality, because if you have bad reviews or bad scores, you can forget about business,” he explains, adding that reviews and scores is something the business takes very seriously. “Quality management today is of utmost importance for Leonardo Hotels.”

Changing Talent Demands

Another change sweeping through the industry is the arrival of the next generation of talent, who have a different approach to the work–life balance. “They want to have their own laptop and coffee,” he says. “And don’t ask them what exact hours they want to work!”

He admits that it has taken him a while to digest these shifting parameters. “But I’ve just confirmed an order for 50 laptops now because it’s currently very hard to find employees and you need to be very open to new things in the employee market.”

“There is an amazing industry here, just waiting for the younger generation.”

This investment in laptops is just one way the company is adjusting itself to what he describes as “the new world of employment”. “Today, in interviews, sometimes you feel that young people are interviewing you instead of the other way around,” he laughs. “But, as long as a candidate matches our expectations and requirements, we’re very open to adjusting to them and I think we are doing very well.”

After all, he says, they are nothing without its employees. “From our waiters, to our housekeepers to our receptionists, they are the base of everything.”

A Bright Forecast

It’s clear that, as he reflects on his career journey, Biton is still pinching himself at all he has achieved. “If you had asked me when I first started with the company 17 years ago, where I’d be in 2024, I wouldn’t have dreamt that it would be where I am today,” he says.

He continues to find motivation in the variety every day brings. “One morning I might be fretting over the lighting in the lobby or about what we’re serving at breakfast, and five minutes later I find myself signing a contract for US$100 million,” he smiles.

And, after the difficulties of the COVID-19 pandemic, he’s delighted to be in a situation where the future is looking bright. “Last year we had a record year,” he says. “This year, the forecast is great.”

“The collaboration is dynamic and characterized by innovation. The growth of the Leonardo Group in new locations requires pioneering concepts, particularly the lifestyle brand NYX Hotels. This calls not only for transformative thinking, but also functional expertise and implementation.” – Andreas Neudahm, Interior Designer and CEO, Neudahm Hotel Interior Design


Biton is also proof that the hospitality industry is one industry that allows good people to develop themselves much faster than any other. “I’ve never seen General Managers in their 20s in any other industries,” he says.

But he also knows that it’s one that many people try, but don’t always remain in. “Sometimes it feels like every second person that you speak to will tell you that they were working in a hotel and then chose something else,” he says. “They are not impressed enough by it to develop their careers.”

As someone who has found his niche in hospitality, he would encourage others to stay the course. “There is an amazing industry here, just waiting for the younger generation.”

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