“I will always give you credit. It’s up to you to lose it.” This was my favourite quip by Joseph Restall, Corinthia’s Senior Head Engineering and Technical Services, during a most interesting chat. And it clearly shows the man! He is open, positive, down-to-earth and suffers no prejudices. He is also loved and admired by his colleagues. Joseph is an open book, and an interesting one to read loud!
“I believe that communication is a most important management tool. When it slackens, the united effort and chain performance falter, and the end result is bound to fail. I believe I am a natural communicator, and I make it a point to retain high in my priorities the maxim that I do not work with titles or grades but persons with a name and character.”
I commented that Joseph’s job title was quite a daunting one. What fell under his remit? Joseph smiled. “Quite a broad remit! But mainly, my tasks include overseeing the technical and infrastructural side of properties to ensure they are maintained, updated and kept as efficient as possible. But that is just one aspect.
“The other aspect is primarily keeping contact with the engineers in all the properties of Corinthia and ensuring they are being retained according to standards. I also support projects, both new and refurbishments, which are being carried out, ensuring high standards of sustainability and efficiency.”
I referred Joseph to sustainability. “A couple of years ago, sustainability was added to my list of duties. We now have a person who is wholly dedicated to this, and, excuse the pun, we are developing the whole concept and practice of sustainability in a very sustainable manner.”
As if that was not enough, Joseph also controls plans for capital investments and assists the various hotels in drawing up a 5-year plan. “There is a whole approval process for individual projects which I start off and which are financially approved by the COO and CFO before implementation.”
How many persons assist him in all this? “I have three very valid assistants, one of who is full-time on sustainability and ensures that any project we operate should be viable from the sustainability and efficiency aspect. He also examines whether we can obtain funding for this sustainability/efficiency aspect.”
I asked if this was limited to EU Funds. “Not only that! The Government, commercial banks and the European Investment Bank have different ways of assisting in this new sustainability drive.”
Joseph then explained that one of the pillars of sustainability is financial sustainability. “It is now recognised that a financially stable and sustainable company is an investment in the society in the interest of its employees and environment.”
I queried if it is problematic to find and engage professionals in his sphere. Joseph mumbled something sotto voice and scratched his head. “It is difficult. Personnel, especially specialised or professional personnel, have become difficult to find. It’s not just in Malta. Suffice it to say that I know of cases abroad where two competing 5-star hotels have been reduced to sharing an engineer and some personnel.”
What created this situation? Joseph explained it was a mixture of causes. As such, there has always been a shortage of technical persons. These require a good educational background and knowledge of some challenging subjects. So, people shy away from choosing this direction. COVID had a very adverse effect on hospitality, so many now look at this area as very risk-oriented, so they look elsewhere at other industries. The upsurge of construction and development in different countries seems to be considered more attractive.
Joseph is a warranted Mechanical Engineer who graduated from the University of Malta after completing a five-year course. “It has proved a great asset. Apart from engineering, we also studied management, law, accountancy and economics, so this varied background has been very fruitful in my management duties.”
Such a vast array of duties certainly requires an organised mind and approach. Correct? “Most certainly. One cannot succeed otherwise. You would be lost in the woods immediately. The work is not only varied and wide-ranging but also quantitively very demanding. And to cap it all, you cannot underperform. You still have to reach high standards, so one has to structure oneself and his approach to work.”
Would he often have to prioritise chunks of work? “Naturally, but I do not believe that one should only give preference to important issues. Sometimes, I group many not-so-important issues and tackle them simultaneously. In this manner, when I am tackling important issues, I do not feel the pressure of a large number of unattended queries or requests for assistance.”
Joseph Restall is, relatively speaking, quite a recent Corinthian. He joined Corinthia five years ago without applying for a post. “Simon Naudi, Corinthia’s CEO, phoned and invited me for a chat. I went without having any clue what he had in mind. He made an offer, and I replied I would consider it but before I answered, Simon phoned me and asked me to help with a problem which cropped up in Corinthia Budapest. I accepted. The strange thing is that before I joined Corinthia, I had already been to Corinthia Prague, Budapest and St Petersburg and offered my services on different issues. Then I joined five years ago, and they have been five very eventful and exciting years.”
And before joining Corinthia? “I have had a varied and interesting life. I started as a worker-student in the 1980s with Enemalta, working on power generation. From there, I moved on to the electronics world with ST Microelectronics, where I experienced a steep learning curve. Then I moved on to something completely different: Toly Products, with who I remained for some 11 years, re-designing and relocating factories. There I was Head of Maintenance, IT, Process Control, and a host of their things, and I gained much experience in product design, creativity and marketing, working with the help of some 15 assistants. There I developed an exciting side of my engineering profession, namely product and manufacturing design.”
Then Joseph felt he needed a change in scenery and joined Hilton, where he worked hard on sustainability. He was also involved in work on sustainability on a national scale when the Malta Government asked him to assess the development of the national policy strategy for sustainability, growth and mitigation of climate change. Subsequently, for five years, Joseph worked on his own on sustainability and advanced manufacturing, offering consultancy to several projects for the Malta Government. He also participated as a speaker at several international conferences abroad. Then came Simon Naudi’s call, which we spoke about earlier.
I suddenly felt from how Joseph described events that he had an artistic side. When I asked, he smiled broadly and admitted: “I only employ engineers with an artistic side.” I was surprised, especially when he added: “Engineering is not a science. It is the art of making science work. It’s looking at science and understanding how to combine things to achieve something different. The scientist would, for example, invent the internal combustion engine and develop it. Still, it would take a proper engineer to find out how to combine things to create a very efficient car, which must also have the aesthetic and ergonomic and efficiency aspects tuned well.”
Did engineering run in Joseph Restall’s family? “From my mother’s side, there was politics in the vein. Mama was always worried I would take that up. But my great, great, great grandfather was an engineer. My father’s family originally came from Scotland and married a family with the nickname ‘Tal-Ingineer’ because my distant ancestor, Lorenzo Brincat, was the first warranted engineer in Malta.
“My father, who worked with Barclays Bank in Malta, was sent abroad to learn computing and joined Barclays Computer Centre in 1972. I was, therefore, one of the first in Malta who was familiar with computers. I had already dismantled my first computer in 1973, much to my father’s dismay.
“I am married to Simone, a senior lecturer in Childhood Education, and have one daughter, Julianne, who, after majoring in Maths and English, is now in Scotland in her third year at the Royal Conservatory of Scotland studying production, acting and dancing. A different world indeed! So ironically, it seems my family has returned full circle to Scotland from where the first Restall came many years ago.”
So did he support a Scottish football team? He showed me a photo of himself sporting a violet colour in a stadium. But that looked like the Italian team Fiorentina! “Naturalmente,” he quipped.
I faintly recalled Joseph speaking to a friend some time ago about a pasta recipe, so I asked him if I was right. “Spot on! I love cooking and shopping for my cooking ingredients. I’m not so good for desserts, but I pride myself on being a good cook for pasta, meats, sauces, and…” So, Joseph relaxed for a couple of minutes, directing me through his culinary bravura. What a mouth-watering finale to an interesting chat!
Though, I admit, I would have preferred an actual plate of pasta all’ Italiana.
Al dente, of course!