The FCSI Interview: Mario Sequeira FCSI

The immediate past president of FCSI Worldwide’s philosophy has always been to treat each day as a blessing. He tells Michael Jones how he consistently applies that thinking to his career and life

When Mario Sequeira FCSI was growing up as a young boy in Mumbai, India, long-term career planning was never a fixation. Instead, his focus was sport, namely cricket, soccer, badminton, and table tennis. “One of the philosophies I’ve had right from day one is, just enjoy the moment,” he says. While that enjoyment didn’t particularly stretch to his studies, what was important to him was being surrounded by his family and fabulous food. “Food and beverage and socializing were always integral parts of my family. I knew at some point, hospitality could be one of my callings,” he laughs.

While hailing from a family of doctors, his father’s job as a globe- trotting engineer meant young Mario developed an early fascination with the good life – and the trappings that came with it. “We used to fly business or first class. You had the steward coming down the aisle with the champagne… I thought, ‘Boy, what a great job. That’s what I want to be’. It was only when I grew a little older and my father said, ‘Mario, he’s just a glorified waiter – is that what you want to be?’ that I changed my mind. But getting into hospitality and service – and that elegance – fascinated me.”

Going up in the world, Down Under

Suitably inspired, Sequeira studied hotel management in Mumbai. An earlier trip to Australia reminded him that there was a shortage of chefs Down Under, and eight months after finishing his apprenticeship in India he was on a plane to Perth in 1986. “I had a suitcase, $50 in my pocket and a dream to excel,” he says.

His first impressions of Australia remain to this day. “From day one, every morning I wake up I thank God. This is one of the best places in the world. I love the natural beauty, the weather, the warm people.” Within his first year in Australia, he was able to buy his first apartment, something beyond his grasp in India. “It is a land of opportunity for those willing to put in the hard yards,” he says. In time, Sequeira became the first banquet chef of the (then) Burswood Entertainment Centre, which had sponsored him initially when he was a chef de partie in charge of the grill restaurant. “It was quite surreal. The first function I did only had 30 guests. Within the first six months, I had a banquet of 600 guests for the gold-plate dinner.

They were the cream of the crop from the restaurant and catering industry. But hard work and challenges haven’t killed me. I just embrace them,” he says.

Indeed, Sequeira’s philosophy is that “it’s always good to have a level of stress. Just a little bit is fine. Too much is not good. It’s just about how you control it. Plus, it’s all about the team. My proudest achievement is creating a good team.”

Flying high

Teamwork was certainly brought to the fore when Sequeira became an airline catering standards manager for Qantas a few years later. Wanting to work fewer shifts and to spend more time with his wife, when they tragically lost their first child, Sequeira felt he got “a broader view of working in hospitality” in his new role. “We used to cater to, not only Qantas, but to Singapore Airlines, Cathay, Emirates, Malaysian Airlines and South African Airlines. Sequeira worked with top chef Neil Perry on the menus, which were always of the highest standard. “He was just a man possessed by excellence. His philosophy rang true with me: the food did not have to be handled much to make it taste and look good. It was about the art of the cooking and using the best produce.”

Sequeira also became obsessed with food safety and health and safety in the kitchen, as well as learning how to increase production without impacting standards. “When I joined, we used to do about 40,000 meals a week. When I finished, we did 100,000 meals from that small catering center.”

Consultancy beckons

Those learnings inspired a move into foodservice consultancy in 2008. “One of my brothers was operating a tavern in Perth. One day he told me, ‘There’s nothing better than having your own business’. I wanted to stretch my wings away from Qantas so I approached a consultant who was looking for a business partner. He said, ‘You’ve got all the skills and knowledge, you could become a consultant. I hadn’t even thought about it. But I’ve always liked helping people – so to do that on people’s projects and get paid for it sounded perfect.”

With a postgraduate master studies from Deakin University Geelong under his belt, in 2013 Sequeira became sole owner of the consultancy: Hospitality Total Services. “I’m always driven by outcomes. I like diversity. I don’t like two days to be the same. One day, I can be helping a client design a tavern. Next day, it could be master planning or a feasibility report.”

In terms of key projects that have defined his career, Sequeira cites three. “The first one was a mid-sized project in 2010: a tavern called Quarie Bar and Bistro in Perth. We walked the owners through the whole process, from design master planning of the premises to the development applications to the council and the applications for the liquor license, as well as hiring the manager and head chef, writing out standard operating procedures of how the place would work and guiding the chef with KPIs on his food and labor costs. It was quite a holistic business setup from scratch to the opening day.”

The second project was more sizable: a three-year project between 2014-17 for the five-star hotel The Westin Perth. “We had a large production facility in the basement and another finishing kitchen for the functions, satellite pantries throughout the hotel, plus different bars. The ballroom had a capacity of 600, so the target was to get the food out within seven minutes. I pulled on my experience at Burswood and Qantas. I also reached out to [fellow FCSI Professional member] Ken Sangster FCSI on that one. He was an amazing mentor to me. It was great working with Ken on that project.”

The third project Sequeira highlights was for Royal Brunei Catering (RBC) in Brunei. “They wanted an FCSI consultant to take on that project. There were three different kitchens, which we had to then roll into one. And over two years of designing and planning and going back and forth, and another year of building, we did it. We designed the whole new central facility that opened in 2021.” The project was joint winner in 2022’s inaugral FCSI Asia Pacific Awards for Excellence.

Career touchstones

Sequeira also credits some of his success in the pursuit for excellence to his ongoing professional relationships, including with Moffat’s CEO Greg O’Connell. “Greg has been brilliant for me, not only through FCSI [O’Connell has served as the Allied member representative on the FCSI WW board for many years], but in industry and throughout different times in my career. He’s been a tremendous mentor.”

In terms of important business lessons Sequeira has learned, he says one mantra is the recognition that, “nothing is permanent. “I cannot sit on my laurels and take things for granted. I have to be on my game 100%. It’s also taught me about diversification – to not put all my eggs in one basket. Through our business we offer management and design consulting, because of that belief,” he says.

Sequeira also puts huge stock in the importance of integrity and hard work: “That has stood me in good stead throughout my career. I now want to commit to the next phase of my career: to mentoring younger professionals.”

Paying it forward is something he is passionate about. “The number one thing my parents taught me was that there is more joy in giving than in receiving. I’ve received so much from the industry, and I’ve got so much to give the industry,”
he says, acknowledging that his FCSI Professional membership, chairing FCSI Asia Pacific Division and, more lately taking on the role of president of FCSI Worldwide between 2022-23 has allowed him to “form fantastic relationships with professionals around the world. That’s really important to me. I get a great buzz in making a difference in somebody’s life.” (See boxout below.)

For Sequeira, while the business of foodservice and hospitality has changed in many ways since he first joined it, the one thing that will remains consistent in the future is the relationships and personal connections made along the way. “I always believe that on your own you can be good. But in collaborating with a team, you can be much better. If you invest in those relationships, you reap the benefits. It helps you professionally and personally”.

Fundamentally, Sequeira believes that the whole basis of his success, starts with his Christian faith. “It’s very important to me. God helps those who help themselves. So, I do whatever I need to do, even if it’s hard. Second only to that, he cites his parents, who have been “great role models” and inspired him. His father passed away recently, but his mother “continues to inspire” him. “She’s just a good human being with a very positive mind,” he says.

When time permits, Sequeira wants to write a book to capture his life experiences, as well as “the dos and don’ts” that his career has taught him. “The biggest inspiration I want to put in that book is that you can hit highs and lows. I’ve hit lows, believe me. After my wife and I lost our first child I suffered with depression. It was very hard. I could have lost my life at one point, but I was able to bounce back thanks to my faith. Today, I’ve got a lovely family: my children and grandchildren are all healthy, happy, and enjoying life.”

A recent brush with cancer, successfully treated, has done nothing to dim Sequeira’s positivity, which he continues to pour into his business and the colleagues he mentors. “I just want to give them all the tools to be self-managed,” he says, hinting that he has already begun contemplating stepping away from the day-to-day of the business in due course, knowing that the consultancy will be in safe hands.

Repeat clients comprise 70% of Hospitality Total Services business. Of the remainder, 25% of new business comes via referrals from existing clients, with a further 5% being generated by the company website. “Repeat clients and word of mouth is the thing that gives me a tremendous sense of success because I know that I helped forge those relationships. But I don’t take anything for granted,” he says.

That extends to his own free time, where Sequeira continues to count his blessings, each day. “I enjoy a nice scotch. I love music, dancing and traveling the world and seeing new places. True happiness is being grateful for what you have. Best of all is just spending time with my family. My wife Lilian and I have the three grandkids over on a Sunday evening. No phone, no emails, no nothing – just time with them and showing them love.”

One suspects that the young boy growing up in Mumbai all those years ago would approve of his older self: Mario Sequeira has been determinedly enjoying those moments ever since.


FCSI will always remain a special organization to Sequeira. So, why does it matter? “What attracted me to FCSI was there is a strict code of conduct in how to do business. That just aligned with my own personal value system and integrity of protecting a clients’ interests,” he says.

“The fact that I feel most passionate about is it is one of the only organizations that has divisions all over the world. Cultures are so different. Their ways of operating, expectations, the pace at which they work and how projects are done are all different. So, to have a cohesive Society that leads in all of those areas is quite remarkable.”

Sequeira is most proud of a chairing an FCSI Worldwide strategic planning session in 2022 in London – “it was the jewel in the crown” – that saw the Worldwide board address some “fundamental matters. We have to evolve and become stronger and better. We reviewed everything: our membership criteria, membership, fees, code of conduct and our strategies. It’s not easy when you have three different divisions that have their own way of operating, but we were able to bring them all to the table and get everybody to agree to do things together.”

Michael Jones

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