A day in the life of a novice boutique hotelier

Piers Brown By Piers Brown
Uploaded 16 March 2014

Having never worked at a hotel before, I wanted to gain some hands-on experience of being part of the team, which would help my understanding of the rewards and challenges faced within the effective management of a boutique hotel. I was looking forward to delving into the sales, marketing and operational aspect of what it takes to run a successful boutique hotel on the outskirts of the capital.

Having taken a short cab ride from Richmond station, I was greeted by The Bingham's general manager, Erick Kervaon who moved from London Syon Park to take on the role around a year ago.

After a brief welcome I was introduced to the management team at their daily '10 at 10' meeting, which had a proactive and pacy atmosphere and is designed to keep everybody aware of what's happening in the hotel. Each head of section talked through a variety of aspects with the GM, including future guest changeovers, projected room availability, restaurant bookings, sales and marketing initiatives, MICE business against projected revenues and budget, and any other relevant hotel business. Excited about the potential for a corporate booking of 25 meeting rooms through the year, team leaders were also reminded of the way staff should conduct themselves when 'off duty' outside the business.

The mood was upbeat and I quickly understood the importance of a strong food and beverage offering and its impact on the hotel's overall performance. With Shay Cooper, the previous head chef moving to assume the role of executive chef at The Goring, Mark Jarvis has reinvigorated the dinner and especially lunch menus with a great value market lunch at £15 for three courses, meaning Davide Durante, restaurant and bars manager has his work cut out to cater for the demand on most days.

Having cut his teeth at The Ritz and Knightsbridge's Bulgari hotel, Davide has introduced two separate sittings to ensure a better quality, consistency and service. I'm not a restauranteur, but after spending some time observing the operation within kitchen, I was impressed with the communication and calmness with which food is prepared and delivered to the diner. After a quick check on the subjective goggle-eyed owl there's still room for improvement however, and here's some tips on managing your hotel's online reputation.

After service and a quick bacon sandwich at the bar, I joined Chrissy and Sandeep on front reception. It was great to discover both had been recently promoted from their previous roles at the hotel and I enjoyed Chrissy's bubbly approach. Sandeep clearly takes pride in his current role, and is tentaively taking on the role of revenue manager too. After a look at the old manual spreadsheet approach, he's starting to get to grips with the new revenue management system recently supplied by Avvio in conjunction with SiteMinder. Used effectively this should save time, increase productivity and ultimately the profitability of the hotel, provided there isn't an over-reliance on OTA business, and a focus on driving direct bookings.

Next, I sat in on Jenny (marketing manager), Ray (sales and events manager) and Davide's weekly one to one's with Erick. The focus here is more on local sales and marketing strategies, and plugging any potential dips or opportunities to drive future revenues, to make decisions on what to move forward with and how the GM can support and/or add resource. Areas discussed included restaurant bookings, room revenue management, MICE business, and wedding bookings which are becoming a much larger proportion of sales revenues.

Moving onto housekeeping, I spent some time with the lovely Mihaela who was very postive about her role and talked me through the housekeeping routines and her team of six. We discussed the length of time it takes to clean and make up a room (45 minute average) and had an interesting discussion on whether room service adds as much value as it used to, and mini-bar usage by guests, which by the way is currently around 10 per cent. She clearly enjoys the extra responsibility she has taken on as health and safety representative within the business too.

After a short debrief and thank you with Erick I made my way back to Richmond station reflecting on what I'd learned, and how to stay ahead in a sector which appears to be in constant change. Many of today's issues and challenges within the boutique and lifestyle sector will be discussed at the forthcoming Boutique and Lifestyle Hotel Summit, May 12-13, The Montcalm, Marble Arch, London. A big thank you to Samantha and the team at the Bingham.

If your boutique hotel would like to invite Boutique Hotel News to spend a day with your team sometime in the future, do get in contact.  

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