Boutique Hotel. Only the words get the imagination going. Before I dog eared the pages of Herbert Ypma’s first Hip Hotels book I was fascinated by the world of boutique hotel properties. “How cool will it be to be the general manager of a cool boutique hotel?” I often found asking myself as I flipped through the pages of his magnificent photos. Making an effort to make a career out of the hotel industry, I was convinced that I just had to be involved with a boutique hotel someday.
That someday came true, while in 2004 I was invited to get the typical manager of what was yet still is just one of Palm Springs most hip boutique hotels. I left another huge opportunity just to be a part of this excellent world. The art, the design, the vibe. I had never really worked anywhere with a “vibe”. Annually later and i also knew, I knew what many inside the hotel business usually do not…what it is really like to be the gm of the hip, cool boutique hotel. It’s not for everybody and amazing for many.
There is a mini storm brewing within the boutique hotel world, one I don’t think most involved in this industry know about. With increasingly more boutique hotel operators entering the playground, more and more bad hiring decisions are made. The right General Mangers will work in the wrong hotels. Like a square peg and a round hole, several things just do not work. Who may be to blame and what you can do?
The Boutique Hotel: First allow me to first inform you that I have got a narrow take a look at what really constitutes a boutique hotel. I think that this term “Boutique” when used to describe a hotel is usually misapplied. A prnewswire.com is not really based on merely a hot design, as numerous would argue.
A boutique hotel should be an independent operation. The resort should not be element of a collection that is certainly more than say, 10 properties. Beyond this you receive into having a corporate hierarchical management style that is required in managing a large company and maintaining brand consistency. Take W Hotels as an example. For me these are generally not boutique hotels. They look just like a boutique hotel, even feel as if one. Many boutique hotels would attempt to be as great as a W. But a W Hotel is run and managed by a rzaufu corporation. The house level management makes only a few decisions as to what services are available and how the property is run. A boutique hotel should be operated as close to the actual physical operation as you can. W’s and the like are fantastic, but in my opinion don’t fit the concept of a boutique hotel. Boutique hotels are also constantly re-inventing themselves, being sure that their fickle guest never lose interest and look to stay on the latest new, hip and cool property.
Travelers made a decision to stay at a boutique hotel because of the story, or the experience. The knowledge is essential and should be unique and somewhat innovative. The overall demographics are individuals 20 to 50 years old, operate in more creative fields like advertising or entertainment and appreciate a higher amount of service. When Ian Schrager entered the current market as to what many consider to get the initial boutique hotel, this demographic discovered that they can use their travel budget buy them a room in a cool, hip hotel instead of a generic mid-level branded property. As well as the boom started.
Boutique hotel guests enjoy experiences, unique architecture, innovative interior decorating and in some cases an urban location. The current market is expanding and the demographic model explained earlier is beginning to bleed into others. You might adequately look for a Fortune 500 CEO being at a boutique hotel. It is hard to overlook the hype.
Luxury hotel operators are scrambling in order to avoid losing market share for the boutique world. Some hotels are in fact utilizing the “brand” off their marketing and streamlining their operations to ensure that their properties are authentically boutique. Consider the Kahala Mandarin Oriental for instance. This famous luxury property recently took Mandarin Oriental away so they could operate and compete within the new marketplace of more independent hotels. They are now simply “The Kahala” and they are working hard to be authentically local and independent of a major brand identification. I do believe others will follow.
In the interest of this publication, I will use the luxury hotel because the comparison to the boutique since most closely associate a boutique hotel with luxury travel. So what exactly is so different about becoming a general manager at a luxury hotel versus a boutique hotel? Can it actually be that different? The basics are similar. The typical manager is responsible for the entire daily operation, hiring decisions, marketing, budgets, forecasting, rate strategy, facility maintenance etc… The key for varieties of properties is guest service and guest interaction. The guest with a top quality luxury hotel expects in order to interact with the hotel general manager, as do the guests in a boutique property. It is all high touch.
The difference is that a boutique hotel general manager wears just a couple more hats compared to the luxury general manager. A boutique general manager may be preparing complex budget forecasting spreadsheets at 10am and also at 10:30 am be clearing the pool towels from around the hotel’s salt water plunge. When was the final time you saw the typical manager in the Peninsula Beverly Hills with the arm full of towels? Don’t get me wrong, I am aware that the general manager from the Peninsula would accomplish this in a second, when they needed to. The typical manager of any boutique hotel Must, as there is nobody. Usually the one server working the restaurant can also be probably in charge of caring for the pool, taking room service orders, delivering the orders and on and on…. The overall manager of a boutique hotel may also be even the HR director and breaks the front side desk agents. If the gm is in California then the gm may find themselves breaking pretty much every position just to avoid getting sued and fined!
Take this example; you happen to be GM of the hot boutique property in the desert. The temperature is pushing 118 degrees. Since occupancy throughout the summer is really low, you encourage plenty of your team to adopt their vacations so you can get that vacation accrual off your books. One of those who goes high on this really is your chief engineer, certainly one of two engineers for the entire five acre property. He goes home to the motherland, Germany for a week. Now just because it’s hot does not always mean which you don’t have customers. Some tourists manage to love the warmth, and so it was using this steamy day in August. Because the sun starts to set, your friends and relatives make their way through the pool to their bungalows. Dusk and 100 degrees, everyone turns on their aged ac units full blast to allow them to cool down. Your only other engineer went home for the day. It really is at concerning this time that the calls start arriving. The ac units are freezing up. The existing units freeze up if they are turned on full blast. Many blow the circuit breakers. So there you are, in your office doing the forecast to your weekly corporate status report call if the front desk calls you in a panic, “the guests are flipping out” cries your new front desk agent. You look into the calls and see that you need your engineer back on property, but his pre-paid mobile phone (you cant afford to fund a cell phone for him) has run out of time -you cant reach him! So what do you do? You go to the rooms to see if you can fix them. Room by room you tackle the process of explaining for your sweaty and angry guests why they cant turn their ac on full which it should take at least a couple of hours for your ice built up around the coils to melt. Then you begin looking for the circuit breakers, that are scattered all over the 60 years old property. When you reach the last room the guest who answers the entrance almost screams in the sight in the sweaty, dirty general manager holding a tool box with a dazed look on his face. “Wasn’t this the identical guy who was pouring us Mimosas on the pool today honey?” asks the guest as you begin your repairs. When the craziness is finished you have a contact your cellular phone. Yes, it is your engineer returning your call. “You trying to reach me boss?”. The following day, during your conference call you listen to a speech regarding how general managers need to spend more time with their guests rather than within their offices. Duh, you believe as you attempt to scrub the grit out from beneath your fingernails.
The financial realities of a boutique hotel are unique. The appearance of 3 to 5 star service having a two star finances are the norm, as well as the gm’s get caught at the center. The boutique hotel just does not have the cost to staff like a true luxury property and everyone needs to pull how much they weigh. The gm that does not is definitely not there long and hate every second of their lives.
Together with the additional sweat and frustration of being a boutique hotel gm are the rewards. For the ideal individual, they will likely discover that the entrepreneurial management style required of those is highly empowering. The gm can easily make a lot of decisions by themselves, decisions that in a larger corporate hotel would require an approval or worse….committee discussion! The fact that some towels have to be picked up and perhaps a drink or two be mixed and served is really fun in their mind. The rewards of always being facing your friends and relatives are what most gm’s want anyway, but many usually are not really ready for it if they are tasked to make that happen each day.