Boutique Hotel. Just the words get the imagination going. Even before I dog eared the pages of Herbert Ypma’s first Hip Hotels book I was captivated by the industry 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 spectacular 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, if in 2004 I was invited to become the overall manager of the things was yet still is just one of Palm Springs most hip boutique hotels. I left another huge opportunity just to be part of this unique world. The art, the style, the vibe. I needed never really worked anywhere having a “vibe”. Annually later and i also knew, I knew what many within the hotel business tend not to…what it is really want to be the gm of the hip, cool boutique hotel. It’s not for anyone and amazing for most.
You will find a mini storm brewing within the boutique hotel world, one I don’t think most involved with this industry know about. With increasingly more boutique hotel operators entering the playground, more and more bad hiring decisions are being made. The correct General Mangers will work at the wrong hotels. Such as a square peg as well as a round hole, several things accomplish not work. That is to blame and what can be done?
The Boutique Hotel: First permit me to first tell you that I possess a narrow view of what really constitutes a boutique hotel. I do believe that the term “Boutique” when employed to describe a hotel is often misapplied. A Savant Hotel will not be based on merely a hot design, as much would argue.
A boutique hotel must be a completely independent operation. The hotel must not be element of a collection that is certainly a lot more than say, 10 properties. Beyond this you get into having a corporate hierarchical management style that is needed in operating a large company and looking after brand consistency. Take W Hotels as an example. In my view they are not boutique hotels. They appear just like a boutique hotel, even think that one. Many boutique hotels would make an effort to be as great being a W. But a W Hotel is run and managed by a rzaufu corporation. The property level management makes not many decisions in regards to what services are available and just how the property is run. A boutique hotel must be operated as close to the actual physical operation as you can. W’s and so on are amazing, but in my opinion don’t fit the concept of a boutique hotel. Boutique hotels can also be constantly re-inventing themselves, being sure that their fickle guest never become bored and look to keep in the latest new, hip and cool property.
Travelers made a decision to stay at a boutique hotel because of the story, or even the experience. The event is essential and must be unique and somewhat innovative. The general demographics are individuals 20 to 50 years of age, operate in more creative fields like advertising or entertainment and appreciate a greater level of service. When Ian Schrager entered the market as to what many consider to become the first boutique hotel, this demographic learned that they might use their travel budget buy them a room at a cool, hip hotel rather than a generic mid-level branded property. And the boom started.
Boutique hotel guests enjoy experiences, unique architecture, leading edge interior decorating and in many cases an urban location. The current market is expanding and also the demographic model explained earlier is beginning to bleed into others. You might adequately look for a Fortune 500 CEO staying at a boutique hotel. It really is hard to disregard the hype.
Luxury hotel operators are scrambling to prevent losing market share towards the boutique world. Some hotels are in fact utilizing the “brand” off their marketing and streamlining their operations so that their properties are authentically boutique. Go ahead and take Kahala Mandarin Oriental as an example. This famous luxury property recently took Mandarin Oriental away so that they could operate and compete inside the new marketplace of more independent hotels. They are simply “The Kahala” and they are working hard to become authentically local and independent of a major brand identification. I think others follows.
For the sake of this publication, I am going to make use of the luxury hotel since the comparison for the boutique because most closely associate a boutique hotel with luxury travel. So what is so different about as being a general manager at a luxury hotel versus a boutique hotel? Could it actually be that different? The basic principles are identical. The overall manager is responsible for the entire everyday operation, hiring decisions, marketing, budgets, forecasting, rate strategy, facility maintenance etc… The real key for both varieties of properties is guest service and guest interaction. The guest with a top end luxury hotel expects in order to interact with the hotel general manager, as do the guests at a boutique property. It really is all high touch.
The main difference is the fact that a boutique hotel general manager wears just a few more hats compared to the luxury general manager. A boutique general manager may be preparing complex budget forecasting spreadsheets at 10am as well as at 10:30 am be clearing the pool towels from around the hotel’s salt water plunge. When was the last time you saw the general manager from the Peninsula Beverly Hills with the arm filled with towels? Don’t get me wrong, I am aware that the general manager in the Peninsula would do this in a second, when they had to. The general manager of a boutique hotel HAS to, as there is nobody else. Usually the one server working the restaurant can also be probably accountable for caring for the pool, taking room service orders, delivering the orders and so on…. The typical manager of the boutique hotel is oftentimes also the HR director and breaks the front side desk agents. In the event the gm is within California then your gm might find themselves breaking pretty much every position in order to avoid getting sued and fined!
Take this example; you happen to be GM of the hot boutique property within the desert. The temperature is pushing 118 degrees. Since occupancy throughout the summer season is really low, you encourage lots of your team to consider their vacations so you can get that vacation accrual off your books. One of those who goes on this can be your chief engineer, among two engineers for the entire five acre property. He goes the place to find the motherland, Germany for a week. Now because it’s hot does not necessarily mean that you don’t have customers. Some tourists appear to love the warmth, and so it was using this type of steamy day in August. Because the sun begins to set, your guests make their way through the pool for their bungalows. Dusk and 100 degrees, everyone switches on their aged ac units full blast so they can cool down. Your only other engineer has gone home during the day. It is actually at concerning this time that the calls start coming in. The ac units are freezing up. The previous units freeze up if they are excited full blast. Many blow the circuit breakers. So there you are, in your office doing the forecast for the weekly corporate status report call once the front desk calls you in a panic, “the guests are flipping out” cries your brand new front desk agent. You browse the calls and find out that you need your engineer back on property, but his pre-paid cellular phone (you cant afford to pay for a cell phone for him) is out of time -you cant reach him! So where do you turn? 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 and this it should take at least two hours for the ice built up across the coils to melt. Then you start to look for that circuit breakers, that are scattered all around the 60 year old property. By the time you get to the last room the guest who answers the doorway almost screams on the sight of the sweaty, dirty general manager holding a tool box with a dazed look on his face. “Wasn’t this exactly the same guy who was pouring us Mimosas at the pool today honey?” asks the guest as you begin your repairs. Once the craziness is over you have a contact your cell phone. Yes, it really is your engineer returning your call. “You attempting to reach me boss?”. The next day, throughout your conference phone you listen to a speech regarding how general managers have to spend more time with their guests as opposed to in their offices. Duh, you imagine while you attempt to scrub the grit out of under your fingernails.
The financial realities of any boutique hotel are unique. The look of three to five star service with a two star finances are the standard, as well as the gm’s get caught in the center. The boutique hotel just does not have the cost to staff like a true luxury property and everybody needs to pull how much they weigh. The gm that does not will not be there long and hate every second of the lives.
Along with the additional sweat and frustration to be a boutique hotel gm are the rewards. For the right individual, they will likely discover that the entrepreneurial management style required of those is extremely empowering. The gm can create a great deal of decisions on their own, 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 maybe a drink or two be mixed and served is actually fun for them. The rewards of always being in front of your guests are what most gm’s want anyway, however, many usually are not really ready for it while they are tasked to make that happen each day.