Seasonal

January Weather & Valentine’s Day

Hello everyone,

I hope you are all having a fabulous week – even though London seems to be cloaked with gray skies this week – although it has remained mild – but apparently the temperature is due to drop sharply tomorrow so it will definitely feel like more seasonal January weather from tomorrow! I normally have a holiday to the sun planned for January or February but it hasn’t worked out that well this year so I am having to wait until April  and at the moment it does feel like a long wait to see some decent sunshine!!

This week we have been having a mini staff appreciation week in the hotel with lots of different activities – our morning briefing meeting has been themed by different departments, we have had some great inter departmental competitions including cocktail making, cake decorating  and valet standards – which is a great opportunity for staff to showcase to other staff from different departments what they do and what standards they have to maintain – so it is a fun form of cross training! Today we had a wonderful themed Caribbean lunch in the staff restaurant -  the team did a fantastic job – I almost felt as if I was on holiday for the half an hour it took me to have lunch!

We seem to be racing through January at a rate of knots – yesterday we just launched our Valentines packages and menus! We have a delicious six course menu that we will be serving the One Twenty One Two restaurant and then a speciality afternoon tea designed by our lovely Pastry Chef Jo that will be served in the Lounge – or you can package them both up with an over night stay so there are plenty of options at your disposal! As Valentines is on a Tuesday this year  – and not everyone wants to celebrate on a mid week night we have all our Valentines’ offers open for both weekends both before and after the 14th February. Oh and Ladies if you don’t get asked the question you have been waiting for on the 14th February – don’t forget it is a Leap Year this year so you can take matters into your own hands on the 29th February……!!

Next week I will be attending the annual Master Innholder General Manager conference which is probably one of the most important events that takes place for General Managers in the UK – this year we have a record number of attendees – over 450 General Managers are signed up to attend – there is a fabulous line up of speakers notably Danny Meyer who has written a Bestselling book call ‘Setting the Table’ . There are also some interesting panel discussions – in particular one titles ‘Who need who’ which has a panel with representatives from the AA, Trip Advisor , Best Loved Hotels and other industry experts – and will be led by the indomitable Mr Jeremy Rata – Managing Director of Bovey Castle and one of my favourite hoteliers who is never short of things to say or shy in sharing his forthright views!!! So I am sure it is going to be a lively debate!! This is a great conference as it is designed to be relevant to managers of differing levels across the spectrum of our industry – from large five star corporate hotels to smaller family run hotels. It remains the only conference of it’s type that is organised by General Managers for General Managers   – and it is also one of my favourite events to attend as it gives you the chance to catch up with so many friends and colleagues in the industry that you do not often get the chance to see!!

Even though it is January – London as always has plenty to offer and if you are at a loose end this weekend here are a few thoughts of things to do – The London Bike Show is on at Excel form the 12-15th January – this is a 3 day show that provides a unique opportunity to meet some of cycling’s top stars, try out the latest bikes and watch some incredible live demonstrations. If you enjoy heritage and Royalty there are also Private Tours of Buckingham Palace still available until the 29th January – this gives you the chance to enjoy a special tour of the Palace’s fantastic state rooms with a private guide – the tour lasts approximately two hours and gives you a great opportunity to see our monarch’s London home at close quarters then I would highly recommend this tour. One other highlight is the Cirque du Soleil has returned to the Royal Albert Hall until the 16th February with TOTEM for four week of awe inspiring acrobatics!! What ever you end up doing I hope you have a spectacular weekend!

Anyway dear bloggers that is all for this week – I am afraid the blog front will be quiet for a week or so as I am heading across the Atlantic again to spread the word about the Royal Horseguards to lots of travel agents in New York and Washington – but I will be back with more updates upon my return!

Anna


Happy New Year!

Hello everyone,

Happy New Year
Firstly Happy New Year – I hope you all managed to enjoy the festive season hopefully with some well earned time away from work to enjoy some time with your family and friends – it was probably the mildest Christmas on record for London – although the weather has certainly been very dramatic with lots of gales and rain since the New Year.

The Royal Horseguards had a fairly quiet Christmas as London does tend to be much quieter over this period but a phenomenally busy New Year – it felt like every square inch of the hotel was fully booked and all the events seem to run really well and we have had some fantastic feedback and a lot of guests rebooking for this year – the fireworks were absolutely spectacular and there really is no better location opposite the London Eye than our hotel to see this fabulous display! I think London certainly out did Sydney this year with their firework display!

But now we are well into January and lots going on to keep us all busy – next week we start our second staff engagement survey – we have worked really hard on addressing all the areas the first survey told us  about so hopefully we will see our scores improve in a number of key areas – the team also have their Christmas Party to look forward to on Friday evening  – traditionally hotel teams tend to have their celebration in January as December is so busy for everyone – it is hard to find a date when the staff aren’t all working so at least in January the hotel is a bit quieter and we can organise for as many staff to attend as possible.

Today we were reviewing our sales and marketing plan  – and it hard to believe we are only just out of Christmas and already very busy  preparing for  Valentines Day and Easter – not to mention the Queen’s Jubilee which is planned to celebrate sixty years of The Queen’s reign on the 2-5th June  – there are going to be some great events in London for the Jubilee including a three day open air music festival in Hyde Park starting on June 2nd, a big concert outside Buckingham Palace, a royal procession to St Pauls Cathedral and of course one of the highlights will be the Thames Diamond Jubilee Pageant – one thousand boats will be involved in the twelve and a half mile long flotilla stretching from Hammersmith to Greenwich  – there will be vessels of all shapes and sizes. This will be the biggest river pageant to take place on the Thames since the reign of Charles II, three and a half centuries ago and it may not happen again for a very long time – so definitely a sight not to be missed!! I think the whole weekend is going to be one of the most memorable times our capital city has seen for some time

So dear bloggers this is my first blog for the new year – I hope your first week back to work has been relatively stress free despite the weather and  I hope 2012 is going to be a fantastic year for you all filled with success, prosperity and happiness – more from the life and times of our lovely hotel next week!

Anna


We Wish You A Merry Christmas & A Happy New Year!

Hello everyone,

I hope everyone is now full of festive spirit now that Christmas is only just round the corner! This week seems to have raced past faster than the speed of light – although we have been busy with a number of seasonal activities as well – on Tuesday we held our Staff Christmas lunch in which all the team were served in true five star style by the whole management team in the Whitehall Suite – it was a pleasure to look after so many staff members who work so hard all year round – and  the food and beverage team in particular who do such a fantastic job taking care of our guests to be able let them sit down and enjoy being waited on for a change!! It is one of my favourite staff events of the whole year and this year was no exception!

Today we have had the children in from Make a Miracle for their afternoon tea – they had just come from Madame Tussauds and it had taken them an hour and fifteen minutes to get to the hotel on the bus so they were all ready for something to eat by the time they arrived – in fact for a while there was complete silence once the afternoon tea was served as all their concentration and energy seemed to be on the food!!  Joanne our Head Pastry Chef had created the most beautiful afternoon tea for them which seemed to be quickly devoured -  and then Louis one of our luggage porters very gamely offered to play the part of Father Christmas and hand out the goodie bags we had put together for them – which was followed by a cupcake and gingerbread decorating competition – so pure excitement all round with 22 very exhilarated children!!

We were delighted this week to have had so many positive reviews on Trip Advisor that we are now ranked at 37 out of 1070 hotels in London – we have improved our ranking by over 20 places in the last twelve months as this time last year we were at 59 – so a great testament to the outstanding job the team have done here on delivering exceptional service to so many of our guests – service continues to be at the core of everything we do in the hotel and early next year Guoman Hotels will be launching a service leadership programme for all the managers that will be cascaded down to every member of staff so we hope to continue to build on the foundations we have put in place this year and aspire to improve our service levels even further next year!

Well dear bloggers as always time is against me and there are still a number of things I still need to get done today – so I want to take this opportunity to wish you all a wonderful Christmas – this will be my last blog for 2011 – much more to come in 2012 with so many exciting events ahead  – starting off with Chinese New Year on January 23rd ( Year of the Dragon) and also the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee, the Olympics – so another fun filled exciting year ahead to look forward to! Whatever the year holds for you – I wish each and every one of you every success, prosperity, good health and much happiness & joy in 2012.

Anna


Make A Memory – Charity for Christmas

Hello everyone!

I hope you have all survived this wild weather we have been experiencing this week – on Tuesday night I thought the roof of my flat was going to blow off in the storm!! Luckily it did not but the noise of the wind and the rain made sleeping impossible so in the end I got up at 4.30am and came into work – and not being a morning person by any stretch of the imagination you can see how bad it must have been!!

This is probably our last busy week of Christmas functions in the hotel – our Food and Beverage teams have really been focusing on their daily up selling targets this week and taking great delight in beating their colleagues in the rooms division department  by managing to have a higher daily revenue in food and beverage than rooms on three occasions this week! We all get to benefit on these days as when F&B out perform rooms Ben Purton our Executive Chef normally brings us a little sweet treat to the morning meeting to celebrate their success!! So we all enjoyed the waffles with maple syrup – even if our waistlines did not appreciate it!!

In our morning meeting we start the meeting by taking a few minutes to highlight, discuss and celebrate the successes created in the business the day before as we are trying to spend more time focusing on what went well rather than the natural inclination to talk about the negative – so yesterday the Restaurant achieved it’s highest average check ever at £88, Chris Monico one of the sales team based in New York has had some fantastic appointments with a lot of interest for the hotel on a sales trip to South Florida, the M&E team confirmed £54k new business yesterday of which £12k is for January.

The Royal Horseguards Supports Make a Memory

This year we are not sending out Christmas cards from the hotel – instead we have worked with a local charity Make a Memory. The charity’s aim is to support young people to positively contribute to their local communities. They do this by advising and educating them of groups in the local community who need assistance, such as those experiencing hardship due to ill health or disability. They then provide young people with the support and guidance needed in order to plan and run fundraising activities which then fund respite events and experiences.
In 2011 they took children who have been affected by cancer, and their families to Disneyland. They have also organised an annual Halloween party, pamper evenings and trips to adventure parks. The trip to London, which includes an experience at The Royal Horseguards hotel, has been made possible by the fundraising of 6 young students. I think you will agree these families need a break and a bit of fun and happiness if only for a couple of days. Therefore, in the festive spirit, we asked the children to prepare a card themselves on how they see the hotel, in return we have organised a very special event for them with a Christmas Afternoon Tea which we will host next Thursday in true Royal Horseguards style. The picture we have chosen for our card has been drawn by 10 year old Eben Kriek, who has a 5 year old brother suffering from Leukemia  and if you want to see this extraordinary picture of our hotel check it out on Facebook  at Guoman Hotels.

It is hard to believe it is now a year since I started my weekly blog about the life and times of the Royal Horseguards – so I would like to thank the many of you who have followed the blog during this time – and I hope it has given you a little insight about us, our hotel and the ethos of our teams! There will be one more blog to go before Christmas and New Year so I will save my festive messages until next week – until then I hope you survive the arctic weather forecast this weekend and more from our lovely hotel next week!

Anna


Christmas Markets in London

Hello everyone,

I hope you have all had a spectacularly successful week – I have returned after my whirlwind visit to New York have just about recovered from the jet lag in order to embark on another very busy week!!

I enjoyed my frenetically busy week in the Big Apple working with our US sales team – there are now several hundred travel agents that know more about The Royal Horseguards than there were before we went! I also went to Boston for one day – I experienced the delights of the Amtrack Trains which took three and a half hours but was still quicker than flying and they have free wifi so at least it meant I could catch up on all my ‘day job’ General Manager e-mails while travelling! In the latter three days of the week we went out of Manhattan to New Jersey, Long Island and Westchester to visit different travel agents that were not so familiar with the Royal Horseguards – we took Magnolia Bakery Cupcakes (made famous by being featured in Sex and the City!!) I have to say they looked divine and I am not sure how I managed to resist the temptation to try one – but I did (which is just as well considering how much business entertaining I had to do over there!) – but the agents loved them so hopefully they will also assist them in remembering us when they are booking London next!!!

This week we have had some great meetings in the hotel – Carol Paddison ran a feedback session with all the Heads of Departments so that we can become more accomplished in giving feedback to each other – sometimes it is so easy to get caught up in being so busy we can forget to recognise the team members that go the extra mile and also it is important we are focused and practiced on giving constructive feedback when it is necessary as well! Feedback is an important part of our leadership culture and so this week we thought it would be good to focus on it and practice with each other. Then on Wednesday we also held a meeting for all the senior managers including myself who are mentoring up and coming apprentices and supervisors in the business to ensure we are nurturing our talent and future managers of tomorrow – we spent some time revisiting what the role of the mentee and mentor is and what each party hopes to get out of the meetings – I think this will be a great support to some of our future superstars as they continue to climb the ladder of success.

London continues it’s build up towards Christmas – the Southbank Festival which includes the Traditional Christmas Market opens on Friday 18th November and will be running until the 24th December – there will be over sixty traditional wooden chalets festooned in fairy lights all along the Queen’s Walk offering an array of different Christmas presents – if past years are to go by you can soak up a magical riverside Christmas atmosphere, browse for gifts, eat drink and there is also plenty to entertain the children including a big carousel ride. Also included during these dates are a Christmas Chocolate festival from 9-11th December and two real Food Christmas Markets the first on the 2-4 December and the second on the 16-23rd December – so absolutely loads to do and see on this key landmark site – for more information visit the Southbank Centre website.

Then a highlight to end the week tomorrow night I will be attending The Hotel Cateys which is an industry awards dinner that was created to recognise and applaud people and teams within the industry that achieve great things and also work so hard to support the UK’s hotel sector. There will be over 750 people attending this event so it gives everyone in our industry the chance to celebrate some great achievements and also network and re-connect with friends and colleagues that you don’t always get the opportunity to see very often. So I am certainly looking forward to a fantastic evening – made all the better for being on a Friday so I do not have to worry about getting up early for work the next day!!

Anna


Winter is around the corner!!!

Hello Everyone

I hope you are all having a spectacularly good week – even though it has felt as if Autumn and Winter are really here now that evenings are dark so early now after the clocks changing last week! Never mind only another six months and they will change back again – and in the meantime over the next few weeks London will be fully alight with sparkly glittery lights as London starts to prepare for the festive season with all the Christmas lights. It is a really magical time to walk around the city and every year they seem to get more impressive and extravagant – I was out running this morning in Hyde Park and noticed the Winter Wonderland is also starting to be built for this year as well – this is a great trip out for the family and will be in it’s fifth year this year – this year they will be having an ice rink for the first time. The Winter Wonderland runs from 18th November until the 3rd January – and if you are interested in more details check out further details here.


The week we have been doing a lot of business reviews with the Heads of Departments – specifically around their balanced scorecards and our progress with our Engagement Survey Action plan – there has been lots of positive progress made – but we are focusing on making sure we have really specific action plans in every department to ensure all the teams in that department understand what the department goals and objectives are and what needs to be done to achieve them. It is a very new process for the team here so there is still a lot of coaching and mentoring need to get this key process really embedded into the hotel. Our Engagement Survey is focused around 12 questions called the Gallup 12 (if you want to know more about these questions – just Google them and they will appear!) I have just placed a print out of them on the wall next to my desk to remind me to stay focused on them personally and challenge myself as a leader how I can make sure I am applying them consistently when I am walking round the hotel and interacting with the team.

We have also been working on our Apprenticeship programme – Carol Paddison our HR Business Partner had a meeting at Westminster Kingsway College today to discuss how we can continue to develop our apprentice programme further and also develop a bespoke programme for chefs for all the hotels in London. We have also decided to allocate everyone of our current apprentices a senior manager as a mentor to continue to support them as they develop their careers further within our hotel and group – so we will be starting this new initiative next week with a training sessions for the Mentors!

Last night we welcomed about thirty journalists to the hotel where we hosted an event to showcase our food and beverage departments in the hotel – and specifically the creativity of Ben Purton our Executive Head Chef and Joanne Todd our Head Pastry Chef. The event was held in the cellar which is a very historical room in One Whitehall Place as it contains the foundation stone for the building laid by William Gladstone in 1884 – it was also a room used a lot during the war as there was an underground passage here that used to link the building with the War Rooms and the Houses of Parliament – sadly it is blocked up now but it is a great reminder of how the room was used in a different era in time!  The team were also using the event to showcase some of the Guy Fawkes Afternoon Tea which we have on promotion in the Lounge at the moment – the journalists really seemed to enjoy the evening and we had some really fabulous feedback today as a result of the event.

Anyway dear bloggers another post coming to an end – I am afraid there will be radio silence on the blog next week as I will once again be taking the US by storm with a very frenetic and busy week of sales calls in New York and Boston – a big thank you needs to go out to our US sales team – to James Enright, Michael Laumanns and Chris Monico for securing some outstanding appointments for Adam Morriss our Director of Sales and Marketing and myself next week – there is going to be no worries about our time management next week  – practically every minute our feet will be on US soil has been accounted for!! Let’s hope the crazy weather New York has been experiencing will have moved on by the time we arrive in the Big Apple this weekend!

So I will be back with more updates form our lovely hotel on the week commencing 14th November!!

Anna


Halloween in London

Hello everyone,

I hope you have all had a fantastic week – despite the weather – it definitely feels as if Winter is well on the way now!

We have had another busy week at the Royal Horseguards starting on Sunday when we welcomed 55 Global Directors of Sales from Preferred Hotels to the Royal Horseguards and One Whitehall Place for dinner and it was also an opportunity to showcase our hotel to them – so we now have another 55 ambassadors that know a lot more about us and can sell our property around the world now! Preferred Hotels were having their global sales conference in London so it was a great opportunity for Adam Morriss our Director of Sales to spend time interacting and strengthening some key relationships  – particularly for some new markets around the world that we are interested in getting more business from.

Today we have our Staff Quarterly Meeting to update all the staff on what has been happening in the hotel and what we will be focusing on over the next three months – we will be spending some time focusing on the hotels vision, reviewing our engagement survey action plan and to make the update on the financial results more interesting we have put that together in the form of a Team Quiz with prizes to be won!  We are also working hard to increase our afternoon tea sales in the hotel – so in order to give everyone a bit more information on Afternoon Tea at the Royal Horseguards we have made a little film on a day in the life of an afternoon tea – which shows afternoon tea being prepared from scratch by the Pastry team right up to being served to the customer! Once we have shown the film we will then serve a sample of the afternoon tea to all the staff so they get to experience the product as well! We try to make this meeting a little more interactive and participative so it is not all about just going through things on PowerPoint presentations – but every quarter we do have to challenge ourselves to think of new ways to be creative with presenting key business messages.

Following the Staff Quarterly Meeting we are holding a staff social evening – organised by our Social Committee in the hotel – so we are all having a buffet and drinks in a  bar close to the hotel –it is a proven statistic that staff engagement is often improved if people feel they have good friends at work – so it is important we provide a platform away from work where people can get to know other staff outside of their own department  – and we can live up to our motto that ‘we work hard and play hard!’ So I am sure the Opal Bar are all ready for our lively team to arrive tonight – and hopefully the DJ has remember to bring his Abba Gold CD along as well!!

Anyway duty calls and I need to get to my next meeting on time so will have to finish off for now – I hope you all have a fabulous weekend and enjoy the benefit of the extra hour on Sunday due to the clocks going back – and don’t forget Halloween on Monday as well – there is a lot going on in London for Halloween this weekend – London Eye, London Dungeon and Fortnum and Mason all have events on for Halloween for more information check out Visit London.

Anna


October Half Term & The Halloween

Hello everyone

I hope you have all had a fantastic week and enjoyed these last few days of sunshine.

This week we have been focusing on the forthcoming renovation to our meetings and events space in One Whitehall Place – on Monday I attended a meeting at our corporate offices at Heathrow to review the investment we needed to be able to upgrade this space. One Whitehall Place is made up of some glorious grade 2 listed rooms which are beautiful examples of Victorian architecture  – they were fully renovated about 10 years ago but even though the rooms are full of character and heritage it is time to invest in their appearance by carrying out a soft refurbishment which means we will work with English Heritage – as you cannot renovate any listed areas without having their consent -  and agree a scheme to update the carpets, curtains and redecorate the whole venue! I had a meeting with Lorna Griffiths, our designer on Friday so it is all systems go now – although  it will still be a few months until it comes to fruition as with all projects like this there is a quite long lead time to getting the right permissions and – even once the carpet is designed – it will take at least 10-12 weeks for the manufacturer to make it – as always all the things you want to happen quickly take longer than you would like – but this in particular will be worth waiting for and will give our venue a much needed fresher and more luxurious look and feel.

Half term is fast approaching next week and as always London has lots to offer – many of the museums will have special exhibitions on such as the V&A museum which has the  Museum of Childhood  which has recently had an  extensive refurbishment,  The museum has been amassing childhood-related objects and toys  since 1872 and continues to do so. There are regular exhibitions upstairs and the V&A Museum of Childhood has plenty of hands-on activities for kids and special events at weekends and during school holidays, while the café helps to revive flagging grown-ups.


Halloween is just round the corner as well and there are plenty of kids activities in the city to keep you occupied for that as well such as the London Eye is promoting a wicked witch capsule. Also, Maltida the Musical is due to open at the Cambridge Theatre on October 25th which is adapted form Roald Dahl novel – we are so fortunate in London as it is such a dynamic city with so much to see and do and the October Half Term is a perfect week to visit the city as it is not so frenetically busy with tourists as it can be in the summer sometimes – hopefully the weather will hold and the sun will shine down which makes it perfect for sight seeing as well!

We have had a busy week in the hotel and our Chocolate Afternoon tea sold well as part of Chocolate Week last week – our next special afternoon tea will be for Guy Fawkes so will be available form the 31st October – our pastry chef Jo is busy finalizing the menu for it now – so I will of course keep you posted!!
Anyway dear bloggers that is all for my update this week – you will not hear from me next week as I am taking a weeks holiday but I will be back the week after with more updates from the Royal Horseguards – so I wish you all a very successful week next week – and I also want to wish our newly appointed Inventory Manager Lukas Vaverka the very best of luck in running the Amsterdam marathon this weekend – he is hoping to achieve it in three hours – which is a phenomenal time it is  for someone like me that takes just over an hour to run six miles anyway.

Anna


Something For The Weekend – London Fashion Week & The Great River Race

Hello everyone,

I hope you are all having a fantastic week – London has been bathed in sunshine for the last few days which has been a very welcome relief from all the wind and rain we were battered with over the weekend!

As always there has been plenty keeping us busy at the hotel this week – on Tuesday we were attending an internal briefing at one of our ‘cousin’ Thistle hotels – The Kingsley which is managed by the divine Johan Sweepers. Johan was awarded the top accolade for Thistle as General Manager of the Year for the Thistle group so we were in very esteemed company – but if you are looking for a great hotel that has just been transformed with a £10 million renovation – I can highly recommend The Kingsley located in Bloomsbury near Covent Garden!

London Fashion WeekIt is London Fashion Week next week and all the Guoman hotels are very excited about our designer doorman hat collection with a renowned London designer that is due to be launched on Friday 16th September. We have commissioned London based milliner Justin Smith Esquire to create a bespoke, hand made Guoman Doorman hat! Each  Guoman Hotel Doorman hat has been modified by design to highlight the character and personality of each individual hotel. The hats will be worn by all Guoman hotel’s doormen from Friday 16th September – and they will essentially become a long standing iconic part of their uniform. The Royal Horseguards also get to play a starring role in the launch of this iconic initiative as we are hosting a big launch party for all the great and the good in the fashion world on Friday evening – and we will also have some of Justin’s couture collections exhibited in the hotel over the next four weeks  – so I am sure we will have an exciting fun filled night ahead of us – if you would like to find out more about Justin and his work then do visit his website.

This afternoon I will be spending time with all the Heads of Departments reviewing their balanced scorecard presentations – this year we have been much more defined about what we want to achieve within the business during the course of this financial year – so we have been very clear in setting targets for the business overall and building them into a very concise business plan – and then each member of the management team has those plans cascaded down into their departmental action plans – so it is a good opportunity to see what progress is being made and what has been achieved , what is being focused on in the month ahead as well as check if any support is required to help each department achieve it’s objectives.

If you are stuck for something to do this weekend there is the Great River Race in London – which is London’s River marathon. This race attracts over 300 crews form all over the world. Every level of competitor can take part, from those who enjoy fun, fancy dress and charity stunts to serious sportsmen and women who are in it to win it! The race is run over a challenging 21 mile course past many classic landmarks – including of course the Royal Horseguards! It starts at Millwall Dock Slipway, London Docklands at 1.40pm and finishes at ham – the winner is expected to cross the finish line at about 16.40pm. It promises to be an exciting race with over 2,000 competitors – so it will be quite a sight to behold on the river – if you would like more details then check out The Great River Race Website for more details!

Anyway unfortunately once again my blog time is up for another week as there are people outside my office demanding my presence at a meeting – so I wish you all an exceptionally good weekend and will be back with more updates next week!

Anna


Bank Holiday Weekend & The Notting Hill Carnival

Hello everyone,

I hope you are all having a fabulous week – hopefully made all the better because there is a Bank Holiday on the horizon!

Life has been as busy as usual at the Royal Horseguards – Adam Morriss our Director of Sales has just returned from an action packed trip to the west coast of America – we continue our programme of raising the profile of our hotel and brand in this very key market for us – and there are now another two hundred plus travel agents from Los Angeles and San Francisco that are more familiar with our lovely hotel and we will be looking forward to welcoming their travellers soon – as we already have a number of enquiries and booking that we are finalising this week. It is a tough week to be constantly travelling so Adam has done a great job to bring so much new business back with him – and of course we are very grateful!!

Our company recently undertook an Engagement survey across all staff in all the hotels in the group and next week I will be attending our Annual General Managers Conference – and one of the areas we will be reviewing will be the results for the company and looking forward to receiving our own individual hotel survey results as well. So this week I have been preparing how we will communicate our results into the team here – and also planning a session for all the management team so there is a really clear understanding about what staff engagement is and why it is so important within our business. It is a proven statistic that if you have engaged and motivated staff that there is a direct correlation to sales and profit. Obviously this is not always easy to achieve but it is something myself and the team here will be spending a lot of time on together over the next few months.

The week we also had some good news and some sad news – the good news is that one of our stars James Robson who works as our Inventory Manager in our Reservations and Revenue Department has been promoted – the sad news is he will be leaving The Royal Horseguards to take up a new appointment at one of the largest hotels in our group the Marble Arch Thistle. Marble Arch’s gain is definitely our loss – but sometimes you have to let your stars go so that they can continue to grow and flourish in their careers – we will miss him but wish him every success in his new role!

Another big celebration happening in London this weekend is the Notting Hill Carnival which has been held every August bank Holiday since 1966 – it is the largest festival celebration of it’s kind in Europe. Every year the streets of West London come alive with twenty miles of vibrant colourful costumes, hundreds of Caribbean food stalls and the sounds of traditional steel drums bands – it is definitely one of London’s liveliest and most exciting events of the year!

Anyway dearest bloggers – I hope what ever you are doing over the bank holiday weekend you have a fantastic time and hopefully a well earned break from work as well!

Anna


Ash Clouds…Here we go again!

Hello everyone,

I hope you are all having a good week with minimal disruption from the dreaded ash that returned unexpectedly this week – thankfully because the weather patterns are so completely different this year it has not brought the whole country to a halt and touch wood everything seems to be back to normal now which I am very thankful for personally as well as I had planned to fly to Geneva this weekend to visit my sister!!

Our hotel has been exceptionally busy this week as there is so much going on in London this week including Chelsea Flower Show and the Champions League Final at the weekend so plenty to keep us all fully occupied this week!! Our Garden Par-Tea afternoon tea which is themed around gardens and floral flavours has been really popular  – especially now the weather has improved so much guests really enjoy taking tea ( and drinks and cocktails as well!) outside on our newly renovated Terrace!

Yesterday we held our Viewpoint meeting which is a meeting I hold every quarter with representatives from every department in the hotel to hear and discuss their views on how they feel about working at the hotel. Yesterday we focused on communication and how effective our meetings are – we just held our General Managers Communications meeting last week – so I was listening to what they enjoyed about that meeting and what could be improved – as it is important to me that the team enjoy the communications meetings we hold where we update them on what is happening in all areas of the business – and I am always trying to find new and creative ways to communicate to all levels of the hotel. Last week we also held a social event to thank and recognise everyone for their hard work during the renovation of the ground floor – it was a great night and really appreciated by all the staff so much so they want to do more of them!! I really believe that great working relationships are based on the foundation of good friendship and these evenings are a great way for people to meet and get to know other members of staff in different departments – and clearly I run a hotel here with a team that really know how to enjoy themselves and party – so we discussed ways in which we can try and re-activate the social committee and raise funds to be able to hold more events!!

We are planning to hold a Staff Appreciation Week in the hotel on the second week of August as our financial year ends at the end of July so it is a good opportunity to recognise and celebrate some of the team and individual performances that have been achieved over the last year – the whole week is centred around recognition, appreciation, celebration and of course having some fun!! It is a massive task to organise – so we have a committee all focused on it now – and I will keep you posted on our progress as we get nearer to the date!

Anyway dear bloggers I have a delightful day of an Employee Relations Course ahead of me today at our sister hotel The Grosvenor so I am going to sign off for now and head off to Victoria – I wish you all a fabulous bank holiday weekend – more updates form our lovely hotel next week…..

Anna


Summer Events in London

Hello everyone,

Well another week seems to be racing by and London is covered in cloud this week – a bit of a shock to the system after all the lovely sunshine we have enjoyed over the last few weeks!!

Last week seemed to rush past so quickly I never got a minute to sit down and write my blog – we attended our budget presentation and finalised our budgets for next year and if that was not enough we have also undergone our internal finance audit which we have passed with a good score (always a relief!) – with a big improvement on last year so that is a good result for all our accounts and front office team who have been working really hard on that for the last few months to make sure everything was in order! So now the numbers are all agreed for next year it is all about focusing on sales and marketing to raise awareness of our newly refurbished hotel to ensure our revenues lift accordingly!! Life for a General Manager is so much easier when the forecast is being achieved – my stress levels drop by about 90%!!!!

On Monday this week I took the management team away from their day to day jobs and we spent the day together on team building – it is really important that we all embark on our new financial year with the right mindset to achieve the targets we have been set – so I always think it is good for a team to spend some time together away from the ‘day job’ really looking at how we work alongside each other – and how we can understand each other better and work more cohesively and harmoniously together to achieve our joint objectives. Often in a hotel the Heads of Department can become very focused on their own department that they can lose sight of the bigger objectives for the business. So we spent some time looking and discussing how leadership must be at the heart of all we do, we talked about staff engagement, the dysfunctions that can radically undermine a teams performance and how we can avoid them and then agreeing what our norms and values of our team were going to be next year and how we were going to live them. Then if that was not enough after a full day of much discussion and debate we enjoyed dinner together in our sister hotel, The Grosvenor in Victoria which is also undergoing a major renovation.

Just a little note about our sister hotel The Grosvenor which is right next door to Victoria Station – it is well worth a visit if you happen to be in that part of London – they have successfully re-launched two new restaurants in the last 6 months – The Brassiere where we thoroughly enjoyed our dinner on Monday – but also The Grand Imperial a stunning new Cantonese restaurant. If you love Asian food it is well worth a visit!

But back to The Royal Horseguards hotel – our new The Terrace is looking really lovely now and we have had so many customers comment on how improved it is since it’s renovation – it is so rare for a hotel to have outside space in London and our has the added advantage because it is quite a peaceful haven away from the hustle and bustle of the city! We are starting to take quite a lot of booking for private parties and BBQs now – and we discussed in our management meeting this morning about having a regular BBQ and music out there every Thursday for all our regular clients. So I will keep you all posted on our plans and what dates the BBQ will be going live. Tonight we are hosting an event with lots of press to showcase the newly renovated ground floor and The Terrace and also our new speciality afternoon tea – Garden Par-Tea which has been devised by our very talented pastry chef Joanne Todd, which we will have on offer throughout May to support Chelsea Flower Show. Then watch out for our next themed tea which will be Wimbledon High Tea which we will be launching in June.

Summer is such a lovely time to be in London – especially now as all the annual events such as Wimbledon, Chelsea Flower Show, Royal Ascot to name just a few are coming up – and then there are lots of other exciting events happening on the Southbank – the Festival of Britain is still going strong with loads to see and do, and Regents Street Association have a number of events coming up including A taste of Spain on 5th June. So plenty to look forward to as we head towards the summer months!

But in the meantime it is back to work now for me as the team are gathering for our morning meeting as I write this – so will have to leave you now as duty calls – until next week with more updates from the Royal Horseguards in the heart of Whitehall!!

Anna


Glorious Spring in London

Hello Everyone,

Well here we are again at the end of another busy week – it has been lovely to see London bathed in some glorious spring weather this week – long may it continue!

This week we have started to get prepared for our budget as our financial year will be ending at the end of June so we have to start all the planning for a new financial year. We have also been doing a lot of work on marketing and how we position the hotel amongst it’s competitors everything from our website, customer journey, collateral and how the Royal Horseguards is positioned within the Guoman brand has been discussed and as always there is a massive amount to do but it is a fascinating part of the job for me and I am sure there will be lots more discussions over the next few weeks as we finalise our marketing plan for the year ahead!

At the end of April we will have completed the ground floor renovation and the hotel will have a fabulous five star product throughout – the work done so far looks fantastic and the hotel is undergoing such a radical transformation in the way it looks it is really gratifying to see and hear how much the guests are enjoying the changes we have done. Now we also have to focus on ensuring our service levels take the same step change as our product. So next week we welcome back Allister Sandall from the AA and every member of staff will attend a three hour workshop on what the expectations of guests are within a five star hotel. Improving service levels is  ongoing never ending journey that remains at the heart of every thing we do here.

The good weather seems have brought a lot more tourists into the city this week which is good for all of us – we are so fortunate to have such a dynamic city with so much going on in it – there are some great new theatre shows coming up in the next few weeks. Flarepath at the Haymarket Theatre that the Royal Horseguards is a primary sponsor for has had some great reviews, a number of our guests have been to see it this week and have really enjoyed the performance!

Anyway I have a breakfast meeting that I need to get to so will finish for now – I as always wish you all a fabulous weekend – don’t forget the clocks will be going forward this weekend and also it is Mothering Sunday next weekend!

Anna


St. Patrick’s at The Royal Horseguards

Hello everyone,

Well another exciting week in the life of the Royal Horseguards – this week we were delighted to have opened our new Equus Bar which has had some fantastic feedback from many of our regular guests. Last night myself and the sales and marketing team entertained some journalists visiting from Italy and Spain so that we can start to showcase our beautifully renovated areas and it also gave our new bar team the chance to show off their newly acquired cocktail making skills! As it is St Patrick’s Day today they are busy up selling an Irish cocktail which of course has liberal amounts of Irish Whisky to all our in house guests!!

Next week we start the one of final phases of the renovation with the main restaurant and the ground floor meeting rooms will be undergoing their upgrade and then we will finally have a pristine brand new hotel in all areas!! Once it is all done we can start implementing our marketing and PR plan in earnest so that we can really start to promote the hotel and in particular the new restaurant more firmly within the five star market.

On Monday I had lunch with Michael Laumanns who is our Regional Director of Sales for North America and was in London for a few days on business as I will be visiting New York in June for a week of sales calls and show cases – it can take several months to plan a successful itinerary for a week of sales calls with the right clients so I will work closely with Michael and James Enright who heads up our US Sales team over the next few months to ensure that I can make the most of my time over there and squeeze as many appointments in as possible which as a result will  hopefully increase our inbound business from the US!

Even though we have not even got to Easter yet we were heavily into Christmas this week!!  We have been finalising the content for our Christmas and New Year Brochure. We are even discussing what colour our Christmas decorations will be this year – as we have renovated all of the ground floor of the hotel none of our Christmas photography from previous years can be used – so we are going to have to partially decorate areas in order to photograph them! I am sure our guests will think we have gone quite mad!! I have often tried to be quite organised about planning for Christmas but this is the first time I will have the decorations out in April – talk about planning ahead!! However I am sure our Marketing Department will be most grateful to us that we are not stressing them out and taking years off their lives by leaving it all to the last minute as they try to adhere to copy and print deadlines – which is what we can have a tendency to do sometimes ……… but not this year!!

Anyway talking about leaving things to the last minute – I must dash now as I have a speech on leadership to write to for a conference next week which should have been done weeks ago……so more updates next week – and wishing you all a fabulous weekend!!

Anna


Spring is around the corner

Hello everyone,

I can’t believe it is Friday already – this weeks seems to have shot past at an alarming pace!! The weather has turned distinctly wintery in London this week with the wind feeling particularly icy- hopefully Spring is just round the corner!

We have been delighted to welcome our new restaurant manager Stephan Georgescu to the hotel this week – Stephan brings a wealth of five star experience to our team and will play an instrumental part in the positioning and re-opening of our new restaurant at the end of April – and speaking of openings we are very excited to be opening our new Equus Bar next week – again we have a new addition to our team with Neil Millington joining us as Bar Manager – so if you are looking for somewhere new to try out for a drink after work next week – why not drop into the hotel and enjoy a cocktail or two in our new bar.

If you enjoy the theatre the new Andrew Lloyd Webber show the Wizard of Oz which is on at the Palladium has been receiving some great reviews – our very talented pastry chef Joanna has also designed a Wizard of Oz afternoon tea which has been really popular in the lounge this week.

We are really delighted with our recent reviews on Trip Advisor – customer feedback is really important to us as a benchmark in telling us how our customers feel about our service levels – something we are always striving to improve – it is a never ending journey for any hotel. We are committing even more energy, resource and time to this key area this year – in a few weeks we will be working with Alistair Sandall from the AA to run some sessions for every member of staff about customer expectations in a five star hotel – so hopefully we can continue to not only just meet but exceed the expectations of our customers.

The weekend is almost up on us – and If you are at a loose end and looking for something to do – there is a fabulous Russian Festival in Trafalgar Square on Sunday 6th March from 12.30pm with a colourful display of traditional Russian dance, lots of stalls with crafts and a variety of Russian cuisine – there is also a children’s programme including a show by Theatre Chudaki – our city does a great job of embracing so many diverse and wonderful cultures – so could be worth a visit if you are interested in experiencing some Russian culture this weekend!!!

Anyway I hope what ever you are doing you have a fantastic weekend – I will be back next week with some more updates and news  about our iconic hotel…….

Anna


Bringing the Royals together – Royal Wedding & The RHG

Hello everyone,

I hope you are all having a good week! It certainly seems as if winter has returned to London again these last few days as the weather seems to have turned a lot colder – although having said that compared to New York last week which was minus eight with an icy wind it feels positively balmy here now after that.

I had a busy frenetic week across the pond last week working with some of our US based sales team James Enright and Michael Laumanns – but it was a very successful visit and great to be able to connect directly and build stronger relationships  with some of our US based clients as well as attend Preferred Hotels showcase which gave us the opportunity to meet a lot of US based travel agents and introduce The Royal Horseguards to them and let them know all about our award winning hotel (for those of you that don’t know we are the proud winners of the AA London Hotel of the Year for 2010-2011). I also had a number of appointments with key travel journalists in New York to bring them up to date with all the latest news about the hotel including the renovations that have taken place in the last few years – every one of our rooms is now fully refurbished and the final stage is the ground floor upgrade which is well underway this week – so we are very busy getting ready to launch our  new restaurant and bar in April – lots of exciting news to share with you about that in the next few weeks!!

Everywhere I went in America last week people were asking me about the Royal Wedding – the Americans love to hear news of our Royal family!!! We have just loaded our Royal Wedding package onto our website – so if you fancy coming to London for the big event then check out our packages on The Royal Horseguards website. I am sure the momentum for the wedding will start to pick up a lot over the next few weeks and it will definitely be an exciting day to be in our capital city!

Last night we took 14 of our clients to the National TV Awards at the O2 Arena – it was a fabulous evening and everyone seemed to really enjoy it – we took the river taxi from the Embankment Pier all the way up to O2 – it was the perfect way to get there away from the bustle of rush hour and everyone enjoyed seeing some of London’s beautiful architecture and  buildings on the banks of the River Thames as we sailed serenely up the river  – I can highly recommend it as a method of transport much more relaxing than the tube or the bus!! There are some fabulous events scheduled at the O2 through the year – it is one of the best arenas in the country and also a great venue for corporate entertaining!!

Anyway duty calls and I have to head off to our sister hotel The Tower for a Guoman marketing meeting to discuss what our corporate strategies are going to be for the Spring and Summer – more news about life as we know it at the Royal Horseguards next week!!

Anna


Valentine’s, Easter & The Springboard Charity – Excitement at The Royal Horseguards

Hello everyone,

Another busy week seems to have flown past at an alarming rate this week!!

Valentine's Day BreaksI seem to have spent the whole week in a series of meetings and events – on Tuesday all the Guoman and Thistle hotels gathered together at the Marble Arch Thistle to spend the day reviewing our hotels with lots of tour operators and travel agents. It a great opportunity to reach out directly to a of our clients that give us domestic leisure business in one day under one roof – and it was certainly a very efficient way for them to make contact with most of the hotels in our group – so we all owe a big thank you to Richard Bantock who is Head of Leisure Sales for the company for all the hard work he put into organising a very successful day!

We are now heavily into compiling our packages for Valentines and Easter which will be upon us before we know where we are – as well as finalising some of our new packages for the summer – we will be introducing about six new leisure packages covering romance, London Eye, discovering London and shopping in London – they will start to feature on our website in the next few weeks – some great offers so if you are planning a short break to London well worth having a look.

This week I also attended our bi-monthly London Advisory Board meeting for Springboard. Springboard is a charity that works across the UK to promote our industry to potential new recruits to encourage them to consider a career in hospitality. The January meeting is one of the most important as we review the activities we are going to focus on for the year ahead. This year we will be focusing on a summer school, ensuring the INSPIRE work experience programme is introduced into as many hotels as possible and also we are supporting the Future Chef programme for 14-16 year olds still at school. And of course in between that I will be working alongside the Thistle and Guoman hotels to try and raise as many funds as possible to continue to support the charity in all the great work they do!

Yesterday we had our monthly Head of Department meeting where we review all the results from December and also look at how the hotel has performed year to date. When ever a new General Manager joins a hotel (as I have recently done here!) it means quite a period of change for the management team as every General Manager has their own way of doing things! Our hotel will continue to change and evolve as we finalise the last part of our renovation programme and we will be focusing on quite a bit of development for the management team – yesterday in the meeting each head of department received their departmental balanced scorecard.  so next month they will all present their individual departmental results, challenges and of course successes for the three stakeholders of guest satisfaction, profit and employee engagement!!

So another week is starting to draw to a close and as always there is much to be done – I will be having a short break from the blog next week as I will be away in New York on sales calls – but I will be back in touch the week after with more up dates about the life and times of the Royal Horseguards Hotel and One Whitehall Place!!!

In the meantime I wish you all a fantastic, restful and relaxing weekend!!

Anna