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!
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.
I hope you are all having a fantastic week – we certainly are here at the Royal Horseguards – after months of planning Staff Appreciation Week has finally arrived!!! So we are one day in and it has been a packed day – I had to be up at 5.15am this morning to get to the hotel early to be able to be there for ‘Welcome to Work!’ which is where myself and several of the management team welcomed all the team in this morning with fresh coffee, tea, croissants and muffins!! We moved on to our morning walk round with a big bowl of chocolate and then onto our first morning meeting of the weeks which was a Mexican theme organised by Front Office – by 10.30am my diet for the week was already truly shot for the week – and we still had a cake decorating competition and the Olympic themed lunch to go…..!!
So we are one day in and have a packed week ahead with departmental meetings, staff quarterly meeting (done in the theme of a TV show), star of the day meet and greet, softball in the park and finalising the week in style with a big awards party!! And of course making sure we are not taking our eye off the ball and ensuring we are taking great care of our guests!! This week is all about recognising some of the outstanding individual and team performances – as well as taking time to show appreciation for the efforts of so many of our team members who work at the coal face of our business day in day out in the laundry, the wash up, in maintenance, housekeeping, to mention just a few without who the hotel would not be able to operate! So more to share with you next week but this week promises to be very special for our team and I am sure we will collect some great stories to tell to keep us fully entertained until the next one – and believe you me if you could see some of the awesome out takes from some filming we did for the staff quarterly meeting with the Chef, Stefan our Restaurant Manager and Bechir our Operations Manager – I think you would be laughing for a whole year as well!!
There has been much excitement in Horseguards Parade just next door to the hotel as they get ready for a practice match for the Olympic Beach Volleyball next year. There have been 120 trucks delivering 2,274 tonnes of sand which hopefully should be enough to fill one competition court and some warm up and training courts. The stadium built for the match due to be held this weekend will hold 1,500 people so a fraction of the one that will be built for the Olympics which will hold 15,000 people – so we are looking forward to a busy weekend ahead in the Whitehall area this weekend!!
I am not sure how many of you have been watching the new TV programme called ‘The Hour’ which is a six part drama about being behind the scenes of a topical news programme in 1956 – we are all completely glued to it as some of the scenes have been filmed in our very own historic One Whitehall Place! If you have missed it on TV then I am sure you can still catch it on ITV iplayer – highly recommended!
Anyway dear bloggers I am going to have to love you and leave you for another week – I hope you all have a successful week – and more to follow about life at The Royal Horseguards next week!
Another wet blustery day in London!! But allegedly there is better weather on the way!! However despite the weather the hotel has been really busy this week – we have had some large groups in house and our meeting rooms have all been fully booked as well! There was a break in the weather last night and we were finally able to host a BBQ on our terrace for eighty people that went off really well!
This week has been a busy week for industry events – I am part of a General Managers association called the Master Innholders and I am a member of the Executive committee – every year this organisation organises a General Manager conference in January – so we discussed the agenda for the next conference which is packed full of really interesting topics and discussion panels and some fantastic keynote speakers – there are usually about 400 attendees – it is the most high profile General Manager event of the year and the conference in 2012 looks as if it is going to shape up as one of the best ever – so would advise anyone interested to book early as it is going to sell out very quickly!
Our company and hotel have been working very closely with a charity called Springboard – which is a charity that for over 20 years have been helping young, unemployed and disadvantaged people into careers in hospitality, leisure and tourism – Guoman and Thistle hotels recently all worked collectively and raised £100, 000 for the charity – and today in the hotel we launched one of their annual initiatives of Summer School for school leavers to give them an opportunity of working in hotels all over London to get some valuable experience of our industry. I welcomed them and gave them a speech about my career to date and then Ben Purton our Executive head Chef set up some challenges for them to try cake decorating, making some canapés, identifying different ingredients etc – so all who attended today I hope you have a fantastic time on Summer school and hopefully this will be the start of some fantastic new glittering careers!!
So another busy week draws to a close with another one looming next week!! If you are at a loose end this weekend Hampton Court Palace Flower show is on, which is the world’s largest annual flower show – not only is there stunning floral displays to look at but you can also learn about growing your own fruit and vegetables, get tips on gardening and shop for all sorts of products – for more information check out – Hampton Court Flower Show.
So I wish you all a wonderful and relaxing weekend and will be back next week with more updates about our lovely hotel!!
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!!
Well what fabulous weather we are enjoying in London at the moment – our capital city is bathed in glorious sunshine and is also starting to get a very regal feel about it as we are getting so close to the Royal Wedding! Regents Street looks fantastic with all the Union Jacks that have been hung out. Everyone in London is really starting to get into the spirit of celebration now as the big day draws near. We have got over a hundred afternoon teas booked on that day so I am going to spend the day going ’back to the floor’! I am sure our Pastry Chef Joanne Todd is delighted at the thought of me turning up next Friday to be her commis chef – which for those not in the know is really only one level above a trainee chef and one of the most junior roles in the kitchen! Hopefully I will not be too much of a hindrance and I will have to draw from my kitchen experience from (a few) years ago on how to work quickly and efficiently – so I do not hold the team back and of course I still remember how ‘clean as you go!!’ was drummed into me when I was a management trainee – thankfully I don’t think I will actually be doing any cooking so there should not be an abundance of burnt pans for the stewarding department to have to worry about!!! I am really looking forward to it and will of course keep you all posted how I get on!
We are excited about starting to get ready to re-launch our new restaurant now as well – we have appointed a new Executive Head Chef called Ben Purton who will be joining us at the end of May. Ben has a proven track record of working within five star environments – and when he came in for his test cook he produced a lamb dish that was to die for so I am really looking forward to welcoming him on board and seeing more of his dishes on our menus. We have also welcomed Ryan Mattheson to our kitchen brigade this week – Ryan will be working alongside Ben and will be heading up the part of the kitchen brigade that will be cooking for our customers in our new Restaurant. It is great to have these two really talented chefs joining our team here now at this point in our journey as we reposition ourselves more firmly within the five star market and I am really looking forward to see the impact they will make on our culinary offering within the hotel!
Every morning this week as I have walked from Waterloo station over Hungerford Bridge to the hotel it has been amazing to see the preparations for the Festival of Britain that is taking place on the Southbank over the next four months. This year it is the 60th anniversary of the original Festival of Britain that took place in 1951 on the south bank of the Thames which had been blitzed by bombs in the Second Word War. It marked the beginning of the redevelopment of the area – which today is a hive of activity with many restaurants, cafes and bars as well as being home to the Royal Festival Hall, the Queen Elizabeth Hall, the Hayward gallery, the British Film Institute and the National Theatre which are just a few of the iconic landmark buildings that have made the Southbank their home. Today the Southbank is also the UK’s largest arts centre and this anniversary is exciting as it will be celebrating the very best of British culture and creativity. If you would like to know more then do visit www.southbankcentre.co.uk where all the event and exhibitions are listed.
Well dearest blog readers unfortunately it is time to leave you now and get on with my day I have a lot to fit in before finishing for the Easter weekend today – my Executive Team have just turned up for our weekly meeting – so I hope you all have a fabulous Easter – the weather is forecast to be beautiful here so I hope you all get to enjoy some of this magnificent sunshine we have been enjoying and are forecast to continue to have this weekend
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!!
Well another week seems to be racing past at an alarming rate – hard to believe it is Friday already!! As always there has been a lot going on in the hotel – this week we were delighted to have our Royal Afternoon Tea featured on ITV on the This Morning programme with Paul Schofield, Holly Willoughby and Jenni Falconer– and joyfully bookings have flown in as a result!
We are always striving to improve our service levels in the hotel and yesterday I sat on a steering committee meeting that will form part of the group that will help design a service culture programme for the Guoman brand – it is a really exciting project to be part of as it also means we start to put a lot more definition on the long term vision and values for our brand and then translating that into how service is going to be delivered by our teams in Guoman hotels, and as General Manager I will then facilitate this training out into the hotel – it is a big project to roll out but also critical in order for our teams and our customers to really understand how the Guoman brand is going to be further developed and defined – I will of course give you regular updates as to how we are getting on over the next few months!!
This week we have been busy getting the new team trained up ready to open our new Equus Bar that is due to open in the next few days – today there is training on the new cocktail menu so I might have to pop in and see how they are doing!! The bar is looking fabulous now it is all set up and I am sure all our guests are going to enjoy this new addition to our hotel as it has been converted from two meeting rooms so is a complete transformation form what it was!
Our other big news this week is as a company we have launched a fundraising initiative to work alongside Springboard which is a charitable organisation that helps young, unemployed and disadvantaged people find lasting careers in the hospitality industry – so between March and May every hotel in our company is asking guests if they would like to donate an extra £1 to their bill. Our campaign is being supported by Sir Alex Ferguson – who we were delighted to have staying at the Royal Horseguards last week! One of the key challenges for any hotel is to find a recruit good people so it is really fabulous that we are able to work with Springboard in this way so that we can give such a boost to the charity and really play a proactive role in encouraging more young people to join our industry.
Last night was the opening night of Flare Path – a new play directed by Trevor Nunn at the Theatre Royal Haymarket – the Royal Horseguards is really proud to be an official sponsor of the show and thrilled to host the opening night party on Thursday evening at One Whitehall Place – there are lots of pictures on the Guoman Facebook page if you want to check out all the A list celebrities that attended!!
Anyway duty is calling again and I have to join some lovely clients for lunch – so I wish you all a fabulous weekend what ever you may be doing – and more news to follow next week!