Recruiting True Luxury General Managers

January 31, 2014
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I am often asked if, at the Boutique Search Firm, we have a “specialty”. Yes indeed we do: the top-luxury hotel.

It is a fact that the General Manager of a top-luxury hotel running an average rate of $600+ will have little in common with the General Manager of a so-called “full-service” hotel. By the way, do you know what the definition of a “full service” hotel is? It is a hotel that does NOT offer 24-hour room service, does NOT provide turndown service and usually does NOT have a choice of dining venues. What then, you ask me, is “full service” about it? Well, it is still a bit more than what Wikipedia defines as “select service” and above the “limited service” in which, basically, one get to serve oneself to free coffee.

Case in point, a “full service” General Manager, no matter how talented and successful in his/her own field, may not understand why real crystal, at $40 a piece and very high breakage rate, should be used in the restaurant. And yet the restaurant would not be THE restaurant without that high quality crystal. The General Manager’s job (and his team’s): control and reduce breakage through training and incentives, and build some of that glassware’s cost into menu prices.

Luxury is not a training field. I still see many General Managers in luxury brands who walk around their lobbies looking like farmers, that is if they walk around at all and do not prefer to hide in their offices. The General Manager has to look the part and walk the walk. In fact, he/she has to be as up-to-date as the Concierge as to the major happenings in his/her city. He/she has to understand the cultural traits of the very many countries his/her hotels gets guests from.

The numbers? That is a given. Nobody should be allowed to operate a $50 million+ business without being able to interpret every single line of his/her Profit & Loss Statement statement. The truly great luxury operator will know how to convince his/her corporate office that some lines of the P&L differ on a Top-Luxury Hotel P&L as opposed to a “select service” hotel P&L: higher here, lower there and vice versa for the expense category. Just like landscaping is a huge line in a resort, but a smallish one in a city hotel.

We recruit true luxury General Managers: they do not have to be to the manor born, yet we expect their background to include a knowledge of social etiquette, a basic understanding of interior design, architecture and hotel history, not to mention that they should know their way in the kitchen and the sales office. A well-rounded, well-educated hotelier, incidentally, has to be able to visualize and remember the decor and bedding configuration of every single room and suite within his/her kingdom. Why? If you have to ask…

And, by the way, it takes a lot more than an Armani suit to turn a roughneck into a Lady or a Gentleman.

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