Like many fans of director Wes Anderson’s oeuvre, I was eagerly awaiting the release of his latest moving picture, “The Grand Budapest Hotel.” As the name implies, the hospitality industry takes center stage in this film. It’s also hilarious and well acted, and I’d recommend it to everyone.
But what I wasn’t expecting was a full course in proper staff etiquette and guest service ideology, among other things. Without too many spoilers (as this movie hasn’t reached many parts of the world quite yet), here is what I learned.
An honorable career
Early in the film, Ralph Fiennes’ concierge character, Gustave H, interviews the other lead, the new lobby boy, Zero. He asks why Zero would want to work there. Without hesitation, the rookie employee replies (and I’m paraphrasing here), “Who wouldn’t want to work at the Grand Budapest Hotel?”
Working in hospitality should be deemed a venerable, sought-after occupation, and if you promote a corporate culture that idealizes the trade, your staffers will be more motivated to perform their duties flawlessly.
Most of the story revolves around the relationship between Gustave H and Zero — one man old and seasoned, the other inexperienced but eager. Taking a new employee under your wing should not only be considered an imperative task but also a time-honored tradition. There are so many aspects of guest service that will never be taught by a textbook; the only way to truly endear the next generation of hoteliers with the proper values is through mentorship.
There’s a reason why it’s called a “grand” hotel: fresh flowers everywhere, immaculate uniforms, ornate details on the furnishings, place settings all perfectly arranged, ashtrays replaced after a single use — take your pick. When we think of grandeur and opulence, we often think of the more conspicuous features — the marble fountain in the lobby, the Victorian divans in the lounge — but it often comes down to the precision with which you execute the smallest details.
What would the titular Grand Budapest Hotel have been without the charming and enigmatic showman that was Gustave H? This point is driven home during the periodic flash-forwards to the 1960s where, without the presence of Ralph Fiennes’s definitive concierge, the property is an empty husk.
Indeed, your team is the lifeblood of any hotel, and they should be a defining characteristic that draws customers back year after year.
During the second act, it’s made clear the concierges at the various hotels in the fictional Republic of Zubrowka are not only acquainted with one another, but are friends willing to help at a moment’s notice. This is a cutthroat industry, but never forget that we are all comrades at arms, and even though we often battle our competitors for a better slice of the pie, what we really should be fighting for is a higher standard of hospitality.
After watching this movie, I did a little research to see what I could dig up on some of the happenings behind the scenes. Of note, most of the hotel staffers in the background at the Grand Budapest Hotel were actually hospitality workers in real life. No doubt this helps complete the picture’s verisimilitude as all these extras would exhibit the proper mannerisms and graces. Also, during the tail end of an interview with Indiewire, the writer-director noted he isn’t the biggest fan of staying at hotels because, and I’m paraphrasing here, there’s too much walking needed to get from a guestroom to one’s car. Perhaps one of you can suggest a guest service technique to dispel this grievance.
What I liked most about this movie is that it evokes and harks back to a more glorious era for the hospitality industry where staying at a prestigious property was not just about the amenities in one’s room but also about being a part of something bigger, something, well, grander. So, ask yourself: when were your hotel’s glory days? And more importantly, what can you do to make that time right now?
I highly recommend “The Grand Budapest Hotel” and hope you can see it sometime soon.
(Article published by Larry Mogelonsky in HOTELSmag on March 21, 2014)