When an hotelier thinks of Paris, they naturally make references to the ostensible palace properties: Bristol, George V, Ritz, Crillion (under renovation), Peninsula (a recent addition) and Le Royal Monceau. So, it was not too much hardship when I had the pleasure of meeting the latter hotel’s General Manager, Serge Ethuin, to learn more about this property, what makes it distinctive and to see what lessons we as ‘mere mortal hoteliers’ could take away from one of these citadels of European service culture. Mr. Ethuin is relatively new to the property, having come from the Cavalieri Waldorf Astoria in Rome, and looking forward to the challenge of ‘palace-management.’
But first, a little bit about the property: 149 room and suites; two restaurants, bar, private 99-seat movie cinema, art gallery, spa (with the largest indoor hotel pool in the City), cigar and smoking lounges. bespoke stores (one for fashion, the other for sundries and books), and spacious meeting areas. Art everywhere, by the way.
Reopened just a few years ago after an exhaustive renovation under the direction of designer Philippe Starck, Le Royal Monceau was literally reinvented into homage for the creative arts. Stark, known for his playful adaptations of form and color, has created a delightful masterpiece of contrasting ideas. Some examples: carpets that are slightly off kilter, desks that seem to be astray, paintings that are resting on the floor rather than hung, with unique wall coverings, custom railings, a guitar and objets d’art. One has to embrace it – this is not a hotel for tradition.
This property takes some getting used to. I feel as if I am in sensory overload.
Indeed there is a lot here – a feast for your eyes, not something that you see everyday. And that is the point. Our current (changes on a regular basis) lobby floral display is not traditional, but rather an installation art piece of paper flowers. But look carefully, and you will see that the flowers are actually made from the maps that are used in our guestrooms. Or, the oversize Annie Leibowitz photo book in the lobby, designed to demonstrate the power of portraiture. In fact, everything has a place, and one element plays into the other. Together, we hope not only to make a lasting impression on our guests, but also to stimulate a deeper creative sense. We call this emotional luxury.
Does this creativity override service or get in the way of a service culture?
Not at all! We use our space as a creative base, but are dead serious about the delivery of outstanding service. Creativity is not a substitute for exemplary delivery, not just of the hotel basics, but going beyond.
When a guest is departing and asks for a wake up call, we not only make that call at precisely that time, but call back again ten minutes later to make sure they have not fallen back asleep (it has happened). Then five minutes after that call, we follow up with fresh coffee and, optionally, our croissants delivered piping hot to the guestroom.
Speaking of food, you have two, Michelin-starred restaurants here.
Food touches everyone’s lives. It is another dimension to demonstrate our emotive creativity. Our restaurants start with Stark’s design: playful, lively and feature-rich. The depth of detail is self-evident. This has carried forward into the menu design and the dishes served. And both of our two restaurants operate independently: one classically French, the other uniquely modern-Italian. Experiences in our restaurants respect the senses and contribute to our emotional positioning.
How do you translate this emotional luxury concept to your staff?
Training, learning and more training. Our staff meets and discusses all aspects of the guest experience on a regular basis. We work together to anticipate our guests’ needs, researching new arrivals and renewing acquaintances with past guests. Our database provides the foundation of our efforts to make their stay exceed expectations.
Speaking of technology, what steps have you taken to embrace the mobile era?
We have created our own mobile app. Multi-language, the app not only provides the basics, but also serves as the nucleus for the guest’s stay in Paris. In keeping with our creative core, users can find all they need to enrich their stay through galleries, museums, theatre and performance arts. And, of course, they can also link to all of the available attributes our hotel offers.
I read about your Art Concierge. Is this so that I can purchase the art that I see in my guestroom, the dining room or the lobby?
Not exactly. We do not sell works of art that form part of our private collection. Rather, our Art Concierge works with our guests to ensure that their artistic passions are fulfilled through our gallery or through many of the galleries (both public and private) throughout the city. If there is a particular piece that a guest finds irresistible, we will suggest close alternatives.
In your opinion, what differentiates Le Royal Monceau Raffles from the other Parisian palaces?
Each of the Parisian five-star properties has their own unique approach to luxury. Like any property worthy of that top-echelon recognition, each supports their concept of luxury through delivery of those little things that go beyond the basics, those unique touches that become exclusively theirs. We believe that our creative or emotional heart – and the support of this positioning through cuisine, service and décor – will form a lasting memorable moment for our guests – one that will generate positive opinions amongst their peers and strong repeat visit levels. If you are a five-star hotelier, or for that matter any hotelier, you need to find your own unique way to create an emotional bond with your customers.
(Article by Larry Mogelonsky, published in eHotelier on May 12, 2015)