Wednesday, 12 June 2013


So you think it is the Italian marble, German bathroom fixtures, Peruvian pink salt in the baths, rarest of rare wines and whiskeys in the cellar and mini-bars, insanely expensive gold leaf on your dessert or the adorably exotic white truffle shavings on your risotto, the finest Egyptian cotton with the perfect thread count, perhaps Cor silver soap cradled in the rich inlay-work dish nesting in a supremely scented bath zone! Or perhaps the plushest mattresses and themed pillows to tantalize your senses and shoo away all the stress, the breathtaking architecture by some of the world’s best architects, vintage bed that was once used by a royal family, ancient and original lithographs that adorn the rich walls, location within a palace or a national park or at the edge of a mountain or the fringes of an ocean.......................that make a brand what it is and make the hotel stand out and over its competition!

Then you couldn’t be farther from the truth. It is the dexterous hands, pegged to perform personalities within the sound bodies and happy feet that dance enthusiastically to the drumming of duty. It is the fully committed characteristics and a trained, positively inclined, responsibly ticking brain that guide our Hotel Brand Ambassadors to make the real difference between the ordinary and the awe-inspiring, the mundane and the magical, the lazily common and the effusively enchanting.    

Let’s learn about the remaining five Brand Ambassadors and their superior powers -


Eating out is such a mega business and a major need / entertainment for us that these fellas, with neat aprons tucked at their waist and neater smiles sweeping their faces, have a whole lot of relevance in our dining-out times.

Personally for me, and I am sure for a whole lot of you, a good waiter is the hallmark of a good restaurant. He can make an experience reach a crescendo of satisfaction or hash it up into such a terrible incident that you would vow never to return. The server, who you meet at the entrance of the restaurant by happenstance and who escorts you to HIS table, can either serve you with delight on his deftly supported platter or can pour water over your excitement just as easily and carelessly as he would drop the bowl of curry at your table.

A good waiter will direct you to a great table with the best view, will shield you from unnecessary noise when you seek peace and quiet or point you in the direction of pulsating activity if you so desire. He will tell you what’s good, bad and ugly on the menu and offer you value for money. He will assist you in making a sensible choice in combinations, portion size, courses, wines, dessert. He will bend over backwards to get the chef to tweak his recipe to suit your palate and divide the portion by half or quarter or whatever funny size you wish it in, without as much as a grimace.

If you are a repeat guest then he will greet you by your name, would have memorized your pet’s name too, would know all about your preferences, likes, dislikes and allergies. He will announce the new arrivals on the menu, recommend the best and take you discreetly away from any bad decision you are about to make. He will be kind, courteous, pleasant and prescient and will be genuinely grateful for your visit. What’s more, he will not judge you by the tip you would have left behind. The Room Service server will be even more clued on and sincerely bring to life the over propagandized hotel maxim – a home away from home.

A bad waiter will be an absolute antithesis of all the above, will rant about you in a bad-natured manner and will bitch hugely behind your back.  


In my PR experience with hotels, I have found that the chefs are your best bet as media talents to showcase your hotel. They are the most sought after by the media for any number of stories they may be doing – from pure food to lifestyle to an expat’s view of things.

Chefs are always the celebrities amidst hotel teams. They get photographed, written about, interviewed on television and some lucky ones get to have their own columns and shows too. Such is the aura around them that one of my chef colleagues went by the creative pseudonym of Chef Picasso. As a PR lead, I have reaped rich benefits in exposure for the hotel I have represented through these wonderful people in their immaculate whites.

The media loves them; but the guests love them even more. Think Alain Ducasse, Marco Pierre White, Jamie Oliver, Anthony Bourdain, Ferran AdriĆ , even Gordon Ramsay!

Chefs lend their charisma and inimitable character to their teams, kitchens and restaurants. And great chefs always have the guests eating out of their hands. Aficionados are known to choose hotels just on the basis of the chef who wields the ladle at the place.

Talented chefs are not only great culinary artists but also excellent in their PR skills. They hobnob with the guests, get to know them and their predilections well and have such a following that it makes the job of the Sales, PR, Guest Relations, Front Office resources a lot easier. They seduce the taste buds and loyalty of the guests with sheer magic of their prowess over the pots and pans and all that cradles within.


I was once on the change agent team of a hotel that was being re-launched as a new product. We were keen to have some of the seriously respected travel writers, editors and reviewers give us five stars on their FAMs and inspections with us. The first one was a feisty lady from the United Kingdom who has built her reputation on respect and credibility and is feared by hoteliers for always telling it like it is. While the hotel buzzed in excitement preparing for her imminent visit, we were done in by that ill-trained Housekeeping Attendant who left not just dust but the villainous duster in the suite that the Editor’s hawk eye did not fail to miss. The ratty rag and the errant hand behind it pulled our rating down to the negative; the Editor promising not to return in a hurry delivering the final blow to our efforts and our collective esteem.

The Housekeeping attendants, laundry valet, personal butlers, the Chambermaids are the critical cogs in the wheels which must be kept well-oiled to take the hotel cart onward and forward. There is no scope for any of these significant ambassadors to drop the ball of work excellence fuelled by brand standards and guest expectation.

Films like Pretty Woman (again!), Dunstan Checks In and Home Alone – to name a few – have painted funny caricatures of staff that have shown their brands in poor light by their sloppy dispensation of tasks, misfit mindset and greedily extended palms that the guest is pestered to grease with a forcible tip.

On the other hand, well-trained team members from these essential functions with their commendable service and sensibility, have been the saving graces when the hotel has faced extraneous competition. They, with not just their commitment to the job description as set within the brand practices but by going willfully and gladly beyond the brief and call of duty, can be credited for retaining the guest and his loyalty with the hotel. Go, pick out any guest feedback book and you will instantly know what I mean.

Hence, it is extremely important how you kit out your ambassadors physically; but much more significantly - mentally and attitudinally.

A guest’s stay is so much more than the location, the building, the view, the magnificent wine list and the Michelin-starred food. At the end of the day, it is how all this is packaged and gift wrapped in the finest silk of service and tied in neatly with the bow of stellar performance provided by the team members from Housekeeping, Front Office, Food & Beverage Department, Banquetting who are always in direct contact with the guests. No amount of advertising, direct or indirect marketing, promotions and brand endorsements will save your skin if the guest does not experience a high level of operational efficiency exhibited by such shining stars of hospitality. Once you ensure that, the guest himself will become a willing part of the word-of-mouth buzz and vibe that gets generated and that usually snowballs into large numbers and larger profits.


I stand corrected! It is the Sales point of contact that is the very first interface between the hotel and the guest. Even before the guest lands, the Sales resource has set the ball rolling, established a connection, pre-sold the virtues of the hotel, Skype-d with the guest where necessary so as to turn the virtual into more tangible, sent reams of information and contracted mutually beneficial rates. The Sales team excels in creating an atmosphere in which your Brand values can fruitfully thrive.

Hence the Sales team members must be smart, suave, smooth, sharp yet sincere, sensible and sensitized to the guests and the business environment.

Besides, it is the Sales team that the guests feel a right to complain to. It is they who spin around like an unstoppable top between Rooms and HK and F&B to ensure that the stay is glitch free and that the guest feedback is happily shared amongst the team and not dissected masochistically in the morning briefing.  


We must concede that the behavioural chain reaction starts all the way from the top. In fact, it is an established fact that the top leader’s qualities percolate down and seep into the mental nooks of the employees and the physical crevices of the building to take on the shades of his personality. Hence it is much more important to profile the right leader and then allow him space to rev up his engines and manoeuvre his plane towards commercial success and job / guest satisfaction.

There are all kinds of General Managers who run the show – from abysmal to awesome. I cannot forget the GM of the Marriott in Washington DC who took away my damaged luggage and assured me that it would be repaired suitably by his team, while he spent precious time away from his busy schedule to brief me on the award-winning aspects of his brand. Much like him, his team members – from the lovely PR lady, the refined Rooms Division Manager to the starred Chef and the knowledgeable F&B Director - showed delight in meeting a guest and went all out to make my stay immensely pleasurable. They all seemed to mirror the GM’s personality traits which he had blended well with the Hotel chain’s values.

Then there was this Gentleman who kept apologizing for bad service in his restaurants and rooms, unacceptably bad behaviour by his staff that had no guest focus or job orientation and the general dismal state of affairs that was found in abundance at his property. Little did he know or failed to acknowledge that the buck stopped with him and that he was making a mess of managing the hotel.

To broadly define the types, there are the global leaders who love fair play and encourage amazing environment for growth and development for their teams; which the guests can instantly pick up and rejoice in. Then, there exist the control-freak, megalomaniac terrorists who create such an atmosphere of fear, power-broking, apple-polishing and de-meritocracy that the guests immediately sense the rot in the system and the rancidity in overall staff deportment. The General Managers have been famously or infamously known to attract guests to the Brand or Pied Piper them away to Competition.     

The bottom line of your hotel is directly impacted by the bonds you build with the guests and how you bind them - with your employee-centric best practices - into your brand’s fold.

In hotels, the significance of the outer personality meshed with inner base of skill, know-how and nous is to the power of ten as compared to a lot other industries. From hair to head and what lies within, face to frame of mind, appearance to attitude, gait to gumption, character to couture in brand attire, affability to availability for long, long hours, patience to penchant for finding excitement in the monotonously mundane……….. the hotelier must be able in mind and capable physically to walk the tight rope with as much flair and panache as exhibited by a sterling circus trapeze artist.

If I love The Pierre so much to this date and have made it my Preferred Hotel in New York then it is not the 30th floor Princess Suite with the breathtaking view of the Manhattan skyline that I stayed in and all the other uber luxe trappings from soap to shoeshine; but the champion employees – the enchanting Doorman, the cheerful Concierge who exuded his Brand’s warmth, the well-informed Front Office Assistant who took time and pains to urge me to skip the City Bus and take a Walking Tour, going that extra mile to write out an elaborate route map so descriptive and easy to follow that I am yet to see a better one. 

Let us, then, endeavour to have these Brand Ambassadors work in tandem with the Brand and the demands of business and not move against the current.


PS - Picture courtesy - Google Images

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