Nothing is more nerve-wracking and then satisfying than opening a new hotel. Some gifted hoteliers spend their careers on opening teams, traveling the world to prepare properties and their teams for the big day and make the ultimate first impression.
Each hotelier has their own unique tradition to prepare for an opening – from meditation to wearing a lucky jacket or throwing a team-rallying crawfish boil.
HOTELS talked to five hotel GMs in the U.S. to learn about some of their traditions, techniques and strategies to prepare for a hotel opening. Today, we offer insights from the first two GMs based in New York City.
Peter Yeung, managing director, Walker Hotels, Greenwich Village and Tribeca, New York City
Before opening a hotel, I like to get familiar with the new layout and space of the property. My tradition has always been sketching out a floor plan so it is better ingrained in my mind before I take the helm and move into the hotel, so to speak.
More recently, I have made sketching a family affair by asking my two young daughters to help me and chime in on how to outfit the space with furniture. My girls feel valued, and that sketch turns into a piece of art that I hang in my office post-opening.
There has never been a hotel opening or renovation project that I have been on that has been perfect. If someone tells you that, they are lying. The best thing that you can do is to prepare, train, educate, motivate, empower every member of the staff. They must be empathic and very patient with guests when something goes wrong – and it will.
Have the team be a part of the solution. Give them full empowerment to make any decisions to resolve guest issues. This includes full financial empowerment. No approvals needed to do what it takes to make guests happy.
As the opening manager, you will not have all the answers to questions from your staff and guests. You will not have all the answers for your owners, construction crews, etc. You need to learn to manage these expectations, or you will find yourself feeling defeated or overwhelmed.
Anton Moore, general manager, Gansevoort Meatpacking, New York City
Fashion inspires me and my tradition involves a turquoise Tom Ford jacket. To me, there is nothing like wearing a beautifully designed piece to make you feel confident.
This one jacket I choose to wear for hotel launches because turquoise represents calm, compassion and communication – three important attributes that are required when opening a hotel. The fine tailoring and fit mimic the luxury experience I want the guests to feel while enjoying our property.
I once worked for a hotel brand that told us to prepare for each workday as if you are preparing for a first date. There is nothing more invigorating than a first date or an opening of a brand-new elevated hotel or product experience.
First and foremost, I think the most important thing when opening a hotel is to set expectations. Knowing that the first guest experience may not go as perfectly as you envision, I like to look at it as a learning experience. There’s no first perfect opening. It’s all about keeping a positive mindset and your team will follow. What do I do personally? A great night’s sleep.
Coming from an Irish hospitality family and my upbringing in the hospitality industry, it is my natural instinct to motivate the team or help them feel truly empowered. It’s my own personal drive and passion to ensure the guest has the most memorable experience possible. Therefore, I would like to think the team around me feels inspired by that drive and it empowers them to mimic my genuine and authentic drive for service excellence.
The biggest challenge I’ve faced was with opening luxury lifestyle hotels: there’s always the give and take over style and function. Working together with the design and operations teams to create the best functional and esthetically pleasing stylish product.