Industry Update
Opinion Article12 April 2016

What Do the World’s best Hotels and Hoteliers have in Common? Part 1 – The Brand Basics

By L. Aruna Dhir, A Hospitality & Feature Writer and Columnist

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The business of hoteliering dates back to the time when the first explorer trudged into a strange, undiscovered land and, wishing to put up his tired, over-wrought feet on a comfortable bed, sauntered into a kind man's front yard seeking a bed for his body and bread for his hungry stomach.


Or perhaps, it all began with the wandering cowboy in the Wild West, who wishing to escape the law, sought refuge on the top floor of a drinking salon, paying for the shave, rounds of drink and a meal before he rode off. Whatever may have been the first reason for its genesis, man soon realized that this was a lucrative business that he could get into.

With need-based evolution, desire-led ideation and reacting to the diversity in the market mix, hotels have developed into several brand types and niche categories.

Regardless of the type and slotting into stars, the best hotels in their own coves have a common thread running through them. The world's best brand leaders seem to share some common aspects that set them apart from the hoi polloi that dot the global hoteliering landscape.

Here are some of the 'basics' that make the best establishments stand above others –

1. Business Acumen

It is only comme il faut that one must build upon one's knowledge and experience to such levels that egg you on to do inspiring work. So, if you wish to create brands and run them as successful and profitable places then you must know your business like the back of your hand. There is need to know your market, understand your customers, run parallels with competition, comb the globe for inspiration, not be scared of treading on new pastures, stoke your drive for innovation and entrepreneurship and evolve your uniquely, outstanding product.

Knowing your business also extends to knowing your guests extremely well. When you consciously rely on word of mouth recognition as against paid publicity, it becomes extremely essential to be clued on to your guest profile, their characteristic and differentiating facets, likes and dislikes. So, whether it is serving whole fruits instead of sliced because guests like it so, putting a hot plate under that personal pot of coffee, increasing healthy choices across all meal options, adhering to a no-alcohol policy even at the expense of foregoing profits because guests wish to 'live' in a quiet, serene and peaceful ambience; World's best hotels employ a pronounced 'outside-in thinking.'

In the course of my working with hotels, I have seen legendary owners get down to the Housekeeping basics as and when the need arose. I have noted entrepreneurial General Managers know as much about ducting and laundry machines as about the food and wine. And the guest has definitely been God whether it is the individualistically iconic Aman Group or the template-benchmarked Four Seasons or the service-trendsetting Ritz Carlton. From Cesar Ritz, Conrad Hilton, Bill Marriott to Jay Pritzker, Biki Oberoi and Adrian Zecha – these legends have known their business so well that they have envisioned way forwards and outcomes, set trends and spelled out how hoteliering should be conducted. Therefore, in order to be a consummate hotelier you must endeavour to know all. No piece of information is too small and no responsibility big enough for you to learn and handle.

2. The A Team

Could you win any combat just on the basis of a great war strategy (think Brand positioning here) and a very able General (think top leadership) if your henchmen and foot soldiers failed to toe the line with their loyalty, commitment, passion, hard work and astuteness?

Ask any well-bred hotelier and they will tell you about the million battles they must meet head-on, all in a day's work. A hotel job is inundated with gazillion crises that must be fought and smoothened in little time. This would not be possible without enlisting the moral, physical and cerebral support of a committed and qualified work force.

Your dedicated team comprised of happy, satisfied and trained staff are the biggest reason that will make your hotel stand out and above the competition when most other parameters are more or less the same – you know the set of services, the offerings, the linen, crockery, bathrobe, technology, even the plush airport pick-ups.

As an Owner / Manager, always endeavour to keep your team happy, satisfied, motivated, committed, enthusiastic, conscientious and yes, crisis-ready.

Ensure this and you have a dreamboat to navigate.

3. Great F&B

Food at the place must be such that people travel from far and wide just to experience the culinary marvel that the Hotel can proudly boast of. And the world's best hotels have that.

Is the food at your place so great that it becomes a sight that guests must visit to see and an experience that they wish to make that special trip for? Think Tea at the Ritz, Brunch at the floating Jumbo restaurant in Hong Kong, a once in a lifetime meal at the now closed elBulli by Ferran Adrià!

Food is, indeed, the other pivot on which your success story can rest. If you do great food then there is a lot you can get by. Guests will happily dine at your restaurants, will entertain proudly at one of your crown jewels, chat with your chefs, get enamoured by the little stories you weave around your ingredients, how they are sourced, how they blend into your majestic presentations, the appeal of your culinary craftsmen and the superlative taste most of the items on your menu promise to leave on the discerning palate.

Great set of restaurants, strong focus on food quality, plating par excellence and taste including an above-par Room Service will help in entrapping even the toughest of guests and bind them into your fold.

The good food crafted by trained hands and delivered by guest-oriented staff is a great strategy for winning and keeping guests. Rustle up food lores from the historical annals of the culinary fare you serve, create your irrepressible food scents around your specialities popping out of your specialized boulangerie, patisserie, delicatessen, let the guests eat out of the hands of your rocking F&B star team members, proudly present a wine list that is the talk of the town, get a mixologist to train your barmen to become blending masters. The opportunities are endless and serve to work as a sensory binding of the guest loyalty for your brand.

These three then – the core of business and its overall nous, the dedicated team and outstanding Food & Beverage – have been refined and polished by the World's best hotels to build up their own benchmarks and best practices. They have developed such exacting standards that easily put them in the league of extraordinary gems in the hotel business worldwide.

L. Aruna Dhir

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