Post pandemic, which are the challenges you envisage as persisting? What about unexpected opportunities which have come up?
There has historically been a challenge with human resources in the hospitality industry in the UK. The reasons for this are varied and complex, and the pandemic and the realities of post-Brexit Britain have recently brought this challenge very much to the fore. I know that hospitality is the most wonderful, exciting, diverse sector, but its perception needs a boost, government needs to ramp up its support, and we, as hoteliers and restaurateurs, need to be creative to keep attracting talent into the industry. So in our sector, as in others post pandemic, having the right people with the right skills and the right attitude is our biggest challenge.
The pandemic certainly forced many brands, across a multitude of sectors, to pivot, to think of ways of delivering their goods and services direct to people’s homes either online or physically. We did both, creating Savoy at Home, when our culinary team created some wonderful dishes to be delivered. Simultaneously we also developed some really engaging digital events that combined quintessentially Savoy treats and experiences for clients to enjoy at home.
Outdoor dining was also an opportunity we seized enthusiastically and creatively. Solas, which ran from April to August, was a glamorous and wonderfully original venue that we developed in partnership with Bowmore in Savoy Court for the very first time. It was such a success, a beautiful location shielded from the elements, a great menu, delicious drinks and, of course, the best service. Now we know the possibilities of such a venue, you can expect to see another really wonderful outdoor experience in 2022.
How is the The Savoy positioned in London’s highly competitive luxury hotel sector?
The Savoy is very much at the top of London’s luxury hotel scene. The range of experiences you can enjoy, the quality and friendliness of the service one receives, the beauty of the surroundings, the wonderful dining and bar options; we really offer so much. Then you layer on top of this the history of this amazing building, the fact that The Savoy literally invented luxury hospitality in Britain, then you have an unrivalled experience. But, and this is very important for us to stress; while we are historic, innovation has been our watchword since the revolving doors first started to turn and to that end we constantly create new and wonderfully memorable experiences that appeal to a diverse range of contemporary audiences.
How has the luxury traveller profile changed? Do guests have different expectations? Can we conclude luxury is being redefined?
The word luxury can mean so many things to so many audiences and consumer tastes constantly evolve. The beauty of The Savoy is that it appeals to such a range of different audiences who all want to enjoy a taste of luxury; whether it’s an evening of creative cocktails or a week in our Royal Suite by Gucci.
For many of our guests the greatest luxury is time; time with their loved ones in a setting that is both gorgeous and relaxing. For others they want to indulge in the finest dining, the best wines, the more conventional trappings of luxury. Many are seeking unusual or rarefied experiences, exclusive access or connoisseurship and our team can deliver this.
There has been a general trend towards experience led luxury over the last decade or so and there is an increasing move towards ‘conscious consumption’, the desire that the purchases or experiences one enjoys are created and delivered in a sustainable and ethical manner. This we wholeheartedly support.
But with regards to a definition, to paraphrase Oscar de la Renta, ”luxury is not about buying expensive things; it’s about living in a way where you appreciate things, and everyone appreciates different things!”
Is there a set of essential operational measures to ensure that service is not perceived as being affected by the pandemic?
The essence of what makes The Savoy’s service so special is how it is delivered by the team. Their warmth, character, good humour and skills are unchanged by the pandemic. Yes, of course we take precautions for the safety of our team, guests and visitors, but we are able to be as discreet as we are rigorous in how we apply these measures.
Discovering, nurturing and motivating talent remains crucial. Tell us about your approach.
We’ve been actively hosting and attending recruitment events as well as advertising on the relevant platforms, so we’ve been very proactive in rebuilding our team. We also encourage our existing team members to look out for talent as they know exactly the qualities we’re looking for. The most important thing we look for is attitude; positivity, a desire to help others, a willingness to adapt and learn.
Then we have a really comprehensive induction programme so our new team members get to know all about the different parts of the business, as well as their own role. Training is, of course, everything, and we have training programmes tailored to different roles.
We promote a lot from within, so that’s obviously a good motivator, as are our internal awards, regular team meetings when we recognise the skills, kindnesses and exceptional service of our colleagues. We encourage and support individuals and teams entering awards and have a very well stocked ‘trophy cabinet’. But one of the biggest motivators for our team is actually our guests and how they respond, the sincerity and warmth of their praise. That, I think, for all of us at The Savoy, is the best motivator of all.
Luxury hoteliers in many destinations, urban or resort, still operate part of their accommodations inventory and with reduce staff.
Yes, we are reopening gradually, but as you saw yourself there is a very lively buzz around the hotel. I don’t think that anyone visiting now would feel that their experience was any less ‘Savoy’ than it always has been. But having said that, we are looking forward to reopening the American Bar and the opening of The River Restaurant by Gordon Ramsay. These are positive, exciting times for The Savoy!
Are guests still concerned about Covid-19 safety and hygiene measure taken by the hotel? How important is consistency when it comes to implementing such measures?
Guests are generally very confident when coming to The Savoy. They naturally expect us to take their wellbeing very seriously, just as we do. We follow the ALLSAFE protocols established by Accor, and are completely consistent in their application.
What are the key ingredients in defining your brand communications so that you generate desirability from wealthy travellers?
High net worth travellers tend to gravitate towards brands that have as much substance as they do style. They recognise authenticity and love heritage, but also want joy, fun and a lack of pretension. So the language we use and the tone of voice we adopt needs to be educated but accessible, clear, but warm. Visually we commission bold, stylish imagery and videography, but we are not afraid to be light-hearted at times. We try to remain true to our original brand DNA of setting new standards in luxury and creating genuinely novel experiences.
Do you think that properties of a certain size have an advantage or disadvantage in the recovery process?
This is one area where I am not sure that size matters! I think it’s more a question of having a well-established brand reputation to start with, coupled with a supportive ownership and a dynamic leadership team who can galvanise their team to be creative, entrepreneurial and engaging so guests want to come back time and again.
What about dining? To you also you also target non hotel guests?
Absolutely, afternoon tea is enjoyed in the main by non-residential guests, as are our bars. This summer our al fresco dining experience, Solas, was the place to see and be seen by a really diverse London audience, alongside our guests who loved it too. Our partnership with Gordon Ramsay also adds to our reputation as a destination for dining; The Savoy Grill has its loyal devotees and the soon to open River Restaurant by Gordon Ramsay will only reinforce our position as a place for vibrant and varied dining options.
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