The real strength of a luxury hotel group goes beyond securing trophy assets in major destinations but it is also about the deep understanding luxury branding in hospitality, which is evolving and innovating despite many saying the luxury hotel sector lagging behind other luxury sectors, especially fashion. The same recipe of ingredients apply – a new hotel like a new fashion collection has to nurture a high desirability factor, which may come through innovation built on the DNA of the respective brand.
Much like a Chef, a Creative Director is expected to innovate using the highest standards of execution – whether craftsmanship or very specific elaborate techniques – in both cases using the finest raw materials / ingredients. Nowadays, a successful Chef not only leads but must also seek validation from the most loyal guest of the respective venue. Much like a fashion designer, creations of a Chef also rely on a beautiful story, the account of a journey of his or her personal experiences.
Luxury consumers are seeking and cherishing a lifestyle which they consider exclusive – whether it is a one of specially created meal or a piece unique watch or bag. What a better occasion than a superb lunch in DEESA, the fine dining gastronomic experience of the Mandarin Oriental Ritz Madrid headed by Chef Quique Dacosta, to show off the latest fashions – whether it is a dress, an accessory, a handbag, a watch or a piece of jewellery.
Young Michelin starred Chef Quique da Costa actually oversees all dining venues of the hotels and his dishes have garnered an uninterrupted admiration and appreciation of his cuisine at his first restaurant in Valencia. Deesa is the fine dining (gastronomic) restaurant with a superb outdoor terrace and outdoor open kitchen and Palm Court is an all day dining. A bejewelled success is an exquisite 4-5 guest tasting champagne bar – which has proven to generate waiting lists.
And this is what Mandarin Oriental Ritz Madrid saw as an exceptional opportunity, but very carefully scaling expectation through branding – this is not the newly renovated RITZ Madrid but instead one of the finest Mandarin Oriental Hotels in the world to which the RITZ brand was adding. A bold decision? A defiance? a constant generator of controversy?
Not at all, it reflects an exceptional execution of the project which was not a straight forward management agreement, but achieving RITZ Madrid to be co-branded property by Mandarin Oriental who would also operate the property took a very complex manoeuvre – almost like an art, but in business – years of possible scenarios, Mandarin Oriental identifying an ideal investment partner who would share Mandarin’s philosophy and vision.
One of the key questions to address must have been how relevant the property would be to the city beyond any pandemic, considering that until last year, Madrid did not have any high ranking niche ultra-luxury segment of hotels. Relevance is obviously about desirability and a constant re-invention, but also it is about profitability, i.e. Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group would need to show to orchestrate product development and pricing. and in the current context make sure it targets the right consumer. Above all, any such a complex operation must be profitable!
And careful deliberations and analysis. Mandarin Oriental Ritz Madrid, has decided to aim for the highest luxury positioning among any city hotel in Spain, also with the highest rates. I was amazed to see an entire generation having fun recalling memories at the RITZ Madrid.
Mention must be made that Mandarin Oriental still runs Barcelona’s undisputed finest luxury hotel, which enjoys an outstanding location on the prestigious Passeig de Gracia, the leading luxury high street shopping of Spain, a two Michelin star restaurant by a lady Chef Carme Ruscalleda who became an icon herself, a state of the art luxury Spa including a 20 metre indoor heated pool as well as stunning interior designs signed by Patricia Urquiola an award winning interior designer. Mention must be made that since opening, Mandarin Oriental Barcelona has had no direct competitor, creating a critical bond with the Spanish UHNWI consumers, and building a brand recognition which is essential now for the launch of the property in Madrid.
By opting for RITZ Madrid managed by MO, expectations must have been much higher (even if partly undefined, after-all this is one of three original Cesar Ritz properties in the world – Paris, London and Barcelona.
Similarly to the flawless artisanal hand-made materials of haute couture, personalised service is a must – of the highest standards, bespoke, attentive, intuitive and extended with a sense of unique pride by staff working for a Ritz. Already, Mandarin Oriental Ritz Madrid has a much higher ratio of staff per guest than any other Mandarin property in the world. Interestingly and maybe even intriguing is that none of the other RITZ Hotels in Paris or London would ever allow a modification of their name – by adding for instance the brand / name of a luxury hotel chain or group.
The choice of adding the Mandarin Oriental in the name of the Madrid property must not have come obvious and the decision must have been a most elaborate. Nevertheless, the final decision is evidence of the maturity and experienced Mandarin Oriental has solidly built globally, over half a century history. It also shows Mandarin Oriental understands precisely how to build on the evolution of the RITZ brand and take it into the future.
With the superb execution of the property and four years of patience, from day one of reopening Mandarin Oriental started rebuilding reliability and trust especially with hotel patrons. Delivering flawless service standards from day one since reopening has almost come effortless for Mandarin Oriental. The indoor Spa, the ultra-high-tech Technogym fitness studio and the basement heated indoor pool which never existed, are an architectural and engineering marvel – the building is a protected one.
Another important aspect in luxury is controversy – how many times, some of the richest clients of an Haute Couture staff would refuse a guest saying the ensemble would not good look on her. But they can propose an alternative. Saying no is part of luxury! Being sometimes arrogant is normal! But now during the pandemic, most chauffeur driven by a Maybach car is included in a price of a certain suite. This is a matter of safety, avoiding unknown taxis or Ubers. The same for proximity stars.
Mandarin Oriental Ritz Madrid looks and feels much younger than RITZ London or RITZ Paris, the brand allowing for more flexibility in many ways, but probably the biggest difference is that, like Hermes CEO says – the long term key to success in luxury is never take yourself seriously – dare to laugh and have fun !
For instance, collaborations or exclusive events – suite or two could be themed by prestigious luxury fashion brand LOEWE. I took so much pleasure observing a group of sophisticated ladies, all dressed up in the latest collections, laughing and having fun while sipping on a beer. A younger grand daughter was in attendance and was pointed out as the expert who would make online purchases during the pandemic which stores were closed. Their joy of life was infectious – interactive with staff – all less than 10 days from opening.
Another important aspect not overlooked by the visionaries of Mandarin Oriental Ritz Madrid (James Riley and Christoph Mares) – was that the property could be a fantastic school from younger employees of other hotels. There is a sense of pride which creates an incredible vibe.
Marketing, PR, social media are different – the page of Madrid being more teasing, eliptic, suggestive. Not to overlook, the hotel boasts all key pillars of a RITZ, a beautiful indoor pool and Spa and a weather permitting expansive terrace. With so many other hotels announced for 2022/2023, they may raise the bar for the 5 star hotels of the city.
With the renovation, the number of suite has been increased – bathroom are heavenly, and although manual, room controls are seamless. Beds are heavenly comfortable and there is much improved shower water pressure and impeccable and silent AC, not to mention indoor and outdoor soundproofing. The immaculate all-white marble bathrooms (underfloor heating) resemble more a private Spa, with luxury amenities by Barcelona-based luxury beauty brand Natura Bisse.
Arts, culture, architecture, craftsmanship, galleries, museums, shopping – Madrid has it all. And do combine it with a stay at Mandarin Oriental Barcelona – direct fast trains would take less than 3 hrs.
A big thank you to Greg Liddle, General Manager of Mandarin Oriental Ritz Madrid and Area Vice President (Madrid, Barcelona). Liddle was instrumental to the spectacular renovation / transformation of Mandarin Oriental, Bangkok, another Mandarin Oriental icon.
Oliver Petcu in Madrid
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