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The Caterer

Better Business – Double Tree by Hilton West End

17 January 2014
Better Business – Double Tree by Hilton West End

Beautiful Bloomsbury is the London location for this hotel which, after its refurbishment, qualified for the DoubleTree by Hilton branding and increased its appeal to a much wider audience

Background

"I've been here for two years as general manager for this hotel, and now it's another DoubleTree by Hilton in London, owned by Crimson Hotels," says general manager 
Sandro Guadagnini. "In the past three years we've gone from strength to strength and re-established ourselves in the market. The branding has certainly helped drive things."

To meet the standards required of the brand, the hotel refurbished its rooms and made some structural changes.

"There were some things we had to do to qualify as a DoubleTree and some things we wanted to do," explains Guadagnini. "We opened up the front of the hotel where 
previously there had been a flower shop. The structural changes made the ground floor more appealing and user friendly."

The open frontage draws in passers-by on the busy Southampton Row, bringing trade into the reception and bar.

Target audience While the hotel had previously been leisure-based, the connection with DoubleTree and Hilton Worldwide has brought a wider range of clients. It now has a greater mix of leisure and business and more international visitors.

"We are well located for leisure areas, such as Covent Garden and the West End of London, but we are also close to the City," says Guadagnini. "The difference DoubleTree has made is to give us a wider reach and an international appeal. As it is better known in the US, that means a greater appeal to the North American market."
However, Guadagnini admits that these days it is more difficult to define the reason 
for a guest's visit as they tend to combine business and leisure. "The traditional booking 
systems of going through corporate bookings or leisure travel agents aren't always used, so it's more difficult to predict, but I would think 
we're probably 60/40 in favour of business 
travellers," he says. "People may come here for business, but they bring their partners. It's not black and white."

How do you stand out? Set in Bloomsbury, the hotel has the advantage of being surrounded by an array of garden squares alongside cultural and educational institutions. The building itself is also 
appealing, with an Edwardian faÁ§ade and lots 
of history. Meanwhile, the range of refurbished bedrooms all include state-of-the-art technology.

"In terms of how we stand out, being part of the Hilton engine is a great benefit. It has good distribution and brand recognition is 
significant," says Guadagnini. "The brand also gives us the standards that inform us on serving guests. We also have the CARE culture [Creating A Rewarding Experience], which is core to the DNA of DoubleTree by Hilton. 
It starts with the warm chocolate-chip cookie on arrival, which is the first thing a guest 
is given - it's a symbol of the warmth and 
hospitality that we want to extend to our guests throughout their stay.

"Empowerment is a key part of the CARE culture," adds Guadagnini. "New employees are briefed on it and what it means, and in their departments there will be some practical applications about how it would work. My personal expectation is to treat people like you want to be treated."

This means from front desk to housekeeping, employees are empowered to react and shown how sometimes just little things or acts will leave an impression and make the 
customer journey easier and smoother.

Guadagnini says: "The important thing with the brand is that people have expectations of a certain type of service. The warm cookie is the tangible part of that."

Marketing To drive sales in food and beverage in particular, the hotel engages with the community as much as possible. "We have a local sales department which is out and about, speaking to corporate companies," Guadagnini says. "We also have a busy bar lounge, which is directly off the street. People come in for a coffee or a drink as we offer free Wi-Fi. This also attracts people for informal business meetings."

In terms of offers, the hotel runs any 
promotional offers in line with Hilton's activity. Though with 216 bedrooms running at 91% occupancy, there is no need to cut prices to chase customers.

The future Crimson Hotels, the owner of DoubleTree by Hilton London - West End, runs six other branded hotels in England and is always interested in growing the portfolio, according to Guadagnini, who is also responsible for the DoubleTree by Hilton London - Victoria.

The Bloomsbury hotel has just launched
a weddings package, having been granted a wedding licence last year. "We haven't hosted a full wedding yet, but we have hosted a 
number of receptions," says Guadagnini.

The hotel also offers afternoon tea, which is constantly being tweaked to make it more interesting and differentiate it in a crowded London mid-afternoon market.

The same evolution is in place with its events facilities. "We're also looking to remodel the hotel and add a new meeting room and an apartment," says Guadagnini. "There is always change going on. Our conferences business is an established channel for us, but we're always looking at doing things differently and improving so we don't become stale or standardised."

Best business advice For Guadagnini, looking after your guest properly builds loyalty and will serve any business well. "Try to engage with guests and understand what they are looking for," he says. "The modern business traveller doesn't have complicated requirements. But doing the basics really well is often the best approach."

Spotlight on the brand
Being part of a global hotel brand brings certain expectations, which helps maintain consistency of product and service, believes Guadagnini.

"There is great support from Hilton in terms of helping us be consistent with the brand standards," he says. "We get guidance in terms of these standards, but also in
how to do a great job with our guests."

The standards are all the things you would expect of a really good hotel: how to engage the guest, delight them and impress them with excellent service. "We have access to guest satisfaction surveys too, which gives us guidance on, for instance, how we can improve our breakfast further," he adds.

"The commercial engine is a significant part of the attraction as a franchisee."

Sandro Guadagnini's Revelations

Favourite hotel? La Residencia, Mallorca

What book has inspired you?How To Win Friends And Influence People by Dale Carnegie

If you weren't a hotelier, what would you have been? I never thought of doing anything else, but I think being an architect would be interesting

Describe your business in five words. Stylish, caring, current, real, agile

Facts and figures

General Manager Sandro Guadagnini

Annual turnover: £12m

Staff: 85 + housekeeping

Number of rooms: 216

Occupancy: 91%

Average room rate: £135

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