Sponsored by Hotelympia
Lorena Somera, the Capital, London
The boundaries of a job description seem inexplicable to Lorena Somera, who has devoted her career to delivering immaculate front of house service.
She has been a dedicated member of the Capital's team since 2003, when she joined as assistant manager. Somera now manages a team of nine and her leadership is legendary, both within the hotel and among the impressive roll-call of guests who have returned over the years. She is fondly referred to as the ‘auntie' of the hotel, where she is pivotal to all operations.
In her nomination, Somera's commitment and passion for her work was described as "truly inspirational". She is light-heartedly referred to as someone who can sell ice to Eskimos, with an innate ability to anticipate the need of the hotel's guests.
Staff turnover at the Capital is incredibly low, and all front of house recruitment begins with Somera. Her team are the primary point of contact for all guest enquiries and their subsequent relations with the hotel.
She constantly strives for customer satisfaction and ensures her team always receives the relevant training to enable them to deliver impeccable service. She was responsible for introducing the pre-arrival form into the reservation process, which has allowed her team to fine-tune preparations for individual guests.
Somera always goes above and beyond the call of duty. She has sourced huge supplies of lavender to create a setting for a marriage proposal, crossed London late at night for medical supplies and has discreetly taken a taxi to find a lost guest after a medical emergency. But she shrugs off these examples as part of her everyday life; to her, it is all just part of doing her job.
She demonstrates a fierce drive and ambition to make her team the very best, using daily situations as training opportunities. Twice-daily briefings are held, and she constantly looks for ways to make use of the skills and talents of her team. She encourages them to understand the guest experience so they are better equipped to explain or sell features.
The Capital has seen its up-selling revenue figures increase by 30% this year as a result of the training Somera has given her team. The management also pays close attention to the hotel's presence on third-party websites to monitor and review customer satisfaction. Somera introduced a strategy to increase the hotel's rankings on TripAdvisor, which successfully saw the hotel go up 60 places. It is now ranked 36th in the list of London properties (as of 17 November 2015), but Somera's ambition is to get the Capital into the top 30 by the end of the year.
What the judges said
"Lorena clearly stood out as a passionate front of house manager. Her focus on her team's development and customer service is a credit to the industry. Lorena ticked all of our criteria on customer service, team development and social responsibility. She is a passionate ambassador."
Clarisse Abbey-Blackmore, rooms division manager, Crowne Plaza London Docklands
"Lorena really is passionate about developing her team and creating unique memorable experiences for her guests at the Capital Hotel. Nothing is too much trouble; she truly cares."
Thoralf Kretzschmar, front of house manager, Lancaster London
"Lorena demonstrated an ability and willingness to ensure absolute care for guests and teams. She is a deserved winner in a strong category."
Andrew Toole, general manager, Jurys Inn, Liverpool
Amanda Cooper, Amba Hotel Charing Cross, London
Charlotte Oberg, the Soho Hotel, London
Lorena Somera, the Capital, London
2014 Thoralf Kretzschmar, Lancaster London
2013 Clarisse Abbey- Blackmore, Crowne Plaza London Docklands
2012 Rachel Thomas, Danesfield House Hotel and Spa, Marlow
2011 Joanne Alder, Park Plaza Victoria London
2010 Ben Seager, the Chesterfield Mayfair, London
2009 Ben Malpass, the Cavendish London
2008 Carly Taylor, Ston Easton Park, near Bath
2007 Felicity Wheeler, Four Seasons Hotel London