ME London is the flagship property for the ME by Meliá group. The hotel is Foster + Partners’ first UK hotel project, and the first for which they have designed all of the interiors and exteriors.
Situated in Marconi House, the original London home of BBC radio, ME London offers a collection of 157 rooms, including 16 suites, as well as a two-floor penthouse in the turret of the building. We caught up with ME London’s General Manager to find out more.
LM: How did you start working in hotels, and do you have a particular role model?
GM: I started my career in hospitality 20 years ago, working as a Management Trainee at The Grosvenor Hotel, when it was still a Forte hotel, and I went through the Forte Training Management Program. My passion for luxury, in all its forms, began at an early age as my father was a Director for Chanel, Givenchy, Lanvin and various French Haute-Couture houses. I was therefore exposed at a young age to various elements of what elegance and luxury represent. I was drawn to hospitality, and in particular hotels, because I was always interested in hosting and entertaining people, as my parents did when I was young. And what better place to do it in but a five-star hotel (apart from your own home)? My parents were great hosts, so this taught me at a young age things like etiquette, protocol and how to warmly welcome guests. Then during my career, I was lucky enough to work with mentors like Philippe Leboeuf (now GM at Mandarin Oriental Paris) and Stephen Alden (CEO of The Maybourne Group). They are outstanding professionals that have an eye for detail, and an uncompromising passion for quality and superb service. I try to emulate them every day, with my own style of course.
LM: During your career, you have worked for several prestigious properties including The Ritz and The Dorchester. Are there any particular highlights?
GM: The highlights differ depending on the hotels I have been involved with. However, working with great professionals and amongst successful teams is what I enjoy the most, as well as being part of the history of certain landmarks of hospitality: The Ritz, The Connaught, Claridge’s, The Meurice and The Dorchester all have a great heritage and legacy. Opening The Chiltern Firehouse as the Managing Director was also an amazing past experience. Today, my passion for ME London excites me as I have been given the opportunity to make ME London the best hotel in London.
LM: You have recently been appointed the General Manager of the ME London hotel on The Strand, an award-winning design-led property. What are your plans for the development of this venue?
GM: Ever since ME London launched, it has been on my radar as ‘one to watch’ in London. I have an excellent team working with me, and I am looking forward to taking the hotel through its next stage of development.
I am excited to be putting my 20 years’ experience to use at a strategic level to help to continue to successfully position ME London as one of the world’s leading contemporary hotels and London’s most sought after place to stay in.
So far, the changes to ME London have all been about structure and setting expectations i.e. what’s acceptable and what is not in terms of standards and service delivery. The back of house areas have to be running tidily and efficiently before you tackle front of house. The next phase of development in the hotel will be to inject warmth into room décor and ensure that the packaging of services, such as room amenities, are executed in a way that allows guests to feel like they are unwrapping a gift. The soft touches and feelings of “surprise and delight” are things that I love doing in hotels like this.
Our plans for ‘Radio’ is to strenghten its positioning by particpating in international mixology competitions. As a team, our aim is for ‘Radio’ to be known as one of the best bars in the world.
The key words and elements I want to achieve at the hotel are: sophistication and elegance in an effortlessly cool environment.
LM: Who makes up your customer base and which countries do they come from?
GM: Our customers come from all over the world, but what they have in common is the desire to stay somewhere that connects with them creating memories and experiences they want to repeat time and time again. This is achieved through our team offering genuine warmth and intelligent interaction, as well as the hotel connecting with guests over their love of music and scents.
LM: Are your guests mostly staying for business or leisure?
GM: Both really, as London attracts both types in abundance. The key thing is that if they are here for business, they can also have fun!
LM: There is the stiff competition from other luxury properties in the area. What makes your hotel stand out?
GM: ME London is the flagship property for ME by Meliá. This means the hotel, in every way, delivers the core values of the brand including the first-rate service and design for trend conscious travellers. Each guest’s stay is orchestrated by the dedicated Aura Manager, whose job it is to know the city back-to-front and use this knowledge to make the hotel’s service truly bespoke, satisfying their wishes, anticipating their needs and connecting with each individual. The personal touches of our Aura service means guests receive an inclusive experience.
The hotel is also Foster + Partners’ first UK hotel project and the first for which they have designed all of the interiors and exteriors. The hotel’s interiors fuse contemporary detailing and classic traditions, with a dramatic monochrome palette, as guests move from dark to light spaces. This unique décor provides a very different feel and ambiance to any other central London hotel.
Our rooftop bar, ‘Radio’, has also established itself as one of the Capital’s favourite all-year round rooftop terraces. Its cloud skimming views span the heights of the City, Tower Bridge, Shard London Bridge, St. Paul’s Cathedral, Tate Modern, Somerset House, Southbank, London Eye, Houses of Parliament and the theatre district of Covent Garden. As well as a vibrant atmosphere, it has created the perfect location in which people come together to meet with colleagues, friends or family.
LM: What trends have you noticed in the luxury hospitality sector during the last 5 years? Have there been any significant changes?
GM: The key change for me is the fact that the power is now in the hands of our guests, which is the way it should be. It has gone back to the basics for hospitality and I am delighted this has happened. In a truly competitive world, we are differentiated by the way guests perceive their overall stay with us. We are judged on our facilities, and if their experience is what they were expecting, as well as if they receive requests or information in a timely manner. Although this seems a fairly simple concept, a lot of hotel operators have forgotten that is how they are ultimately judged. This is where we will make a difference as all our efforts are going to be driven by this philosophy.
LM: What do you consider to be the essentials of exceptional customer service?
GM: I believe in retaining values and practicing etiquette both at home and in the workplace. Some might describe me as an old fashioned gentleman in a modern world, where it is engrained in me to be polite, courteous and gentlemanly.
A high level of detail is very important in a luxury hotel environment as you need to know how to welcome people of status and understand the difference between how to welcome a Countess vs. an ambassador.
Speed is also key to exceptional customer service and ‘no’ is not a word in hotel vocabulary, because there is always a solution to a situation or request. My ultimate goal is to make people happy whether this be clients, guests, colleagues, family or friends – this is what hospitality is all about.
Another key component of customer service is to provide helpful assistance, as the willingness to please someone will be one of the lasting memories they take away with them.
LM: In your own time, Guillaume, what are your own luxuries?
GM: Time for me is the real luxury. There seems to be so little of it to do what you want with your friends, family, etc. Conviviality is something I cherish as again. It epitomises everything to do with who I am and what I do for a living.
LM: Do you have any favourite destinations that you like to visit in your spare time?
GM: I love to travel to new cities and to explore what they have to offer. Staple weekend breaks away, though, are Madrid and my home city of Paris. I love staying in great hotels where service amazes me, as I love seeing, witnessing and experiencing excellence. I also religiously go every summer to my mother’s beach house in the Bassin d’Arcachon, France. South Africa (Cape Town) is also a truly magical place where I will aim to go back as often as I can in future.
For more information on ME London, or to make a reservation, visit www.melia.com/en/hotels/united-kingdom/london/me-london