The ultra-luxury boutique Fauchon l’Hôtel Paris, at about 25% occupancy over the summer, turned a crisis into an opportunity to focus more on its guests, GM Jérôme Montantème said.
PARIS—With most hotels in France’s capital closed and resigned to sitting out the summer, ultra-luxury boutique Fauchon l’Hôtel Paris reopened in early July, brought back staff, kept rates steady and managed to offer guests more instead of less, even with only about a quarter of rooms sold.
The hotel’s GM Jérôme Montantème said he, his staff and, most importantly, his guests are happy with the results.
Loyal guests arriving to the hotel, which has 37 rooms and 17 suites, received the Fauchon welcome they have come to expect—a signature macaron and cocktail in the library—and a few extra surprises, including an automatic double upgrade to their accommodations (classic room to deluxe, and deluxe to suite).
The true luxury guests have enjoyed is more than what can be seen or tasted, said Montantème, whose entire hospitality career has been in the luxury segment since his start as a butler at Paris’ Hotel Vernet.
Luxury “is the emotion we’re able to create with all our clients,” he said, and that hasn’t changed as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.
“In my opinion, the actual luxe is not the gold in the bathroom or the size of the carpet in the living room. It’s all the emotion we’re able to share with all the clients coming in our hotel,” he said.
Hear Montantème explain, in greater detail, his philosophy about luxury in the video below:
The advantages that have helped Fauchon get by as others remain closed include a loyal, leisure and relatively local luxury client base. The hotel is located within view and walking distance of the Eiffel Tower and the Champs-Élysées.
In this Q&A with Hotel News Now, Montantème shared his strategy for operating during the crisis.
Q: What has it been like being open when so many hotels in Paris are closed? (Data from STR showed about 62% of the city’s overall hotel inventory closed as of July. STR is the parent company of Hotel News Now.)
Montantème: “We took the decision to reopen Fauchon l’Hôtel Paris before everybody, before all our comp set, first of July, and the restaurant 8 of June. … We took the decision that we would reopen the hotel even if it was only for five rooms. …
“This is exactly what we are taught: to recreate the life very rapidly, and to continue to develop the destination. And it has been a very good decision because we are more open than we expected. It was not only five rooms … it was between 10 and 12 rooms per day. We have people from France, from Belgium, from Luxembourg, from Germany and from England. …
“This was not the only thing we decided to do. We decided to invite our friends to arrive very early. So we say if you book the room for tomorrow morning, you can arrive at seven o’clock, your room will be ready, and you will keep the room as long as you want the day of your departure, so you can keep your room until 8 p.m. the day of when you will leave, and it will be our pleasure.”
Q: How has the service you offer to guests changed as a result of the lower travel demand?
A: “Most of the big companies said that with COVID, they would reduce the room (amenities), the minibar, etc. For us, the new protocols we are developing in the hotel are an exceptional opportunity to offer more service and more attention to our clients.
“Also, we have enforced the level of service (and) welcoming that we offered before. For example, in normal life, we never ask our clients if we can enter in a room; we knock one time, two times, we enter the room. With the COVID now, when the guests arrive, we ask them, ‘Do you accept that we will enter in your room or not?’ And if yes, ‘what time would you like that we enter in your room?’ …
“We have developed a huge sanitary protocol to make sure that our clients would be safe … which is the minimum because the security of our clients is the base.
“We are not responsible for the situation, so we have to take the positive side. If we can offer more to our clients, as long as we can, we will do it. We have no reason not to do this. It is a good opportunity to give more again, to be very generous, which is in our blood. This is not new or better, it’s an opportunity to be more again.”
Q: Have you had to reduce staff in line with lower occupancy, and if so, how are you able to still meet those guest expectations?
A: “We have reduced the number of staff … but in percentage versus our number of clients. … We need, in fact, more staff (per guest) to welcome the clients because the ceremony of the welcoming is reinforced. We need more to clean the room because with COVID, before we needed 45 minutes to clean the room; now we need one hour and 15 minutes. We need more staff to clean more often. Every 30 minutes, we need to clean all the public areas, etc.
“Something important is we didn’t reduce the price of our rooms, and people are able to pay more. It is what we have decided to do, and it’s a good choice.”
Q: How did you have to rethink hotel operations in light of the COVID-19 crisis?
“When we closed the hotel the 16th of March, really, it was so sad. … Two days after, we organized a board meeting with all the managers of the hotel, and we took the decision to work on two important things. The first thing is what we can do … to modify our organization to make sure that we could spend more time to pamper the clients or less time to do the boring, unconstructive things. The second thing is what we can do to give more again to our clients to make our clients happier than before. …
“We checked the concept of F&B, what we can change, what we can do to simplify the menu. We had a long meeting and thought about what we can do to develop our concept for the hotel … and we have developed a specific program that is called ‘Become the first,’ ‘Devenu le premier.’
The first step is ‘Be happy to make your clients happy.’ If you are not happy to make your clients happy, it is better to find another job. The second is the celebration. Fauchon is a brand (that) loves to celebrate the nice moments of delight. … The third is creating some attention. Our job is always the seduction, and if we want to seduce our clients, we need to have some specific attention (on our guests) all the time. …
“The fourth is exhausting the senses. Fauchon is an exceptional brand for many good products … some nice gastronomic product that you can find in the boutique … not only to the taste, also the smell … we have created a specific music. It is important to work on all the five senses.
“The last one is taking the liberty to be different. We took the decision to open a friendly hotel. … We have created such relations with our clients that sometimes we can’t make the difference between our personal life and our job. We have a lot of loyal clients who come back simply because we like to welcome them and to make them happy.”