Inside Claridges documentary – our thoughts

We’ve been asked by some followers of this blog to post about this TV documentary that’s been shown on the BBC for the last three weeks.  More importantly, we’ve been asked not to simply describe what’s been going on, but to comment on it.  So here goes….

On the plus side, the programme gives real insight into the nature of work in this kind of hotel property, and in particular the organisational culture of Claridges.  We need to be clear – this hotel is the most expensive in London, having achieved the highest average daily rate (ADR) in the city for the last three years.  So it is unique.   This high rate means that it can invest in its labour force – both in terms of quantity and quality.  It looks like they have a very high ratio of staff to guests, and it is clear from the programme that they have many long-serving employees.   This loyalty has created a strong relationship between employees and long-term guests, that makes the hotel almost like a club rather than a hotel.    It is obvious that this relationship, with the rich and famous, provides employees with a great deal of job satisfaction (as well as very good tips – something the programme has studiously avoided).

Less positively, how the hotel is managed and organised is as retro as the hotel’s decor.  Contemporary operations management principles such as lean, just-in-time and quality assurance are unheard of.  In some respects, the evidence is contradictory.  In this kind of hotel, you would expect the highly trained and experienced staff to be empowered to do whatever it takes to please the guest (as in Ritz Carlton).   And there is some evidence that employees feel that they are empowered.   But over and over again, the programme shows supervisors and managers going round inspecting and checking on everything that staff do – and without trust there’s no real empowerment.   Hence we suspect that the hotel is top heavy with managers.

Last night’s programme featured setting up a pop-up restaurant in one of their banqueting rooms.   It would probably make an excellent case study on how not to manage a project…  Management rhetoric about everything being planned was good – execution appeared to be lacking.

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