After a soft launch last October and a post-lockdown opening in May, new-build hotel The Guardsman has been going from strength to strength. Located just around the corner from Buckingham Palace, the hotel has already garnered rave reviews and an impressive list of loyal regulars. In this week’s extended read, Eva Mount, General Manager at The Guardsman talks us through life behind-the scenes at this luxury hotel.
Read on to get behind the scenes at The Guardsman, or download the pdf below to read the story on the go.
The most unusual thing I’ve had to do this week is find a central London dog groomer. We had a long-stay guest check in with us for 85 nights, and they brought their dog along with them. When they booked in, I asked them their dog’s name and they said, “No hotel has ever asked me that before!” I’m a dog lover and have a dog myself, so I know how important it is to make someone feel like their pet is welcome too. We went out and got treats, a blanket and a dog bed, all personalised with the pet’s name. Of course, we also picked up some chocolate and flowers from Fortnum & Mason for the guest, too. We tracked down a good groomer and a vet, which isn’t something I’ve done as a GM before! It’s all very hands on, but that’s what we’re all about.
We know guests by name, not their room number. Considering we’ve only had guests in-house since May, it’s amazing that we’ve got so many regulars, but I think that’s a testament to the personalised service that we offer. We’re always trying to think about what will make a stay special for our guests. We’ve had 90% occupancy of our residences, and we get so many recommendations by word of mouth thanks to the bespoke service. Recently, one of our long-term guests wanted to host a dinner party in their residence. They wanted to serve up something quintessentially British, so our chef made a Beef Wellington especially for the party. Well, he made two – naturally, we had to conduct a thorough quality check before serving one to the guests!
Detail is so important. The hotel has been so thoughtfully designed, which lines up with what we try to do in our service here. The décor is a contemporary take on the art deco style, which is very different to a lot of other hotels in the area. The colour palette is soft and there’s lots of wood panelling. The design has really looked at how to make each room individual and bespoke to that space: each bathroom is different, every desk is different, the wardrobes and desks were all made individually for each room. A large selection of rooms have floor to ceiling windows so they’re bright, and there are gold net curtains which from the outside look like normal net, but when the sun comes in, the rooms are full of a sparkling light. We asked for fragrant plants like lavender to be planted on the terraces, so that when you’re sitting outside in the evening you can smell the terrace as well as see it – it’s all lit up at night.
We’ve filled the hotel with British designers and suppliers. We have British-made bathrobes and cutlery; our lighting is provided by Tom Dixon; our desk sets were made for us by a British leather company called Tudor and our crockery is made in Stoke. Even when buying gifts for our guests, we’re always trying to buy British. We have a lovely regular guest who has been staying since the summer – he recommends us to all his colleagues, friends and family. Recently, we gifted him with a beautiful, monogrammed wallet and iPhone case, both from British brand Aspinal.
Hospitality and catering need to lead the way when it comes to sustainability. As well as buying British and sourcing things locally, we’ve put a huge focus on reducing our footprint as a business. We’re working with suppliers to ensure that we don’t have any single-use plastic in the hotel, and everything we purchase is either recycled or recyclable at high percentages. We don’t buy in boxes and boxes of cleaning products in plastic bottles – we use a hospital-grade cleaning system which involves treating water and using special refillable bottles. We were quite shocked when our first orders arrived, as we found that so much was wrapped in single-use packaging. We had to go back to our suppliers and talk to them about avoiding single-use plastic, and where they can’t do that, we’ve gone elsewhere. Even our bin liners are washable! We have bamboo room keys, which look great and are recyclable too. We avoid using too much paper in the room, so all the information you need is on the TV screen. The power in each room is controlled by the key, meaning we’re not wasting energy when a room is empty. I think it’s easier to implement these things when you’re first opening a hotel as you can set the tone – introducing new processes to an existing hotel, or any other business, can be difficult because people are used to doing things in a certain way. But our impact on the environment is only going to get worse if we don’t try to challenge the way we’ve always done things and hold our suppliers to account.
The perception of a career in hospitality is changing. I think people are finally realising that you need to be skilled to be a head waiter, a sous chef, a chef de partie, a breakfast chef, or to run a hotel. In the past, I don’t think working in hospitality was seen as skilled labour, but that has changed and salaries are reflecting that. You can make a good living from hospitality, and it can be an interesting area to work in with a good work/life balance. That can only be seen as a good thing for us. As an industry, we need to continue to build the industry’s profile, getting it into the public eye. We just need people who have that drive to give service and we will train them up and give them the tools they need to succeed.
The thing about London, and about hotels, is that they always bounce back. We’re part of Preferred Hotels and one of the taglines is ‘We believe in travel’. London is just a fantastic city to visit and it’s an amazing city to run a hotel in, the business always bounces back. It’s been amazing to see how well our occupancy has recovered. It’s just been extraordinary to see how quickly the business has started to grow, and to see the hotel getting these regular guests that want to come back again and again.
It’s the little touches that you always remember. I’m from Dublin and the best hotel there was always the Shelbourne Hotel. It was like my mum’s local café when she was growing up, and she always talked about it so reverently. In later life, I’d bring her for lunch there and she’d say, “Oh! They treat you like royalty!” It’s that special treatment that sticks with you. Recently, one of our guests at The Guardsman ordered room service for dinner. When the waiter went up, they noticed that the guest’s child was sitting in their bathrobe all ready for bed, so the waiter offered to get them a hot chocolate and some cookies. The next day the guests were over the moon with how thoughtful the waiter had been – kids remember that type of thing. It’s so lovely to see the culture amongst our staff beginning to evolve: staff want to do more and more for our guests, and are always trying to think of creative ways to make their stays special.
You can find The Guardsman at 1 Vandon Street, SW1H 0AH. Book your stay via the website: www.guardsmanhotel.com