A Conversation with Robert Nadler, CEO of Nadler Hotels

Robert Nadler, CEO of Nadler Hotels, founded his hotels using inspiration from his personal experience as a hotel client. I met Robert a few days before the opening of one of his latest hotels. Openings are a very special and intense moment for the owner. I had the pleasure of discovering a side to the hotel before the grand hour and live out the incredibly dynamic atmosphere with his teams preparing for the opening.

We had a lively conversation on the notion of service and the art of welcoming.

Your Definition of the Art of Welcoming

I’ve been lucky to work with some fantastic people. They know how to be friendly but never overly familiar. There is a boundary that shouldn’t be crossed. You should never be best friends with a client. You have to be genuinely friendly and sincere. An important word for me is “engagement,” to understand the client, learn about what he’s looking for, how to get it, etc… I was recently in a very fine hotel where the employees were relaxed, dressed in young, trendy styles, with very stylish haircuts. I was there with my wife; we were in our 60s, so not young at all. The staff team addressed us with “Hey guys, how are you?” This doesn’t work for me. We are not best friends. If the client wants to be best friend, that’s their choice, but the staff team must keep a certain distance while politely greeting the client and remaining well-intentioned. I love the word “well-intentioned.”

Being well-intentioned is about observing and making sure everything is going well. Insuring that the client feels comfortable.

Absolutely. But it has to be authentic. Otherwise, it won’t be meaningful. In the U.S., they say, “Have a nice day,” which is a phrase that means absolutely nothing. You have to be sincere when you ask a client, “How are you?” or “How was your stay?” The English welcome is very friendly while the French welcome is professional and involves more distance and formalities. Personally, I look to strike the right balance so that everyone feels comfortable—the young as well as the old.

Sometimes, I find that there is a more generous aspect to the French art of welcoming compared to the English art of welcoming. In France, for instance, you don’t have to pay extra for bringing an infant, but in London, you often receive an extra charge. Generosity in the hotel world is a very French value. Our hotels strive to be generous with the clients in order to make sure their stay is satisfying. It’s an important defining quality that sets us apart from other hotels in the U.K.


The Human Touch in the Service

First off, you have to work closely with the staff team. This is possible when you only have a few hotels. My personality is different from that of the majority of other hoteliers or businessmen: with me, it’s not just a question of money. Making money is not what interests me the most. What really interests me is creativity in business and the relationships that I develop. For me, the staff team is very important: I love working with people who are happy and passionate about what they do. Because when you’re not happy, it’s difficult to work well.

My priority is taking care of the client. Money comes afterward. I’m a man of business; I’ve led many different companies, one of which was a publicly listed company that I ran for 15 years. I have put processes in place to manage my staff team in order to take care of the client. What’s important is that the staff members feel comfortable and take pleasure in their work. We give them many liberties, but we also have bonus systems that allow them to earn more throughout the year in order to inspire and motivate them. We have contests for some (internal contests that reward those who sell the most rooms, for instance). Then, each month, if the revenue is above a certain level, we give out a bonus and offer all employees what we call a “crispy”: a 50-pound note. A note like that always brings joy, so I like delivering them personally.

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