I met with Offer Nissenbaum, the Managing Director of Peninsula Beverly Hills. Mr. Nissenbaum has held this position since December 2007, before which he was Regional Vice President of Operations for the NYC-based Omni Hotels, overseeing eight properties on the East Coast. Most recently, Offer received the coveted “Hotelier of the Year” Award by Virtuoso, a prestigious global organization of luxury travel specialists.
Peninsula hotels possess a unique identity among the great hotels across the world. Formed in 1928, the group relies on prestigious establishments across 10 large cities: Hong Kong, Shanghai, Tokyo, Beijing, New York, Chicago, Beverly Hills, Bangkok, Manila, Paris, and soon London (in construction). The Peninsula label is synonymous with luxury, comfort, and unparalleled service. The ambition of the group remains very high and always places firm demands to enthrall its clients.
I leave you to discover my interview with Offer Nissenbaum below on the art of welcoming at Peninsula Beverly Hills.
What is the art of hospitality at Peninsula Beverly Hills?
The welcoming process in our hotel starts even before the guest arrives at the hotel. We have a team of staff who will find out what the guest really wants—the reason for their visit, what their needs are—even before they arrive and will then customize their experience according to their wishes and needs. Once they have determined that, every guest that arrives to the hotel is escorted to an in-room check-in so that no one has to wait at the front desk. Their personalized, monogrammed pillow cases are waiting for them in the room so they know that we’ve waited for them, they’re special, and they’re unique to us.
We will then have specific amenities in the guest room that are geared to what they want. So if someone is health-oriented, we will have fruit, snacks that are health-oriented; if someone is a wine lover, we would put a wonderful bottle of red or white wine. So it will be specific to their needs and wants. We will then assign them a particular individual in our staff who will be their point person for all their needs. We will also make sure that all their transportation needs are taken care of, their dinner reservations, their meetings that need to take place. We spend time with the guest to ensure that their arrival experience sets the tone for their experience in the hotel throughout their stay.
How do you define a team success?
We take the hiring process in the hotel very seriously. It’s very long for the reason that we want to employ individuals that are inherently, in their DNA, people that want to please, people that get satisfaction out of service. So we don’t hire people based on their experience. We hire people based on what’s inside their heart, what type of individuals they are. Are they going to be successful in our environment and our culture, which are completely focused on the guest experience? Does it make them happy to please people? We then do extensive training: how to approach a guest, how to understand each guest, the psychology of each guest. Some guests want very little interaction, other guests crave a lot of interaction. How do we identify that? How do we address and behave with the guest according to their needs? We focus on training the right individuals who really care and don’t treat it as just a job for them. In our hotel, if you treat it as just a job because you need a paycheck, you will not survive because it’s so intense in terms of the guest experience. We then make sure to provide for those that want that; we provide opportunities for advancement. We really take a lot of risk in certain cases by promoting people to higher and better opportunities within the hotel, and if we can’t find something within the hotel, then we are very quick to be able to transfer them within the group to other Peninsula hotels so they can get an opportunity to rise up the ladder. That is a very big motivating factor for our staff and our team. We are constantly interacting with our team just as much as we do with our guests. We have one-on-one meetings with our staff. We learn about each employee: what they want, what’s important to them, what motivates them. We spend time with them so that they know they are a very important part of the whole experience of the hotel.
What are the biggest challenges for luxury hotels?
Luxury to me is the ease of doing business, the ease of check-in, the ease of the services in the hotel. We have already started a process in our hotel that no one else does, which is that you can check in or check out whenever you want. All you have to do is let us know ahead of time. An 8 am check-in in the morning is guaranteed, a 10 pm check-out at night is guaranteed—at no extra charges. That to me is luxury. That to me is where we are going for the future, where traditional check-in and check-out times are wiped clean. It’s about the guest and meeting their needs for the check-in and check-out process; it’s about the ease of doing business.
It’s also about technology that is easy to use and not overly cumbersome, not the kind of technology that might be great but that might take someone with an aptitude for computers to be able to understand how to work it. The ease and simplicity of technology in the guestrooms, as well as the quick and fast process of checking in and out of the hotel. It’s also about the services: how you prepare the food for guests.
In the future, I don’t think there will be menus anymore on the table. It will be about what the guest is in the mood for or what he likes that day. Do you want a healthy lunch, do you want a seafood dinner, do you want a steak? Every guest in the restaurant will be able to order a custom-made breakfast, lunch or dinner and not be confined to a menu. In the future, it will be about the ease of getting in and out of the hotel to avoid traffic through helicopters and other vehicles that are much quicker, faster and more efficient.
Known for his international expertise on luxury hotels through his magazine, Laurent Delporte shares his vision and experiences in the world of hotels on his site DELPORTE Hospitality. He decodes the behind-the-scenes action in the sector: from food and beverage facilities, accommodations, architecture, to the quality of services. He offers interviews, advice, and articles as pragmatic resources that industry professionals and private individuals can refer to in their search for information.