The World of Hotels: A Conversation with Robert Nadler, CEO of Nadler Hotels
I’d like to share with you a very interesting conversation I had with an English entrepreneur who was raised in France and who’s created a hotel group in the United Kingdom after several years in the business world, where he had ample occasions to stay in numerous hotels. This is how he came to create his own hotel group from the basis of his own client experience. He is 100% client-oriented and every product and service offering that he has developed revolves around the needs of his clients. This might seem fairly logical, but it’s even more remarkable when it’s coming from someone who was not always a hotelier. He borrows some 5-star hotel codes for his 4-star hotels.
Basics for Hotels
There are certain things that I consider absolutely fundamental in the hotel industry. For instance, I hate leaving a hotel knowing that the room costs a certain price (100 euros, 500 euros, 1,000 euros… not too important, as the price of the room remains my personal choice), but that the bill includes an array of supplementary services that I didn’t even choose and that cost 5 to 10 times more than they should. The Wi-Fi, for instance, should be free, and yet many hotels still bill for the service. The same goes for the fixed line.
A favorite word among hoteliers is “monetize” (‘rentabiliser’ in French). As for me, my favorite word is “free.” I love offering things for free. We offer rooms at profitable rates for ourselves; this must be just as economically viable for clients. This means we don’t add small sums to their bill at the end. This kind of thing is . I think it’s better to pay a little bit more in advance but know that all the other services are free. When I first started out in the hotel sector, I remember that there were problems with the TVA because not all hotels were transparent. For instance, a room that cost 100 euros would actually come out to 120 euros at the end because the establishment neglected to mention the TVA in the beginning. This transparence is very important for the clientele. Today, it’s the law, and hotels have to declare TVA when they communicate the rates. For my part, I consider this part of the durability of the social environment.
Restaurants in Hotels
We want to be both good partners and good neighbors. That’s why we don’t have a bar, nor a restaurant, nor a gym. Why should I force myself to add a restaurant that could possibly go wrong and that might not be necessarily profitable? The majority of our clients don’t want a restaurant in the hotel. We prefer giving them other alternatives. For instance, our rooms possess small kitchenettes with microwaves, Nespresso machines, and filtered water (better than tap water or plastic bottled water). We encourage our clients to go buy their own food and help themselves to the kitchenettes in their rooms. There’s no problem doing so, unlike some hotels where clients have to hide their purchases under their coats. If the clients wish to eat something, we offer on our TV a list of places in London where they can order and get things delivered to their room—which presents a cheaper, more varied and quicker alternative to room-service. In the same way, we have around 20 restaurants around us that offer up to 30% discounts for our clients.
For breakfast, for instance, we offer delivery from a bakery café in Soho called Princi. Mr. Princi comes from Milan and is an excellent baker who offers high-quality products. For the delivery, we ask for a symbolic pound and we don’t make any profit, but as long as the client is satisfied, this is not our aim. Ultimately, this costs them the same as if they had gone themselves, except that they can enjoy it peacefully in their room.
It’s important to make life easier for the client and give them the liberty to do what they want. It’s a question of state of mind.
Your conception of sustainable development in your hotels
You have to be completely naïve to think that we can’t consider the environment as something important. In our establishments, we always take it into account.
We try to use special paintings on the walls. The lights all have to be LED; the heating and air conditioning installations are all conceived with systems relying on renewable energy; we try not to change the sheets every day; and we use recycled materials for construction. All of our hotels started out as old buildings that we took over and transformed into hotels. Last year, we were awarded a price for the best new building by the Georgian Group. What more, we were the second hotel chain in London to receive the golden certificate from Green Business Tourism Scheme from Visit Britain… We weren’t even members of Visit Britain, but they liked what we did so much that they came to express their gratitude to us.
Your hotels in a few words…
In a few words…… 4-star rooms and 5-star services at 3-star prices! We offer several ranges of rooms: for one person, 2 people, or families, with dimensions running from 15 to 30 square meters. When we have families, we don’t make them pay extra for additional beds. There’s no surprise on the bill!
We don’t have a concierge. This was our choice. Instead, we’ve developed a democratization of ‘golden keys.’ At our place, all of our employees are concierges. We’ve put in place a rather rigorous internal exam based on knowledge of the neighborhood as well on the art of engagement with the client. Those who succeed receive a badge as well as a higher salary. We call them “Local Ambassadors.” It’s an important role because this allows them to create a relationship with the client. The idea is to make the client want to come back to the hotel because he has the impression of having a relationship with the hotel. We also have other loyalty systems in place: we keep bottles for our clients, we offer embroidered bathrobes to regulars, etc.…
For me, what counts is not so much the number of stars as the reference sites like Trip Advisor. Our hotel in Soho is ranked among the top 15 favorite hotels by travelers in London over 1000 hotels. All this only proves that a system without a restaurant can still work. In the neighborhoods around our hotels in Victoria, Kensington and Liverpool, we are also surrounded by restaurants that offer perks for our clients. This also generates social permanence: we send clients to our partners. Our hotels are not only present for us, but also for other establishments in the area.
Everything that I put in place in my establishments are things that I would want if I were a client.
My hotels are located in England (3 in London and 1 in Liverpool). I would love to settle in New York, but this is a plan for the future. For the moment, we are still small; we only have 4 hotels in England, with 2 new ones coming down the line that we have been working on. Paris and Geneva are also cities that I like that I would love to create establishments in.
What are the coming challenges in the world of hotels?
The principal challenge will always be finding a good location. There is so much competition and residential alternatives that what could really make the difference is location. Then, I would say that it’s always the service staff: finding the right staff with a true quality of service is very important. The property has always been crucial. Today and in the coming years, what is different is the technology and the importance of remaining “up to date.” It’s an enormous challenge for our industry. There is a constant investment that must be done in technology, and because of that, it’s very difficult for small groups to go up and rival against bigger ones that have the financial means to create entire departments dedicated, for instance, to social media.
Laurent Delporte, an editor and conference speaker, is a strategic expert in the sector of hotels. A visionary, he brings his unique look on hotels in service to the decision-makers in the industry, whether to enhance the development of new projects or strategic visions.
Laurent has visited and audited over 350 hotels across the world and also participates in mystery visits to provide quality control for the world’s finest hotels.