How to wow your clients: book Belmond Le Manoir
PUBLISHED: 10:46 20 April 2016 | UPDATED: 10:46 20 April 2016
© Thousand Word Media
Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’ Saisons’ beautiful hotel, restaurant and estate is not well known for its corporate offer. New general manager, Jan-Paul Kroese, is putting that right
There is hotel service. And there is Belmond Le Manoir service. Once you’ve experienced the latter, you will never be quite as content again with the former.
As I drive my little blue Fiat500 convertible into the courtyard of this beautiful hotel, the staff don’t bat an eyelid. I park next to an Aston Martin and no one suggests they move my car to the car park. I’m warmly welcomed and within a minute sitting down with a cup of tea and slices of nectar (lemon drizzle cake actually, but it tastes sublime). Outside, my car remains tucked up beside the car it would love to be when it grows up.
Visiting Belmond Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons, the hotel opened by Raymond Blanc OBE and which has held its two Michelin stars since 1984, is always an unforgettable experience. I’m interviewing Jan-Paul Kroese, the hotel’s new general manager, about Belmond Le Manoir’s corporate offer.
We talk first about the hotel’s service levels. “Belmond Le Manoir is the epitome of guest service in the UK. No one ever has to ask for anything twice.”
Offering high quality service is about emotional intelligence, explains Jan-Paul. “We try to understand what our guests want and anticipate it, without assuming anything.” It is a daily challenge, and it doesn’t come naturally with everyone, he adds. You have to recruit and train well.
It’s this incredible level of service that attracts companies to book corporate events here as they seek the same level of commitment from a venue as they provide in business.
“Our corporate clients are intelligent,” explains Jan-Paul. “Those offering fantastic service and products to their customers expect no less from those they choose to work with, and many companies have little time to organise events themselves. They are time poor so they are looking for a venue where the service is a given, and that’s how we offer value for money.”
The corporate market has moved on. Mid-market hotels can still offer a good deal, but more discerning companies want exception service and exclusive use. Belmond Le Manoir’s La Belle Époque suite is set away from the hotel on the other side of the courtyard, 20 steps from the main hotel, but a world away once you’re inside. It’s windows and conservatory overlooks a private garden separate from the rest of the hotel grounds. The dining room holds 50 and it has its own private kitchen. In fact it’s got two: one produces Raymond Blanc levels of gastronomic delight, and the other is home to the hotel’s cookery school, which can also be booked for corporate events.
And if a business wants to hire the entire 32-room hotel, that’s available too.
Belmond Le Manoir offers corporate packages, but they all end up being adapted to suit individual requirements. And the client works with one member of staff on the event, from start to finish.
Jan-Paul was previously general manager at Chateau St Gerlach in the Maastricht Area, Netherlands, but his professional life has taken him across continents.
In the mid 1990s he worked at The Okura Garden Hotel in Shanghai, China. “I arrived in China three weeks prior to the death of Deng Xiaoping and the country was starting to open up,” he says. “The Okura was owned by a Japanese company, a culture known for its high service expectations and I learned a lot.”
From Shanghai to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, New York and from there to the Sankara Nairobi Hotel in Kenya to direct the opening of this new five-star deluxe hotel. Then back to The Netherlands and the Château St Gerlach at Maastricht.
The Château is larger than Belmond Le Manoir, but also more remote. “Belmond Le Manoir is smaller but perfectly located,” says Jan-Paul.
More of a personal challenge for him, however, is raising the standard of an hotel which is already world class.
“I have big shoes to fill,” he says. “But perhaps one thing I can bring is my experience from all over the world.”
His previous experience will certainly endear him to companies seeking to entertain a global clientele.