Life Beyond the Lobby
Mrs N and I settled down the other evening to watch the new series on BBC2 – Amazing Hotels: Life Beyond the Lobby. If you’ve not seen it, critic Giles Coren and chef Monica Galetti visit some of the world’s most amazing hotels.
The first hotel featured was Marina Bay Sands in Singapore (if you recall a recent blog we signed off announcing our exciting expansion into Singapore), so we tuned in with intrigue and excitement as we had visited the hotel during our trip there over the New Year.
But what unraveled over the next hour, was a master class in Scale.
Located along the waterfront, Marina Bay Sands features three cascading hotel towers topped by an extraordinary sky park, ‘floating’ crystal pavilions, a lotus-inspired Museum, retail stores featuring international luxury brands, trendy restaurants, endless entertainment at the theatres, night clubs and a Las Vegas-style casino.
- 9,500 people work there, catering for one million guests every year
- The 12,400 square metres SkyPark is longer than the Eiffel Tower is tall
- An average person takes 20 minutes to climb the 55 floors of the hotel
- They use enough key cards every month to cover the distance of 7 full marathons
- It cost £3.5 billion and three years to build
- The Rain Oculus recirculates 6,000 gallons of recycled water every minute
- The jewel in its crown is the longest elevated infinity pool in the world, the size of three Olympic swimming pools.
- The business convention centre can host over 45,000 delegates
- And it was created as part of a government plan to triple tourist income to Singapore within ten years (the vision is to make Singapore a destination, not a stopover)
Now, the producers at BBC have been very clever in their selection of Giles and Monica as the intrepid explorers of amazing hotels; two characters notorious for being impossible to please. And with that came very honest reactions and observations. In fact, they were overwhelmed with Marina Bay Sands.
Overwhelmed not by the luxury but by the sheer scale of the what they witnessed beyond the lobby and behind the scenes to fully function at capacity – at exacting standards – without any wheels falling off.
Let me give you an example of when Monica went into melt down as she tried to get her head around what she was seeing.
9,500 workers need uniforms, smart, tailored uniforms. Employees do not arrive in or go home in their uniforms, nor are they required to clean them, because one of the hidden secrets unearthed in the program was the hotel’s high-tech uniform store, which supplies 160,000 pieces of uniform with 600 different designs. Each item is microchipped so when staff arrive, they head straight to their lockers (just the size you would see at a school but taller rather than wider), swipe their card and within seconds the door opens with their exact uniform for the day, all delivered by an automated rail.
As Monica looked like a chicken in headlights, we met the lady in charge of uniform; a little lady so calm, collected, in control.
She explained that the automated technology with a clear simple system does all the work. All she needs to worry about are new starters and any minor alterations.
Next, Monica headed over to the kitchens – her area of expertise after all. But once again, she was thrown into disarray and panic as the chef in charge calmly explained he has a 600-strong catering team servicing 60 restaurants ranging from Brazilian, Chinese and French to Japanese. He was totally unfazed by the demands of baking 20,000 rolls every day, the vast amount of stocks needed every day to meet demand, or producing an eight-course tasting menu for 1,400 VIP dinner guests that evening.
Because he has recruited experts specialising in the processes required for each area; fish prep, intricate art of dim sum, preparing duck with meat cleavers. They all worked to a system so the numbers weren’t an issue; whether they had to make 50 or 50,000 dim sums they had their process in place.
Finally, we see Giles trying his hand as a car valet in the 20-square-kilometre car park in the hotel’s basement. With a VIP dinner of thousands of guests in full swing, he was helping ferry drivers to deliver cars back to their owners within 7 minutes. After witnessing how busy the drop off point was earlier that evening, Giles went into a blind panic. He was driving a buggy like a mad man, was sweating profusely, he couldn’t even get his walkie talkie working. But the guy in charge of this entire operation was an incredibly calm and buoyant 32-year old.
Why so calm?
Each of his team had a role and each knew what their 100% looked like. They were all fully briefed ahead of the event. They had a clearly defined system for drop off and collection. They constantly communicated with each other for support and to see how they were doing against their alerts of 7 minutes.
Since airing, Monica has been honest with her experience of this hotel, saying in a recent interview:
“It’s not something I’d enjoy. It was very different to what I’m used to – I like to control every aspect of what’s going on in my kitchen, but that’s not possible when you’re working on that huge scale. It was incredible to meet the dim sum masters who take 10-15 years to learn their skills. There are also guys there who have the sole task of chopping chickens with cleavers – I was terrified attempting it. Prepping for 5,000-cover banquets is just not my idea of fun.”
But here’s the thing – the BIG LESSON from this – is that looking up at this vast hotel like Giles and Monica were – the numbers were simply too overwhelming for them to comprehend.
But all the staff and managers looking down from the top of this impressive machine are 100% aligned to its vision and they all have clear processes, roles and systems to support them. This is why they are not phased with the huge numbers of servicing guests, and this is why Scale at this level works.
For your own business it may look daunting climbing the mountain of Scale, but like the Marina Bay Sands looking down after the journey it’s always clearer. Keep the faith…