July 25, 2021

The Peninsula: behind the scenes of the Parisian palace

This article is from Management magazine

Paris, 7 a.m. In the first basement of the Peninsula, in the Champs-Elysées district, Christophe Raoux begins his day. Meilleur Ouvrier de France 2015, the chef walks his immaculate outfit through a maze of corridors, walks past the fishpond, greets the florists who are busy in the cold room before entering the kitchens. At the helm of the hotel’s three restaurants – Cantonese, gourmet and French cuisine – he supervises a brigade of 114 cooks. “Every morning, I drop by to see everyone from divers to chefs de partie, then I check my emails before having coffee with my sous chefs.”

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TOTAL RESPECT. Christophe Raoux is one of the managers of the hotel who gets up the earliest … with Jean-Marie Kouyoumji, the director of accommodation, whose dark silhouette looms through the 800 suspended Bohemian crystal leaves in the center of the hall. The manager wants to arrive before 7 am because, he confides, “this is the time when the night shifts leave the hotel”.

It is 7 am and the employees in charge of the decoration are hard at work in a room at low temperature to arrange the bouquets which will take place at the reception.

© Eric Bouvet for Management

At the head of 200 employees, divided between room service, laundry, reception, concierge, valets and baggage handlers, this affable man, from Lutetia, makes a point of paying attention to everyone, without focusing on the only department heads. What matters to him is “to please”.

And in the luxury hotel industry, in search of absolute standards, employees are “as important as customers”. An affirmation in line with the line set by the owner of the premises, Sir Michael Kadoorie. This 75-year-old British citizen, who reigns over an electric empire and over the HSH (The Hong Kong and Shan ghai Hotels) group, values ​​this respect for both customers and employees, called here “internal customers”.

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HAPPY BIRTHDAY ! The organization of the day begins at 9 am, in the morning, the daily meeting of the heads of the accommodation, catering, communication and HR departments. In forty minutes flat, they share the useful information of the day. The figures first, with the occupancy rate and the results of the restaurant, kept confidential. Then the weather, very important. “If there is a risk of rain, you have to plan to equip the reception with umbrellas and notify the valets”, explains Jean-Marie Kouyoumji.

In the 200 rooms, including 77 suites, the smallest detail counts. The luxury hotel industry simply has no room for mistakes and everyone is there to ensure perfect service and please the customer.

© Eric Bouvet for Management

Then, individual customers. That afternoon, we expect two VIPs: the security men, 34 agents directly employed by the hotel, must be ready. Finally, it is the birthday of two collaborators, a maid and a butler. “If you meet them, remember to have a nice word for them,” said Sylvie Quintin, HRD, who continues on her monthly meeting with the well-being committee.

> The Peninsula, côté RH. 100 recruitments to be secured in 2017, out of a total workforce of 600 employees. The hotel sector has a high turnover (around 25%). 3 restaurants and 114 chefs offer Cantonese cuisine, French specialties and, at L’Oiseau blanc (below), facing the Eiffel Tower, a gastronomic menu.

© Eric Bouvet for Management

RELAX ARMCHAIRS. This time, the employees have the floor, one volunteer per department. “It addresses all the details or dysfunctions whose management can improve the lives of our employees,” says Sylvie Quintin. In a tense hotel market, where each brand is fighting to recruit the best profiles, you have to be an attractive employer. “The hotel is young and gives new recruits the opportunity to participate in the writing of a story,” continues the HRD in a somewhat agreed mode. In short: here, everyone has a chance to evolve quickly as long as they are motivated and enterprising.

The house promotes this state of mind by cultivating a benevolent management. In particular, it provides staff with a comfortable rest room, so that they can breathe during breaks. Mélanie Robert, one of the telephone operators, sometimes goes down there after lunch to read a book when others, behind sliding panels, prefer to rest in relaxation chairs.

In the meantime, Jean-Marie Kouyoumji returned to his tiny office, just above the concierge, to ensure his daily watch. On the screen, it monitors the rate of use and the marketing of rooms “in real time”. “I also follow the bill from customers throughout their stay. And I make sure that my reception staff have checked the validity and guarantees of the credit card. ” Do some residents leave without paying? “We try to avoid it,” replied the manager with a smile. Who also ensures that the brigade of thirteen concierges meets the expectations of wealthy clients. At the reception, Sébastien, 43 years old, including twenty-three in the luxury hotel industry, is adept at fulfilling the most singular whims: “We do the impossible … Unless a client asks us to go and fish a laptop lost during a cruise on the Seine. ”

© Eric Bouvet for Management

> Slideshow: Discover the 23 French palaces

RETAINING A PRIORITY! In the basement, it is the meeting of the catering teams: the chefs of the three restaurants, the pastry chef, the person in charge of hygiene and that of the equipment and the crockery pile up in a tiled office whose windows open on cellars. It is eleven o’clock. “First of all, well done! begins Christophe Raoux. We are 1 million euros above forecasts for restaurants. ”

Then: “Today, at the Lobby, we have a VIP, so we take care of him.” Important news is thus followed: the distinguished guest, the menu, the breakage of new bowls or the absent of the day. Then it’s the kitchen tour. “Customers are more demanding in a palace,” explains the chef, who has worked with the Intercontinental and the Alain Ducasse group. So you have to have the right people at the right time and in the right place. ” Not easy when the clerks and the heads of the parties only provide an average of two years in the house.

© Eric Bouvet for Management

To guarantee the loyalty of his cooks, the chef briefs them upon recruitment. “I ask them to alert me if they are considering leaving. If they play the game, I can help them, place them in a star or in another establishment. It’s a moral contract between them and me. ” Because the luxury hotel industry is no exception to the phenomenon of turnover (around 25%). Even if we are no longer in the rush to open – 500 people recruited in six months! Sylvie Quintin still plans a hundred departures this year. This will not prevent us from continuing to provide continuous service, twenty-four hours a day.

> Video. Who is Yannick Alléno, the chef at the two three-star restaurants:

Housed in a former private mansion, which also housed the Majestic hotel at the start of the 20th century, the Peninsula rivals the greatest Parisian palaces.

©The Peninsula Paris