In the General Manager series I am doing for Kiwi Collection, I am catching up with heads of hotels for some unique insight and perspective. For my first post, I had the pleasure of sitting down with Fabio Gallo of ME London, which is set to open November 8.
What is the most unusual thing about ME London?
Definitely the Atrium – it’ a 9-story pyramid and absolutely mind-blowing! Some people say it’s a waste of space and some people say it’s absolutely genius. I think it’s absolutely genius.
What is your hotel’s unique selling point?
I think we have a few. First of all we have a building dating back to 1864, when it was the Gaiety Theatre, so it has a great historic connection with London and in particular the theatre scene of Covent Garden. And then of course it was re-designed and re-built entirely by Foster & Partners, one of the world’s top architectural companies in the world, which makes it extremely unique. Also, from a product perspective, we have some incredible restaurants that are destinations in their own right. Overall, our main offering is a truly unique experience for our guests that includes exceptional service, proximity to world class destinations and our outstanding Aura experience [moods, music, scents, food concepts, and more customized for each guest]
Who is your hotel’s ideal guest?
The ME guest is not necessarily a young, hard partying type of person but a culturally evolved traveller who moves comfortably around the world, but also works hard. An international traveler with a strong cultural background who likes music, modern art and innovative design.
You are opening in about a month from now. What challenges to you see for the first 6 months after opening?
I do not see any challenges. We have an incredible product run by an incredibly motivated group of hotel professionals with international experience. We look forward to welcoming our first customers so we can deliver the promise of unique guest experience.
Which elements will let the guest realize that he is in a ME hotel?
The main driver is the service. It’s certainly more informal and less stuffy than some of our competitors but still extremely attentive.
Which part of the hotel is your personal favorite and why?
I am in love with London and so I love the views from our Radio Bar on the 10th floor. If you look south over the river you can see all the landmarks and at night you have them all lit up, it’s just priceless.
Do you have a favorite room?
The rooms on the 8th and 9th floor with their balconies and views over the Thames certainly have a particular edge. What I normally do is try to stay in every single bedroom and take notes. I have my own checklist but I also take notes based on what the guest experience should be in every single room.
Which is your favorite spot nearby?
Somerset House, probably one of London’s best kept secrets with its excellent exhibitions, is just next door and a great venue. It’s worth visiting, and not only during Fashion Week. I also like the new London Film Museum in Covent Garden. Covent Garden Market is just 2 minutes from the hotel on foot. What I love about this area is that there is so much going on so it’s great to just walk around and discover all the theaters, art galleries, restaurants, and pubs.
What is the one thing some hotels overlook the most?
The focus is very much on service but service does not necessarily mean creating an emotional connection with the guest. We try to create that connection with our guests, on a one-to-one basis, which can make a huge difference. It’s not just the technicality of the service delivery but it is the human side that will make the difference. If you can create that connection, the guest will never forget you. ME is a personality driven brand and our process of recruitment shows that a lot. Of course technical skills of the individual are important but the personality can make a difference.
Which hotel – apart from your own – do you particularly admire?
There are a few I like, particularly Ca’Sagredo, an old palace that was refurbished and they have done a fantastic job. It’s close to the area where I grew up in Venice, opposite the Rialto Fruit Market on the other side of the Grand Canal. That is a hotel that touches me, not only in terms of my roots but because of the way they deliver service, it’s traditional but relaxed at the same time. Without sounding biased, but I was in love with ME Madrid before being approached for this position and I had a connection with that hotel. I really love the ME brand and how they deliver good service in an informal fashion.
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