Personalization is paramount in a boutique property and it could be easily added as an adjective to all the other differences bellow, because it is what is going to define you as a boutique property or a wannabe (and we know how many of those are out there!). Never forget that every person (guest) likes to be treated as an individual, that has specific wants and needs, and it is your job (by definition of a boutique property) to cater to those specific/special desires. Demanding individuals will choose to stay at your boutique property because they feel that it appeals to their desire for a smaller, intimate and personal/bespoke environment. Working in a boutique property requires a different mind-set than the one of a larger chain hotel, and this is something that everyone should have present in everything they do, from cleaning a room, to the service in the restaurant/bar, to the recommendation of a day out on the town, to the up keeping of the property.
Photo: Herdade da Matinha Country House & Restaurant
You as an individual
It is about you as an individual, who has a personality, who has life experience, who is able to exchange thoughts/ideas/opinions in an intelligent manner, who is extremely engaging and can demonstrate that it is in their heart to be taking care of this particular individual in this particular property. It is not about making your job/life easier, it is about making that individual person (notice that I am not using the word guest) have a memorable time and leave with an ear to ear smile saying thank you in person to the committed, overly attentive and professional individuals that made it possible. It is not about calling the guest’s name 34 times in a day (like it says in the operations manual of the Ritz or the Four Seasons) or having an overly corporate/formal way of speaking or following the company’s rules and procedures like dogma or even relating responsibility when you are asked to take care of a request personally.
Photo: Solar Egas Moniz
Truthfulness in Guest interaction
Demanding individuals, who look and are willing to pay a higher rate to stay at boutique hotels, want to be interacted in a personal manner and not a “drone” outputting a recorded message. So many times when you stay at a large chain hotel, you feel like there is no soul in the way that people interact with you and you definitely get the feeling that they are just there because it’s a job and not actually care about you or about your stay. Everything that you do needs to be personal to the guest that you are welcoming to your property, and above all you need to be honest in the work you do. Honesty goes a long way, believe me and it will be very much appreciated by the person you are taking care of. At this day and age, everyone has dealt all kind of situations that allows them to tell from miles away when someone is not being true to you. From my experience guests appreciate honesty and forthcoming individuals that will not try to make fools out of them by “giving them the hotel excuses for missing service or for a bad recommendation just because that particular restaurant gives you a commission”.
Photo: Casas do Moinho
Team and Leadership Love
Successful leadership and teams in boutique operation are in symbiosis with both love hospitality and love working with people, balanced with execution. I don’t wish to say that you don’t need discipline, appropriate work procedures, goal setting, feedback, vision, team cohesion, strong role model leadership, but if your heart is not in it or you do not have the proper people skills you or you do not execute your job well, than the persons who are your guests, your team and ultimately the boutique operation that you are a part of will suffer. Boutique Hospitality is all about people, is all about relations between people, is all about how well can you make a connection to a guest or to your fellow co-worker (independently if you are part of the same team or not).It’s all about how well can you make true what you advertise that you do (your different personal hospitality ). If you are not in love with delivering quality, with being of service, in constantly thinking about the better welfare of your guests and your team members than your will never achieve success of effectiveness.
Character of the property
The uniqueness and character of the property comes hand in hand with all that I have mentioned above. It has to have something special and different about it, being it a heritage building, a contemporary design property or just an old house decorated with vintage flea market objects. Of course that you need always to have in mind the basis of the Maslow’s Hierarchy of Hotel Expectations when you are building/reconstructing a boutique property, but above all it need to feel personal to the persons who come to stay and enjoy it. It needs to say that every detail was thought of for a specific purpose, that the whole ensemble (being it similar or completely different) works in towards a well-defined “feel” and not just a mix match of furniture/decoration that does not work together or even worse that has no personality what so ever.
No one will feel special in a place that is not special in itself, and the sooner boutique hotel owners/operators realized this, the sooner we can see a cleansing of the description boutique hotel, which has been completely subverted in the last years…
Photo: Quinta da Dourada