Travel | Diary of a Somebody

Thomas Kochs – Day 1

Claridge’s general manager enjoys the culmination of a year’s work

Thomas Kochs – Day 1

December 18 2012
Thomas Kochs

Day: 1 | 2 | 3 | 4

I always start my day with a cup of cappuccino – it is a delicious way to get going in the morning. We have a Nespresso machine at home and I find the taste and quality very good. The next thing I do is to check my BlackBerry and review any overnight emails. Hotels are a 24-hour operation and guests and travel agents email their requests to me from all around the world. There is also a lot of internal email traffic during the night: I get reports from every department and I look at their individual performance. Once I have caught up with the world of Claridge’s, I take to my iPad and look at the front pages of the FT and The Telegraph to see any financial news that might affect our guests or impact business, and generally catch up with the headlines of the day.  

As it is Monday, I have a weekly early-morning project meeting at my new house. It is a wonderful project that we started in May and there is, finally, light at the end of the tunnel. Despite being a rather lengthy process, it has been enjoyable because I love creating things and seeing transformation. Today is all about bathrooms and fireplace details. Often I have to smile as I remind myself that I am working on my private home, not creating a Linley suite at Claridge’s. I have to control the hotelier in me. At Claridge’s we work with very precious materials, but I will tell you more about this later in the week.

I leave the house just before 8am, as I like to be in the hotel by 8.15am at the latest. I walk around the building to check that everything is in good order, have a quick conversation with my colleagues and get ready for our 9am meeting. This is a key get-together for communication. All departments are represented, and together we look at possible guest incidents that need following up, the figures and performance of the previous day and the outlook for the day ahead. We talk through our arrivals, flag special requests, discuss the restaurant bookings, understand the events that are on that day and any other business that may be relevant, and the department heads then communicate this to their teams. We do this twice a day, so that everyone in the hotel is always well informed.

This morning I have a lengthy conference call with our sales manager, who is based in Hong Kong, to discuss a trip we are planning in March 2013. This will involve events for top clients, travel agents and the press. Claridge’s has a worldwide network of relationships. Our business is well spread between the US, Europe, the Middle East, South America and Asia – where mainland China is becoming a growing market for us. I enjoy these regular trips across the globe, establishing new relationships and strengthening existing ones.

Today I have a fun lunch. It is rare for me to escape from the hotel at this hour, but I am going for a Christmas treat at Harry’s Bar with one of our best business partners. We are joined by a number of industry colleagues, and I enjoy having a moment to compare notes and exchange thoughts on the hotel business and trends that have developed or are about to emerge. All of us have seen celebrations and events picking up again this year. 

Besides this, I love Harry’s Bar. I find it one of the most special places and enjoy the way they do things there. The hospitality is incredible and the action in the restaurant fascinating, with the preparation of a lot of the dishes finished off at the table. It is white truffle season, so a beautiful scent lingers in the room – it is somewhat mesmerising. We begin with a glass of Dom Pérignon, and as I have my first sip I feel sure that a good week lies ahead. I start my meal with a scallop carpaccio with tuna tartare and drizzles of olive oil and fresh lemon. Simply striking. My main course is veal – the best veal chop in London. I recommend always leaving a little room for their unrivalled chocolate ice cream, which provides my chocolate fix for the whole week. The room is buzzing by the end of lunch, and I bump into quite a few guests of ours, all enjoying a festive moment.

On the way back to the hotel, I take a little detour through Mayfair. I love the way the area has developed over the past few years; Mount Street fascinates me and the buildings just shout history. The afternoon is spent with colleagues from our sister hotels The Connaught and The Berkeley, as well as the group HR director from our corporate office. We are working on a very interesting project about service culture. Service is at the heart of our hotels and is, in fact, our key “product”, so it needs to be constantly reviewed and evolved. Key to us is creating a sincere and meaningful engagement between the teams and our guests. You cannot just turn this on and off; it grows organically from the culture and spirit you have in the hotel. This is something I feel very passionate about and one of the reasons I am in this industry.

I have another meeting back at Claridge’s, but it is interrupted several times while I go to greet guests; this is an occupational hazard of hotel life, as things change all the time. We have a high number of regular guests here, and it often feels like friends coming home.

Tonight is a rather special evening, as the last episode of the BBC2 documentary Inside Claridge’s is being broadcast. We have been working on the project for the whole of the past year. I watch it with our hotel manager, Michael Bonsor, and some of my senior team. During the programme, the messages start to come in and we follow the comments and reactions on Twitter. We have been overwhelmed by the positive feedback, and are grateful for the many wonderful compliments our guests have been giving us.