Culture Eats Strategy: A perspective on hospitality

10 May 2017

Culture Eats Strategy: A perspective on hospitality

We transport ourselves to the most exceptional environments the world has to offer.

Our stay may be for leisure in a far flung corner of the world, equally, it could be for business just off the M1. Lovely.

The place you stay could be a once-in-a-lifetime trip or simply a bed for the night yet, when you arrive you evaluate the environment against your expectations.


“Hotel, motel, Holiday Inn…” — Big Bank Hank – Rappers Delight

At Else, we believe if a brand is a promise made to people, then the experience is the fulfilment of that promise.

Monica Galetti & Giles Coren are running a series,”Amazing Hotels: Life Beyond the Lobby” on BBC. The show contains some of the most luxurious hotel experiences in the world and is chock full of stories about the staff. Of course, the buildings are spectacular. The material finishes are incredible. Yet, the fascinating thing is the role of the staff.

The stay is measured by the experience we have, and everyone within the property has a role in influencing that experience.

A well-rehearsed script/procedure is no substitute for a well-placed simple observation that is acted on. The only way to provide this bespoke service is through staff understanding their role and motivating the right behaviours.

A strategy not lived is simply a document. Really understanding people, what motivates them to be there and then helping them to provide the very best service is the key to success.

How might you gauge the culture?

  • Develop a detailed understanding of your experience. What is standardised or replicable and where are there nuances based on the region and people?
  • Do you see staff as individuals first or part of a slick and well oiled machine? How do they see themselves?
  • Assess how authentic you are? Do you do what you say?
  • Determine if a member of the public were to look at your brand strategy would they pick out ‘your’ words to describe their experience?

If the interaction with staff at check-in is minimal, how can the rest of the team help with ensuring the brand is felt?

We have been fortunate to work with hospitality brands at both ends of the spectrum and have noted the following themes:


The industry is buoyed up by people from all walks of life.

Entry level jobs are an area that you can easily transition into.

Acquiring and nurturing talent starts with showing people the trajectory for their career.

It may not be viewed as a job for life, or even scalable, yet the career progression opportunities could mean that they grow within the company.

Career paths that aren’t anchored to job roles, and instead, celebrate the skills they are learning, will help market themselves in future?

Recognise the right talent, support them and provide a reason to stay.


“People buy people,” is a phrase that is often touted.

It is true that sales and repeat business rely firstly on building a relationship and then evolving that relationship over time.

The challenge is time. Past check-in the touchpoints are fleeting. Employ the right people that will make something of a moment and teach them the skills to do the job later.


The gig economy.

A larger base you can call in on demand will enable people that have been trained across your properties to work for different ones as desired.

Could you change the way you employ your staff in the style of Rota or Task Rabbit?


This is where self interest comes in.

Beyond the verbose job description it is simply a paycheque. What is the benefit or the feeling of working there?

Is it a means to an end or is there a higher purpose?


People buy experiences not things. How can a hotel become a part of the experience?

The likes of Air B&B have focused on their people as hosts – can we create a platform for hosts to thrive? Local people, expert local knowledge. Where should you take a run, where is best for a meeting?

Can we move away from 1200 leaflets at reception and really try to understand what it means to be hospitable – this is after all, the hospitality industry.

So, in light of the high churn, especially at the entry level of the business it is important staff understand their role as the embodiment of the brand. How do their actions and decisions contribute the company?

How will staff be rewarded for going the extra mile?

How will we celebrate success and learn from the mis-steps?

Are people empowered to run counter to the script?

The brand is everything that the company is controlling about the presentation of itself.

For the intended experience to be felt, it must deliver on the promise that is made.

Your culture will deliver this.

Photo credit: Thomas Hawk Titled: Roll

26 April 2018 / 1:53 AM
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