When it comes to training its associates, JW Marriott does things a little differently – think waiters skilled in ballet and sommeliers who have become acquainted with the winemakers in Napa Valley. Here, we speak to guest services manager Sophie Denman at Grosvenor House, a JW Marriott Hotel, about how the luxury hotel brand’s approach maximises its guests’ experiences at its resorts across the world – and why they aren’t the only ones who benefit.
It isn’t every day that the words ‘approachable’ and ‘luxury’ sit side by side – still less so when they’re being used to describe a five-star Mayfair hotel, situated in one of London’s most desirable areas. That is, however, precisely the personable approach that the team at Grosvenor House, a JW Marriott Hotel, located on Park Lane, are expertly – and quite unusually – trained in.
Associates at the brand focus on providing enriching experiences for guests in a comfortable yet luxurious atmosphere, guest services manager Sophie Denman tells us. “We can truly be ourselves and have genuine relationships with our guests, but all the while doing what we do extremely well – creating lasting memories. Our aim is that anyone can walk into our hotel and feel comfortable the way they are.”
The enduring relationships that guests form with Grosvenor House are testament to the experience and service that they receive there. “Our property has been welcoming guests since 1929, so has been lucky to see multiple generations of families returning to stay with us,” Denman continues. “The lasting bonds that they have forged with different members of staff is truly wonderful to see.”
Recalling her own beginnings with the luxury hotel brand, Denman reflects on the three-month cross-training process that JW Marriott employs to provide its team with an in-depth understanding of the company.
“I started my time at Grosvenor House, a JW Marriott Hotel, by cross-training in its 22 different departments, from learning how to make a Smoked Old Fashioned in the Bourbon Bar to understanding a P&L statement in Finance, and exploring all of the hidden areas of the hotel – including the roof where there are spectacular views over Hyde Park and Mayfair’s red-brick rooftops,” she tells us.
JW Marriott’s cross-training technique not only means that associates are well-versed in all areas of the business, but also that they become familiar with their co-workers – no mean feat for a large hotel in Central London.
“My time spent cross-training was hugely beneficial from an operational point of view as I knew how all of our different outlets were ran, but also from a human point of view because I knew many familiar faces in our 500-plus associate hotel and their respective area of expertise and interest,” Denman says. “As the guest relations manager, I sometimes work with tight deadlines to provide the impossible to our guests, and I find it useful to know the right people to contact within the hotel. Achieving those challenges together and making our guests happy is the ultimate reward.”
“Our guests are accustomed to receiving the best service wherever they go, so naturally their expectations are set very high. They lead demanding lives and come to Grosvenor House with the intent of slowing down and unwinding,” she says of the Mayfair hotel’s clientele. “Time is their most valuable asset and it is our duty to ensure their stay is worth it.”
When time is of the essence, luxury at your fingertips is essential. Not only is Grosvenor House located on the doorstep of Mayfair’s wealth of shops and restaurants, and also close to many of London’s most popular attractions, but the historic hotel also boasts unparalleled amenities on site. The Park Room’s distinguished and seasonal afternoon tea, for example, is renowned. Set against the backdrop of Hyde Park, executive pastry chef Dale DeSimone serves up a tantalising array of sweet treats accompanied by a selection of Newby teas and the option of a glass of Ruinart champagne.
JW Marriott, however, does not rely only on its five-star facilities when it comes to maximising guests’ satisfaction. “Before the start of each shift our front office team will do a 15-minute training on a different topic, from Middle Eastern etiquette to the best Paleo-friendly restaurants in London. Our guests always seem pleasantly surprised when we can answer their most obscure questions without the help of our concierge team.”
It isn’t just the customers who benefit from the personal connections and experiences that the team at Grosvenor House begin their journey at JW Marriott with. “I definitely get more enjoyment working with people I am familiar with,” Denman tells us. “I think I have benefited from that training in ways that I can’t even grasp yet. The beauty of the hospitality industry is how diverse it is – in terms of cultures, educational backgrounds, areas of interests and age differences – yet we all come together with the same goal, to provide the best service for our guests. Each department and every person I interacted with had something different to teach me, verbally or not. One thing that stood out amongst all Grosvenor House associates was their sheer kindness and genuine interest in each other. I think that’s a vital personality trait to hold on to, no matter the industry or stage in our careers.”
Below, Denman shares her favourite spots to explore in London.
- Shepherd Market in Mayfair is a charming little 18th-century square, with a choice of great pubs and restaurants. It reminds me of historic London (Mayfair itself is named after the infamous 15-day fair that took place on the site that is Shepherd Market today). I love bringing people here for the first time as it’s such a hidden gem!
- Burlington Arcade in Mayfair is another historic piece of London. Built in 1819, it’s one of Britain’s earliest shopping arcades and full of boutique luxurious stores.
- Pulbrook and Gould is a gorgeous flower shop in the heart of Mayfair. With a rich British history, the store was originally established by Lady Susan Pulbrook & Constance Spry-trained Rosamund Gould in 1956 – they have have the most beautiful floral displays.
- Fabrique Bakery is a Scandinavian artisanal bakery just outside Hoxton station with hands down the best bread in London (try the cardamom bun too).
- The Geffrye Museum is just opposite and has a gorgeous botanical garden. They hold a gin festival (‘Let the Good Times Be-Gin’) every year which is always fun.
- Monologue on Redchurch Street is an amazing interior design and homeware spot. The Samphire candle is my favourite.
- Finally, my ultimate guilty pleasure is the salt-beef beigel from Beigel Bake on Brick Lane. It’s open 24 hours, and is well worth the queue.