It was also named among ‘101 Best Hotels in Germany in 2020’ by Handelsblatt magazine, Allgemeine Hotel- und Gastronomie-Zeitung (ahgz), IUBH International University and CKR Hospitality Consulting. Out of 8,000 star-rated hotels in Germany, Fraser Suites Hamburg ranked #42 out of the best 101 selected by a panel of industry experts.
Olivier Briand, General Manager of Fraser Suites Hamburg.
Fraser Moments chats with Olivier Briand, General Manager of Fraser Suites Hamburg, about the unique challenges of opening a five-star luxury hotel in a historic, protected building, how flexibility was key in managing Covid-19 impact and what it’s like for his hotel to be recognised among Germany’s best.
How long have you been with Fraser Suites Hamburg?
First, I come into work and I need to see that my staff are all able to work effectively and in proper conditions. When this is in place, then we can do a good job and we can take care of our guests very well. I’m quite hands-on and like to get involved in everything, not just with operations but also in sales, reservations – it’s a non-stop job, an ongoing process.
We are open 365 days a year. Normally. And I say that because this past year was definitely an exception.
In spite of what’s happening in the world and in our industry this past year, it doesn’t mean that we can just relax. More than ever, we have to make sure that we are following safety requirements but we have guests who are still paying to stay with us so we have to ensure our service standards remain high.
What do you enjoy most about your job? What drives you?
Working in the hospitality industry, everyday remains a challenge. There is no routine. So enjoyment in a hospitality career depends really on your personality. There are people who prefer the same routine everyday, something predictable, where they can enjoy their weekends, etc. I like the fact that in this job, no day is like any other.
Moreover, I love to travel and this career has allowed me to live and work in very different, very fascinating places and cultures in the world, where you can actually learn a lot.
Handling openings is also another aspect of the job which keeps me excited as each one always offers a terrific set of different challenges. You arrive in a new place, start from scratch and build a team around you.
What is also interesting with Frasers Hospitality is that with the different brands, you get the opportunity to work with different products. The variety and diversity are what keep me interested.
What is the most memorable moment of your career so far?
We’re dealing here with a listed property, a historic landmark building protected by German law under a preservation order or “Denkmalshutz”. There were so many strict government regulations that needed compliance. We have this beautifully preserved ‘grand dame’ so there was a lot of pressure – from the local Hamburg municipality for one.
One of the conditions the municipality insisted on during the sale of this property to Frasers Hospitality was that the product had to be not just five-star but five-star superior.
So we were under pressure to deliver that from day one. We had to be very creative, not only with engineering but in many areas in operations; many items had to be customised.
Working with Frasers Hospitality meant that yes, there are standards we have to follow but the company also allows the flexibility for you to give the project your own touch, which is something I really appreciate.
What were the factors that contributed to Fraser Suites Hamburg being named among the ‘Best 101 Hotels in Germany’?
It was such a wonderful surprise to be recognised because we opened in 2019 so the property had only been in operation for a little over one year. For us as a newcomer in the city and to the country as well – we are the first Asian five-star hotel company to enter the Hamburg market – it has been thrilling. To be listed as #42 in the 101 rankings and out of more than 8,000 star-rated properties in Germany is quite an achievement.
This recognition is all due to our staff, our real assets. Yes, the beautiful and historic building plays a role, the lay-out of our rooms, etc, but our staff are the main reason why our guest satisfaction ratings as seen in online review sites are consistently high.
Apart from evaluating guest reviews, the awards judging panel deployed mystery shoppers to experience the hotel and our restaurant, The Dining Room, without us knowing.
Food & beverage was also one of the award criteria. Our head chef Daniel Thompson who, in his previous lives used to work for luxury hotels but also for Queen Elizabeth II of England and Donald Trump’s Mar-A-Lago before he was the US president, is delivering an exceptional experience in our restaurant The Dining Room.
How has your role changed since the onset of COVID-19? What have you done differently to uphold the #FraserCares commitment?
With our #Fraser Cares commitment, we implemented a heightened cleaning and disinfection programme, as aligned with the group and with World Health Organization guidelines, in all areas of the hotel.
We had to re-think and adapt everything in operations in terms of safety and do it very quickly because our guests depend on us to keep them safe. This was well received by our guests.
The flexibility by our staff, when it was required, was tremendous, whether it was a shift in roles and responsibilities or timings, everyone readily adjusted and cooperated. I’m extremely thankful; there’s been some reduction in working hours but we’ve managed to keep everyone’s jobs. No one has been laid off, which everyone appreciates.
Once travel returns to normal, what are 3 of your top personal favourite attractions in Hamburg that you would absolutely recommend for travellers – and why?
Hamburg is known as the ‘Venice of the North’. Being French, I’m very passionate about food and dining and in this, Hamburg is now offering many tremendous options.
For dining out, the Speicherstadt Warehouse District is wonderful, or even if you simply wish to go for a stroll. Shopping is excellent and fun, you can find anything in upmarket shopping street Neuer Wall.
However, one of my favourite things to do in Hamburg is to be out by the water and going for a bicycle ride along the Elbe.