HM continues its special feature series showcasing excerpts and entertaining tales from ‘The Grand Life: Confessions of an Old School Hotelier’ – a new memoir trilogy by legendary international hotelier, Patrick L Griffin OAM.
Patrick Langley Griffin OAM grew up in the post-war years of a gloomy Britain in the 1940s and 50s. His career spanned fifty years as a hotelier in hotels across the UK, Europe and Australia. His story is populated by famous and infamous people, as well as tales of all the staff he worked with, full of laughs, tears and crazy behaviour. His memoirs are full of humour, candour and genuine empathy for the common humanity that binds us all.
In fifty years I have witnessed and adapted to enormous changes in our industry across social, legal, commercial, and technological spheres. Through no fault of our own, the world threw any number of challenges at us: airline strikes, postal strikes, emergency service strikes, natural disasters, terrorism, and global financial crises. As hoteliers, it was our job to handle it well and look after the guests as our first priority.
My career has been primarily with two companies, De Vere Hotels in England for over twenty years and Orient-Express Hotels, Trains & Cruises (OEH) for a similar time here in Australia. Both groups comprised very unique hotels, with quality service front and centre. Managers ran them almost as owner-operators, retaining their responsibility, individuality and autonomy that rendered the hotels highly sought-after. Then the accountants started to call the shots, and uniformity was deemed to be more cost efficient. Unfortunately, this also led to blandness, which was anathema to me.
J.B. Sherwood (owner of OEH) summed it up. In life today we are confronted with so much mediocrity. In an age when everyone is deluged with homogeneous brands, I have liked to create the special. There is a real unfulfilled need and desire to experience it.
Creativity and individuality are what characterise a great hotel. Stifling this leads to unhappy and unfulfilled staff who become robots with little acceptance of responsibility. My thinking may be outdated but – as with many things in today’s world – I would simply ask the question ‘have we gone too far?’ in allowing systems to take over from humans.
George Rafael in 1986 developed another iconic brand of hotels under his name, eventually selling them in 2000 to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group. He was a passionate hotelier with a belief in service, and I always remembered his exhortation: “Computers have a major place in our hotels, but as the manager – for God’s sake, get out from behind them, and out in the front of your hotel and meet your guests. Without them you wouldn’t have a hotel!”The Grand Life: Confessions of an Old School Hotelier
Each of the three volumes of ‘The Grand Life: Confessions of an Old School Hotelier’ are available as an e-book, by print on request and will soon be available as an audiobook. For more information, CLICK HERE.