When He Walks Into A Hotel, The Langham CEO Watches How Long It Takes For Staff To Open The Door

Langham Hospitality CEO Robert Warman

Hotel doorman, be alert.

The new boss of the Langham Hospitality Group, Robert Warman, is watching as he steps out of the cab to stay at your hotel. What happens next will set the tone for his entire stay.

Speaking to Business Insider during a visit to Australia as the Langham Sydney closes down for a four-month, $30 million refurbishment, the Chicago native who signed on as CEO in March said it all begins with the welcome.

“The arrival becomes the essence of all of it,” he said. “Everything I need to know happens right out the front. I always start watching, how fast do they open the door?

“I know how long it should take. If it takes longer, I already start moving down to dissatisfaction. I’m sceptical. What’s going on here? Is it too busy? Are they not paying attention?

“It’s all about the arrival.”

That sets the tone, Warman says, and how you feel. “I’m on a high and until you do something to drop me down, I stay there.”

“If I feel bad, it just goes downhill – you have to try so hard to lift me back up that it becomes impossible. You have to have one of the “Wow!” moments to get me back up. The easiest thing to do is open the door and say ‘Welcome, nice to see you’,” he said.

The other thing he looks for is a sense of place from the design: a statement about what the hotel stands for.

“If I’m on the beach, I want to walk in and see water. I want to get a sense of where I am.”

The big change he’s seen in his three-decade career is that the things that were once considered luxury: marble, chandeliers, a day spa, oriental carpets, even afternoon tea, have all become the standard.

“That’s the expectation at the luxury level. If you don’t have that, they walk out the door, you have to do more,” he said.

“If you have a great building and nobody says hello to you when you walk in, it’s finished. It’s no longer luxury.”

As part of this shift, the lines of communication between guests and staff have opened up, Warman explains.

“There was a time in our business when employees didn’t talk to guests and didn’t communicate. I think that’s over because as a guest, I want to know about you and, what do you think about Sydney? People want to feel like they’re part of the community, feel like they’re part of Sydney.”

“That means you give permission to the doorman and bellman to communicate and talk to the customer,” he said. “It’s our job to make sure that we bring you in so that you understand and learn the culture and you know the people. I can’t buy understanding of who you are as a person. That’s the only thing left that I can’t buy.”

Modern luxury, Warman says, isn’t about the fixtures and fittings. It’s a about shaping the experience in a great hotel to match the guests.

“That’s the future of luxury: understand my needs and make sure we adapt to them. Help me accomplish what I need to do.”

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