There’s No Place like the Lanesborough

No request is considered strange. Every request is special

Country Marco Novella

1719 saw the construction in Knightsbridge, a suburb then, the heart of London now, of a mansion launched by James Lane, the 2nd and last Viscount Lanesborough. After his death in 1724 the future of Lanesborough House was vague. In 1733 it was rented by a group of doctors to house St. George’s Hospital. Later the building fell into disrepair many times to flourish once again after the Oetker Collection hotel management company took its fate and fortunes in hand. Marco Novella, our columnist and the Lanesborough’s General Manager, has more to tell about the hotel.

The Lanesborough has been reconstructed several times. William Wilkins, a most outstanding English Neo-Classical architect of the National Gallery, contributed a lot to its present-day Greek Regency image. In 2014 the Lanesborough joined the Oetker Collection and after a top-to-toe refurbishment looks every bit classical and historically accurate on the outside, just like in 1719. On the inside this masterpiece hotel has a truly aristocratic feel and an exceptional heritage.

The Oetker Collection’s idea of a hotel is “Home Away From Home” i.e. the feeling of a lovely, privately owned country house. The heart and soul of the Lanesborough is revealed in its design, décor and team. Credit for the design goes to the great architect of the past. The décor was created during the latest renovation by celebrated interior designer Alberto Pinto, author of many big residential projects, so inside the hotel looks like a grand private residence. 93 bedrooms and a 350-member team create the unique feel of a private mansion. Our business philosophy is learning as much as possible about the habits and needs of our guests to exactly know and foresee all their wishes and tend to them whatever the time of day or night. Traditionally, the Lanesborough has been the only London hotel to provide personal butler service. Our butlers make rounds both of rooms and the SPA zone making sure all guests are all right and have everything they need at the moment. The best name for this profession gaining popularity world-wide is “Pleasure Manager.” It’s a special job for a special kind of people. A butler must have an emotional intellect and deep empathy reinforced by training such skills as reading guests’ body language.

Be it your first time at the Lanesborough or be you our all-time guest, all you need to do is mention whatever in passing or make a request and your wish shall be got in one. Information about your likes shall be made known to our entire team. Say, you mention your favourite sort of roses. Before long, you are sure to find them in your room or on your restaurant table when you come down to dinner. Or you may share with one of us your plan to take your wife out for a romantic dinner. Just before the event the receptionist shall give you a bunch of fresh flowers for your wife. For such occasions we have a staff florist and flowers at hand at all times. Or if you name your favourite kind of chocolate we will make sure you always have it.

We all are only human while urban life is so stressful. Your personal butler shall always be there for you, should you feel like sharing your emotions in a heart-to-heart talk. Rest assured, not a word shall be transmitted beyond the hotel premises i.e. the room in which the talk took place. The modern world does not offer enough consideration, sincere affection or compassion. Each Lanesborough team member is fully aware of this and always prepared to meet our guests’ emotional needs without a hint of criticism. No request is considered strange. Every request is special. So, we even have smoking areas, one of which is Cigar Room, an impressive cigar-lovers’ paradise. Psychologists say all people are really pleased to be addressed by name. Returning after a stroll, meeting or excursion our guests are sure to hear their names from each team member they meet.

A butler pays close attention to every detail. Here’s an everyday case. 18 months ago we launched a SPA for sports activities. After a workout, visitors just leave their sportswear in the changing rooms. The SPA butler always knows who the garments belong to. He calls our washing service to take care of them. In the evening or next morning at the latest the clean and neatly folded sports outfit awaits its owner on the same spot.

Our SPA-Club annual membership fee is £6,000 plus an entry fee. Members are top business elite VIPs. The SPA Lobby is a perfect place for them to meet and socialize. The SPA butler, knowing their wishes and interests, can help them to get acquainted.

Naturally, the first and foremost function of the Lanesborough SPA is taking care of people, guests and team members alike. Maintaining a reasonable balance between one’s business and personal lives is of paramount importance. This is the culture of our hotel, a mentality we try to get across to our guests. London is a cosmopolitan and vibrant capital, so busy, so full of life. However, taking a rest from its everyday rush is absolutely essential and our SPA offers a superb opportunity for that. We try to teach people to shut down their brains working like computers, or to be more exact, turn them down and use them differently. We’ve just launched a special meditation-based programme, a unique thought-building management system letting one’s brain take a rest. It works wonders together with a personal nutrition programme based on the guest’s DNA test provided by the hotel. Thus, we find the causes of problems and try to eliminate them by means of a personalized food ration. It’s an all-round brain training to help our guests stay healthy.

Many celebrities appreciate the care our hotel takes of each and everyone. Michael Jackson stayed at the Lanesborough while preparing his grand show which, sadly, never took place. It was no easy matter to protect him from crowds of fans and paparazzi besieging the hotel. For those wanting no publicity we have a back-side entrance but at the time even that saved the day only by miracle. A celebrity’s visit is always a challenge. Preparation often starts many days in advance. Sometimes we get special requests such as for fresh rainwater from the Tibet Mountains. We certainly find a way to get it thus establishing a very special tie between the guest and the team. Whatever the request and however special it might be, it shall be honoured and kept strictly confidential before, during and after the visit.

Another case worth mentioning is of a female celebrity, our regular guest. Confessing a different religion, the lady does not observe such traditions as Christmas, which is so special for Londoners. We start preparing for it well beforehand, in November. Wonderful Christmas trees, bright deco-rations and illuminations are everywhere. The air is filled with joy and expectation of miracles. We invite all our team members and their families to celebrate Christmas together in a charmingly homely atmosphere. The lady often comes to London during this holiday season. Once, quite unexpectedly, she asked us to put up a Christmas tree in her room. I think, despite her religion, she wanted to get the feel of Christmas. We were deeply touched by her request and wish to become closer to our most family-orien-ted celebration of the year.

Things like this as well as guests’ feedback are the best reward for all our efforts. I started working here on 1 August and on 28 August I got feedback from a person with a 20-years’ “guest tenure” at the Lanesborough. The e-mail ran as follows:

“Dear Marco and the Lanesborough team,

I’m writing this while my flight is heading for a Heathrow’s Terminal 5 runway. I’ve been reflecting on my summer vacation this year. Our stay at the Lanesborough clearly stands out of everything else as a classy highlight. So I decided to write right now. I want to thank everyone at the Lanesborough very much. … Each of you is beautiful. … I don’t know all of you by name but now I do know all of you by your smiles. I want you all to know that you’ve been outstanding throughout our stay and your efforts have been clearly noticed. Everything you do really matters. You really make a difference. Thank you very much from the bottom of my heart and remember one thing: the Lanesborough is the Lanesborough.”

In this very special way our all-time guest okayed me. It was, indeed, very touching. When our guests check out saying they can’t wait to come back I feel really happy.